Bruins

NHL trade targets: Top-6 forwards for Bruins to pursue at deadline

NHL trade targets: Top-6 forwards for Bruins to pursue at deadline

The Bruins sit at the break in the NHL regular season in first place in the Atlantic Division and are a virtual lock for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There is plenty for the Black and Gold to be proud of as David Pastrnak leads in the NHL in goal-scoring and the Perfection Line, power play and goaltending have been undeniable strengths for the team all season.

But there are also some needs on this team with the trade deadline roughly a month away, and the Bruins are expected to be active over the next month looking to improve a team that ultimately fell short in last season’s playoffs and will need some new blood on a roster that’s played a lot of hockey over the last 18 months.

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The biggest need for the Bruins remains a top-6 right wing capable of scoring goals, finishing off plays and being enough of an offensive weapon that the Bruins don’t become a one-dimensional offense in the playoffs too reliant on Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak when the going gets tough.

There won’t be any shortage of candidates for the Bruins at the deadline and really, truly it will come down to A) their desperation level to fortify their offensive attack B) the development of their young players over the next month and C) how much they are willing to give up in assets — either in a big way like with Rick Nash a couple of years ago or smaller, more reasonable moves like Drew Stafford or Marcus Johansson-level trades that actually ended up working out pretty well in the short term.

There are no shortage of trade options expected to be available at the trade deadline, so let’s go through a few of the skilled top-6 forwards that will be available (All salary information via Cap Friendly):

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
2019-20 stats: 
48 GP, 17 G, 15 A, 117 SOG
Contract: $4.625 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2019-20, modified no-trade clause

The price may have just gone up even more with Chris Kreider getting selected as an All-Star this weekend, and it’s well-deserved given his ability to parlay skating speed and a 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame into an average of 25 goals and 50 points each season. He’s fast, he’s big and he will play on the nasty side from time to time, bringing a lot of different elements that the Bruins could use in their top-6 right now.

Kreider is Boston’s top choice at the trade deadline and will be a player that the Bruins could potentially pay a high price for as they did with Rick Nash a few years ago. Given his background as a Massachusetts native and a college hockey player, one would also expect they’d be planning to keep Kreider beyond this season if they traded for him.

Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
2019-20 stats: 
49 GP, 12 G, 15 A, 126 SOG
Contract: $4.6 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2019-20

The 27-year-old Toffoli is a natural right wing, has a Stanley Cup title on his résumé and is on pace for 20 goals and 45 points this season for a Kings team that doesn’t have much in the way of offense at all. Toffoli has surpassed 30 goals and 50 points once in his career, but is more along the lines of a player capable of the numbers he’s putting up this season.

It certainly looks like the 6-foot, 200-pounder has lost some of his game as the Kings have edged away from competitor status, and perhaps a return to a legit Cup hopeful like the Bruins would return some of the bounce to his game. He won’t cost nearly as much as Kreider, and remains a secondary option for the Bruins should they miss out on their top targets. That being said, there will be shortage of suitors for a player like Toffoli as well.

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils
2019-20 stats: 
44 GP, 16 G, 15 A, 103 SOG
Contract: $4.65 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2020-21, modified no-trade clause

The 28-year-old winger has really blossomed with New Jersey and has been good for at least 20 goals and 50 points in each season with the Devils while providing a deadly option on the power play. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder would bring a shooter and finishing presence to Boston’s second power play unit and is exactly the kind of player who could finish off a lot of the David Krejci set-ups that aren’t currently turning into goals.

Palmieri would undoubtedly cost the Bruins a first-round pick and a significant prospect given that he’s signed through next season and isn’t a straight “rental” player. But once again Palmieri would be a player who would likely fit into Boston’s long-term plan.

On the downside, Palmieri isn’t the ideal solution at just 5-foot-11, 185 pounds and is more of the same of what they already have, and wouldn’t necessarily give the Bruins somebody to battle with the big defensemen corps that have successfully bottled them up in the playoffs.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Montreal Canadiens
2019-20 stats: 
25 GP, 7 G, 10 A, 57 SOG
Contract: $700,000 salary cap hit, UFA after 2020-21

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the Bruins passed on Kovalchuk when they could have signed him to a two-way, $700,000 contract, but instead traded away perfectly good assets to Montreal for his services at the trade deadline?

It would be the second time Don Sweeney would do something like that after he similarly passed on Lee Stempniak as a tryout option in training camp and then traded draft picks to Carolina in exchange for him at the trade deadline five years ago. The 36-year-old has four goals and eight points in eight games since going to Montreal and now has seven goals and 17 points in 25 games this season.

It wouldn’t be a big cost for the Bruins to acquire him, and he’s another goal-scoring talent who could be dynamic with David Krejci, and a potent finisher who could make Boston’s second PP unit a lot more dangerous.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
2019-20 stats: 
46 GP, 19 G, 12 A, 103 SOG
Contract: $3.1 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2020-21

The Bruins could go a different route and trade for a third-line center that would allow them to push Charlie Coyle over to the wing for the rest of this season, and for a playoff run. Coyle would certainly bring the size, strength and offensive ability that the Bruins need for a top-6 wing, and J.G. Pageau is the kind of scrappy two-way center who would bring speed, tenacity and some underrated offense to the table along with penalty killing and face-off ability.

The 27-year-old is on pace for 33 goals and 54 points this season and already has three shorthanded goals in 46 games this season. Considering he’s already matched his season-high in goals and is just 12 points away from his career-high in that category too, it might be the right season to buy in on JGP as a rental before he hits free agency.

EA Sports trolls Bruins' Brad Marchand for bad shootout attempt vs. Flyers

EA Sports trolls Bruins' Brad Marchand for bad shootout attempt vs. Flyers

Will anyone ever forget Brad Marchand's horrible shootout attempt against the Philadelphia Flyers from January? Probably not.

EA Sports is the latest to get in on the fun of trolling the Boston Bruins winger, and they couldn't have done it in a better way. In their NHL 20 update version 1.6.0 patch notes, EA Sports fixed an issue for every player in the game besides Marchand. 

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"Fixed a case where players other than Marchand would lose the puck at the start of a penalty shot," the patch notes said, according to gamerevolution.com.

That's pretty comical, and it seems that just about everyone is getting their jabs in at Marchand amid the coronavirus outbreak. In their last game before the NHL hit pause on the season even Gritty, the Flyers mascot, took the opportunity to bash Marchand. 

If the B's pesky winger gets word of EA Sport's latest update, it'll be interesting to see if he chirps back via Twitter.

Hagg Bag mailbag: How to restore hockey when it's safe to come out again

Hagg Bag mailbag: How to restore hockey when it's safe to come out again

We are now entering our second month of social distancing and self-quarantining and there isn’t a hockey game to be seen on the horizon. 

Maybe the NHL will start up again in June or July if things go exceedingly well. Maybe they will gather all healthy and tested players, officials and essential personnel in one location for a controlled playoff tournament that would be pretty amazing? 

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At this point, there is no way of knowing what the NHL is going to do and when we will next see hockey, but the Hagg Bag mailbag is still here to entertain and answer any questions.

As always these are real questions from real readers on Twitter using the #HaggBag hashtag, real messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and real emails to my @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email address. Now, on to the bag:  

Bruins opening night roster for next season? Stay safe Haggs!

--edmarshall723 (@edmarshall723)

JH: We’re already moving on to next season, eh? I kid. I kid. I suspect it won’t be all that demonstrably different from what we saw when the season was put on pause. I’m going to run under the assumption that Torey Krug isn’t going to be back based on the salary cap numbers likely dropping instead of rising next season with a chunk of this regular season canceled. It’s not a done deal by any means, but I just don’t think the Bruins are going to have a lot of cap space to deal with. And they still have to sign their own restricted free agent in Jake DeBrusk. So, here’s my stab at opening night lineup for next year:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Kase

Bjork-Coyle-Ritchie

Blidh-Kuraly-Wagner

 
Chara-McAvoy

Grzelcyk-Carlo

Moore-Lauzon

 
Rask

Vladar

I don’t think Joakim Nordstrom will be back, and Kevan Miller, in the last year of his contract, may not ever return to play after being out for about a year. I suspect the Bruins are going to want a younger option in Vladar, 22, backing up Tuukka Rask to gauge whether he might be the future No. 1 guy for the B’s should Rask decide to ride off into the sunset after the 2020-21 season.


Just curious but if they don't finish the season how would they determine draft standings? Would they still have a lottery? Would they just go by the last days standings? Will they even have a draft? What's gonna happen to teams that give up draft picks for rentals who would be RFAs?

--Al Volante (Message via NBCS Facebook fan page)

JH: They would have to hold a draft. I’d imagine they would go by winning percentage on the last-day standings before the season was paused, so the Bruins would have the final pick in the first round. 

It’s not really perfect by any means, but it’s probably the fairest way to do it while still holding a lottery for the bottom 10 teams. All of the little details would need to be ironed out with the draft and free agency most likely pushed back into the summer, but it’s all a fluid situation right now. 

The most optimistic plan for the NHL would be holding a playoff in July and August, pushing the offseason to September and October and then kick-starting the 2020-21 regular season sometime in November with a fairly normal regular-season afterward. That would be the absolutely best scenario if everything falls into place across our country. I’m not even sure that’s going to be possible at this point, though.

Here's my take - we are in an unprecedented time and in an effort to primarily avoid having a 1-month offseason and then a full 2020-21 schedule, I feel that there should be a 12-team format (eliminate the wild cards). 

We have to get past this "fairness" crap, because again, having a two-month playoff in August and September is simply too long. Nothing anyone can do about the times we live in, but it's too much to have the final 5 teams having a month offseason. In addition, you can also realistically re-schedule the draft, FA, awards, etc. without the season starting a month later. How this would work is all series are 7 games. You would have the 4 division winners on a bye, the other 2 teams in each division play each other for the right to go to the Conference Final.

This would mean Boston, Washington & St. Louis (more on that in a bit) and Vegas would have the byes. The first series would be (again, more on this) TB-TOR, PHI-PIT, COL-DAL, EDM-CAL. Those winners face each other in the Conference Final and then the Stanley Cup. Having 3 rounds could be done in 6 weeks. If you started a camp on July 1, playoffs start July 15 and end around the end of August. Awards & draft happen the 1st week of Sept. FA begins on Sept 15. 2020-21 season begins Nov 15. Playoffs for next season starts April 30 Now, in terms of the matchups, Boston and Vegas have a large enough lead that 1 game wouldn't change the winner.

However, Washington and St. Louis are only 1-2 points ahead of Philly & Colorado, respectively. In addition, Winnipeg is only 1 point away from Dallas. PIT, TOR, and CAL are locked into 3rd place in their divisions. So, for playoff seeding, you have ONE game prior to the playoffs starting for WASH-PHI, STL-COL, and WPG-DAL. If PHI, COL and/or WPG wins they get the division lead and bye or in WPG's case, the 3rd place spot over DAL. I leave out the other teams because, for instance, if one game were to be played, CAR couldn't catch PIT, because PIT is 5 pts up and CAR has only played 1 less game.

I understand that this would have blowback, but let's face it, any potential playoff scenario would face criticism from fans because an equal number of games have not been played. And as mentioned, the likelihood of regular-season games being played is becoming less likely each day. You have to draw the line somewhere.

--Anders Johnson (Message via NBCS Facebook fan page)

JH: I respect the thought you put into it, Anders. But there’s no way you can have any teams on “byes” at the start of the playoffs. Do you realize how much of a disadvantage a team such as the Bruins would have headed into a second-round playoff series while facing a team that had just capped off a five- or seven-game playoff series?

 It would take them two or three games just to ramp up to that level after sitting around and it would almost certainly end with them losing the playoff series while being punished as the higher seed. There would be no benefit to a bye of any kind for any teams in this playoff format. 

The best thing they could do is two rounds of five-game playoff series, then do seven games for the conference final and Stanley Cup Final. They could do that in roughly six weeks after starting in mid-July and wrap up right around Sept. 1. They could then take all of September and October off and then ramp up for a Nov. 15-ish start to the 2020-21 regular season.

Don’t forget in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the last day of the Cup Final between the Bruins and Blackhawks was June 24. The league essentially just took two months off in July and August and then came right back to work in September the following season. And it would only be two teams that would come up a little short on their rest between seasons. 

All of this may not even be possible, but it’s the best-case scenario to get in the rest of this season and then look ahead to “a normal season” next year.

Strikes [me] that the Bruins two new additions haven't really gelled with the team. If hockey comes back, do you think it will be a problem for them in playoffs? (and lets hope Ritchie is using the time off to do Chara's workout regime)

--David Sheedy (@Devilish21ca)

JH: Ondrej Kase hadn’t played in almost a month due to a concussion injury prior to getting traded to the Bruins, so he was just getting back into midseason form when things were put on pause. Nick Ritchie seemed to just be finding his legs and his style of play while getting moved around the B’s lineup.

They definitely hadn’t jelled, but now everybody is going to be in the same boat when hockey gets going again. So, I don’t think it will be a problem specific to new guys such as Kase and Ritchie as much as it will be an issue for every player. 

Right now most NHL guys have a stationary bike, dumbbells and maybe a swimming pool to train while in quarantine. Almost nobody is skating, so you will have a mass of hockey players that haven’t skated in months by the time things get going again. 

That is going to turn into some very rusty, sloppy hockey when things do get going again…whenever that is going to be. That will be as much of a challenge as whatever the ice conditions might be if the NHL tries to hold the Stanley Cup playoffs in July and August.

Thoughts on Clone Wars Season 7 on Disney+ so far? #HaggBag

--Alissa (@CurvyMermaid617)

JH: I have not seen it yet as I hadn’t really watched all of the Clone Wars in the past. But I do now have a ton of free time. So I will be watching after I bought “The Rise of Skywalker” on the first day it was available on-demand. We are desperate for entertainment in the Haggerty house. Stay safe everybody and we’ll talk again soon!