Right wing candidates for Bruins team still in need of top-6 winger
The Bruins have finally started getting some secondary scoring in the last few games, and they needed it while taking three out of four points in a home-and-home series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That's a welcome development even as David Krejci continues to fight through injuries to start the regular season, and both the second and third lines continue to be in flux. It’s nice that Brett Ritchie has tapped into some offense, and it would be a big help if the fourth line began creating offense similar to last season when it routinely provided secondary scoring.
But it still feels like the Bruins are missing one legitimate top-6 piece. It’s not all that different from last season when they were missing a top-9 winger pretty much all season and didn’t fill that job description until nabbing Marcus Johansson at the NHL trade deadline. With the news that Karson Kuhlman will be out at least a month with a fractured tibia, the Bruins have lost the preferred option from training camp. Kuhlman was off to a pointless start to the season anyway, so his place on the second line has felt stopgap at best even when he was healthy enough to suit up.
It would appear that either an internal candidate or a trade are going to be Boston’s best solution for that elusive second-line right wing spot, so let’s go through a few of those options pretty early in the process.
The 27-year-old is the big scoring forward the Bruins missed out on when they made Tyler Seguin the No. 2 overall pick back in the 2010 NHL Draft. Wouldn’t it be interesting if things come full circle and Hall ends up coming to the Bruins either via a deadline deal, or as a free agent in the offseason when he and the Orr Agency can dictate his landing spot? There are a few issues, including the fact that Hall is a left wing rather than a right wing, and that he’ll certainly be in line for a big raise beyond the $6 million that he’s currently making in Jersey.
Yes, Hall exploded a couple of years ago for 39 goals and 93 points to win the Hart Trophy and he’s topped 20 goals six different times in his career. Yes, he’s the kind of player that David Krejci has excelled with over the years. But he’s also coming off an injury-plagued season and has been fairly inconsistent when it comes to living up to his talent. Hall is a longshot in terms of trade cost and where he’d fit in the Bruins salary cap, but he would absolutely turn the B’s second line into a legitimate offensive weapon.
The 6-foot-4, 217-pound right wing has been on long-term injured reserve to start this season for a Golden Knights team that’s up against the salary cap ceiling. He’s still not ready to play, but will be soon and it will be interesting to see if Vegas is pushed into a move as a result of his health and wellness.
The 23-year-old Tuch is coming off 20 goals and 52 points last season and is signed to a reasonable $4.75 million for six years beyond this current season. The Bruins might have to part with a player like Jake DeBrusk in a trade package to land a player like Tuch, but it would be worth it if they could lock down the second line right wing spot for the long term with a solid, big and skilled player like Tuch. There are no guarantees that Vegas will deal him, but this is the kind of player that the Bruins should be targeting when they toss around trade ideas.
The 27-year-old Zucker is signed for three more years after this current one at $5.5 million and can play both the left and the right wing. He also threw Bruce Boudreau under the bus earlier this season amidst Minnesota’s early season struggles, and was part of a trade that fell apart for the Wild over the summer. Zucker seems pretty comfortably in the 20-25 goal and 40-50 point range as a player, though he isn’t the biggest guy at 5-foot-11, 188-pounds and his skill set doesn't exactly jump off the ice at you.
Zucker would be an upgrade over what the Bruins currently have, but you’re talking about giving up valuable draft picks and/or prospects to make something like that happen along with a winger from your NHL roster. If the Wild were to ask for Danton Heinen, Jakub Zboril and a draft pick for Zucker, I would do that in a heartbeat if I was Don Sweeney.
The 6-foot-3, 216-pound Kreider doesn’t seem like a natural fit for the rebuilding Rangers, and once again it wouldn’t be the ideal solution for the Black and Gold because he is a natural left wing rather than a right wing. But Kreider is also a big-bodied guy that plays with an edge and is coming off 28 goals and 52 points last year for a bad Rangers team.
He’s a local kid and he played at Boston College, so he checks many of the boxes that interest the Bruins when it comes to acquiring players. Kreider is in the final year of a deal paying him $4.625 million per season, so he would strictly be a rental. A draft pick and a prospect should get it done, and the Bruins have a plethora of those along with a frequent trade partner in the Rangers.
Another left wing that the Bruins have to shoe-horn into their forward group, Mike Hoffman is a legit sniper with a lethal shot coming off 36 goals and 70 points last season for the Florida Panthers. He left Ottawa in controversy and would have some questions to answer if he were traded to Boston after the friction between him and former Sens teammate Erik Karlsson, and that alone might be enough to keep the Bruins for dealing for him.
The 29-year-old Hoffman is in the final year of a deal that’s paying him $5.125 million, so he’s in the same position as Kreider as a hired forward gun that wouldn’t cost the Bruins quite as much. Given the way Florida has started off this season, though, they might not be selling off any of their rentals when the time comes. That’s something to consider.
The 23-year-old Ho-Sang is talented, but he’s also been a bit of a problem child for the Islanders throughout his career there. He’s posted seven goals and 24 points in 53 games over the course of three seasons and is still on an entry-level deal without putting up big NHL numbers to this point. So he’d be affordable to retain and a structured group full of leaders like the Bruins might be exactly what Ho-Sang needs to develop into a useful top-6 right winger.
He was also bypassed by all 30 other teams, including the Bruins, when he was waived by the Islanders, so the cost for him would be among the cheapest of anybody on this list. It might be worth a gamble given the skill and the fact he’s a natural right wing.
The 21-year-old Puljujarvi is playing in Finland currently amidst a difference in opinion with the Oilers organization, and so the 6-foot-4, 201-pound right winger is waiting for Edmonton to trade him elsewhere. Like Ho-Sang, the gifted Puljujarvi (fourth overall in the 2016 Draft) hasn’t reached his potential with 17 goals and 37 points in 139 games for the Oilers over the last three years, and would be a bit of a risk in terms of whether he can actually help the Bruins.
He’d also come at a steeper price than Ho-Sang despite being a project who’s admittedly dominating in Finland with nine goals and 15 points in 14 games. He has the size, the skill and the natural right wing position to help the Bruins immediately, and they would have to decide if the price tag of a top flight top-9 forward prospect and a draft pick would be worth it. If it’s Zach Senyshyn or even Anders Bjork going in the direction of Edmonton in the trade, then I would do this in a heartbeat.
The 27-year-old is in the final year of a contract paying him $4.6 million, and is coming off 13 goals, 34 points and a minus-16 last season. So let’s just say that his stock is down a bit from the guy that posted 31 goals and 58 points when the Kings were still a pretty decent team a few years ago. The 6-foot, 200-pound Toffoli is a right wing, he’s still young and he’s got the kind of game where a move to Boston could really re-ignite him to be the player he was just a couple of years ago.
Similar to Kreider and Hoffman, this would be a lower priced item for the Bruins moving closer to a deadline while assuming that the Kings are going to unload their veteran players at some point this season. This might be an interesting guy to watch after he was mentioned quite a bit in trade rumors last season, but didn’t end up getting dealt by the Kings.
The 23-year-old is emerging as the best in-house candidate for the Bruins, though Bjork isn’t a perfection solution either. Bjork has re-emerged while playing strictly on the left side during both training camp and in the first few weeks of the AHL season, but nobody can argue with the results of three goals and eight points in seven games for the Providence Bruins.
Bjork is playing with speed and isn’t being tentative as he seemed to be while battling shoulder injuries over the last couple of seasons, and the skill and offensive ability is filtering through as a result. The best short-term plan is to move Bjork to the left side in a third-line role and push Danton Heinen over to the right side, but that might still leave the Bruins eventually looking for an upgrade to a player in Heinen who continues to show some offensive limitations. The good news is that Bjork is beginning to look like the player that was Boston’s best forward prospect just a couple of years ago.
LOL. No. This player was included on the list for comic relief only. As predicted by this humble hockey writer, Eriksson went into a protective shell as soon as he signed a big, long-term deal with the Canucks and doesn’t go to the net enough to produce anything close to the 30 goals and 63 points he put up in his final contract year in Boston. Eriksson has played one game for the Canucks thus far this season. What a bad move to give him $6 million a year for big term. For those that lament the David Backes contract in Boston, this one is definitely worse.