Bruins

Vanek? McDonagh? Questions abound as trade deadline approaches

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Vanek? McDonagh? Questions abound as trade deadline approaches

With the NHL trade deadline a week away there are plenty of questions surrounding the Bruins,  who could be a prime mover and shaker among the 31 NHL teams.

Are they going to mortgage part of their future for 28-year-old Ryan McDonagh in a move that could fortify their back end? Will they finally succumb and trade for Patrick Maroon or Thomas Vanek after both players have spent years tormenting them? Is it incumbent on general manager Don Sweeney to make moves as if the Bruins are Stanley Cup contenders despite their youth and inexperience at a number of key spots on this season’s roster?

All these and more will be answered in a brand, spanking new Hagg Bag mailbag produced just in time for all of the crazy trade deadline stuff that will be addressed, critiqued and summarily dispatched if there is no evidence supporting it. As always, these are real e-mailed questions from real fans to my jhaggerty@nbcuni.com e-mail account, tweets to my Twitter account using the hash tag #HaggBag, and messages to my CSN Facebook page. Now, on to the bag:
 
Joe......your take on Carlo...and what you think other teams see him as...a 3 or 4??
--Dean Goodman (@bostonbees)

 
My take on Brandon Carlo is that he’s a 21-year-old defenseman who's been a top-4 D-man since coming into the league at age 20 and still has room to grow at both ends of the ice. He can certainly get a little more aggressive in spots on offense, using his accurate, hard shot from the point a little more and taking advantage of the fact that he’s a very good skater for a guy who's 6-foot-5. I think his pairing with Torey Krug puts him in a place where he has to consistently choose defense over offense because Krug is the one usually stepping up and playing aggressively with the pinches and playing in the offense zone. So we haven’t seen much in the way of offensive progression from Carlo this season.

But at the other end of the ice, Carlo has the size and strength to a top-flight shutdown defenseman. I think for him it comes down to being a little more mean in the defensive zone a little more consistently, and playing more to his size and strength than he sometimes does. Some of that is going to come with experience as he gets older, stronger and more confident in what he can and can’t do on the ice, but he needs to be a D-man who's hard to play against if he wants to continue his development as a top-4 guy. It was great to see him step up and fight Darren Archibald last weekend after Archibald threw a heavy hit on David Pastrnak, and that’s something Carlo is also going to need to do from time-to-time based on his role and his size/strength.

At 21, Carlo is just scratching the surface of how effective he’s going to be. We know he’s never going to be Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty, of course, but there aren’t that many 6-foot-5 defenseman as mobile as Carlo either. Whether teams see him as a 3 or a 4, he still holds plenty of value as a guy that can play in the league for the next 10 plus years.
 
Do you think the Bruins should kick the tires on Vanek at the trade deadline and if so what is the most you think the Bruins should give up to get him?
--Nicholas Tate (@boredbostonian)
 

 Yes, I think they should and I think they will. He’s not ideal because he can disappear for stretches in the compete department, and clearly he’s slowed down at age 34. But Vanek can still put the puck in the net, is a big body that will battle around the front on occasion and is on pace for 22 goals and 56 points for the Canucks. He could definitely help the Bruins, and would cost a draft pick and maybe a mid-level prospect. I don’t even think the Canucks would be able to get a first-rounder in exchange for him, so you’re talking secondary assets to land a player who could help really help fill a need for a big-bodied, experienced winger who can put the puck in the net. I don’t think Vanek is the top guy on their shopping list, but maybe he should be given how he’s tormented the Bruins over the years.  
 
Cannot stand how Bruins writers and dumb fans talk about Loui Eriksson like he actual sucks. If you blame Loui for the Bruins troubles 3 years ago you are beyond reproach as a hockey fan. Guy gets bashed because he couldn’t replace Seguin (but he actually did). Not his fault.
--Nick Salerno (@nick_sal1)
 

You should go talk to the people in Vancouver, where Eriksson was given a six-year deal for $6 million per. He finished with 11 goals and 24 points along with a minus-9 rating last season, and is on pace for 15 goals and 33 points along with being a minus player again this year. I’m sure they’d have some fairly pointed things to say about his game, like what a colossal disappointment he’s been for them.
My point is always the same with Eriksson: He coasted a lot during his first two seasons with the Bruins, and then came to play hard with 30 goals and 63 points when his contract was up. Now he’s gone right back into his passive, floating game with a rich, long-term contract in his back pocket. He’s not a winning player and only works hard when the mood strikes him. Those kinds of guys do kind of suck in my book, but far be it for me to step in the way of your clear love and admiration for a player that “replaced Tyler Seguin” in your opinion. Wow, I can’t even type that with a straight face.
 
Pastrnak is just 5 and 6 months older then DeBrusk and Carlo; let that sink in. Wow
--Mind Within (@Northern)

 
Yup. That David Pastrnak is something special, and you could see it the very first day he showed up for Bruins development camp. That whole 2014 Bruins draft class is something special with Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen selected with the first four picks. He still has moments where his puck management and his compete level wane a little bit, but he’s become a player you can bank on for 30 goals and 75 points at 21 years old. There just aren’t a lot of players like that anywhere.
 
Hey Joe. The Buins need a good young: left shot D and 2nd line RW, and have for about 3 years.  The Left D is harder to find and get than the RW.  An old veteran RW (Vanek) rental is a waste of time and resources.  Bruins should be looking to trade Krug, Vatrano and Spooner. They could also add a draft pick and/or prospect, such as O'Gara Zboril depending upon the package and the return.When Minnesota is out of it what would they want for C. Coyle or J. Brodin ? 
 
Thanks,
Mike

 
 It’s a week until the deadline and the Wild are still in a playoff spot, so I don’t see them being sellers. And Jonas Brodin is hurt now as well, so no homecoming for Charlie Coyle this time around. I disagree with you about the right wing as well. I think you could do very well with an older, experienced winger at the deadline to play alongside David Krejci. The Bruins have enough youth and speed on the wings already. They need a bigger, older player with some experience and ability putting the puck in the net.  
 
And now we’ve reached the portion of the Hagg Bag mailbag where fans just throw out random trade scenarios hoping to throw something against the wall that sticks:
 
Belesky Bjork Grzelcyk and first round pick for Ekman Larrson.  
--Allan Gregory (@AllanGregory7)
 
Carlo, Krug, Kuraly, and Vatrano for Karlsson and Dzingel ?
--Tom Walsh (@tjw0218)

 
I don’t think the Bruins are really very interested in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, as they’re looking for more of a rugged, frontline top-4 D-man than a slick offensive guy. I think Nik Hjalmarsson would be the guy they’d be looking at more closely from the Arizona Coyotes. That Karlsson trade proposal? Dude, the Senators just preemptively fired you from possible employment with them for even writing that one down. Why on Earth would Ottawa give up a multiple Norris Trophy winner for guys like Sean Kuraly and Frank Vatrano?  
 
As I said. You’re looking at a Stanley cup run and this team can’t beat the bigger western teams. Too many mistakes and goalie who can’t do it on his own. We are fun to watch but we r not a Stanley Cup contender.
--Len Hess (@bosam53)

 
I’d say this is mostly accurate, actually. I think they’re a year or two away from a legitimate Cup run, but I also think the Bruins have put themselves in a position this season where they deserve to be upgraded at the trade deadline. But I wouldn’t sell out any anything of significant value just to make a run this season because, to me, it feels like they may be one of those teams that comes up short in the postseason. I’m also going to need to see Tuukka Rask carry this team to a victorious Stanley Cup run before I will believe he can do it.
 
Hi Joe – loving your stuff and want to get your opinion. With the Trade Deadline approaching AND the brutal schedule starting Feb. 24 I think the key for playoff success and the best seeding possible is…health and rest for the team so they are all ready to go and are 100% on April 9. On Feb. 25 the B’s will have played 58 games in 142 days (a game every 2.5 days) and then will play 24 games in 46 days (a game every 1.9 days) and finish with 5 games in 8 days – a BIG difference. I want your thoughts – should management give a similar number of days per game for the team that they have had to date and scratch everyone for a few games to avoid burnout and injuries?? If the 18 core players sat 3-4 games that would be roughly 60 man games needed to be filled in.  This would be a great opportunity to give a great dress rehearsal for many of the key P-Bruins and current “scratches” and could be one more “Trade Deadline” move. Can they do this and should they do this and hold to this plan??
 --Phil Bunsick

 
They probably could do some of this, and I certainly think they will be practicing very sparingly in the stretch they’ve officially entered start this past weekend. But I don’t see them just scratching guys in terms of rest or maintenance once the schedule gets busy. You could make the argument that it will keep them fresher amid a grueling finale where they will play 27 games in 52 days, but I’m not sure that would keep them healthy as well. You play 16 games in a month’s time as they do in March, and players are going to get hurt whether they’re rested for a random day here or there. There’s also the difficulty of telling competitive, proud guys like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron to sit down for three or four games down the stretch when they’re not hurt. I just don’t see it happening even though the end of the season is clearly going to take a chunk out of the Bruins.   
 
Bruins need to pay whatever it takes to land a Ryan McDonagh type, desperately need it
--Jimbo (@jimbro83)

 
No, they don’t need to pay whatever it takes to get McDonagh. Certainly they could use a player like that for the present and for the future. He would give the Bruins a formidable top-4 group of D-men going into any playoff series, and he would give the B’s a ready-made replacement for Zdeno Chara as a veteran head of the back end if/when the B’s 40-year-old captain finally moves on. He’s pretty much exactly what they’re looking for as a long term partner for Charlie McAvoy.

But would you give up Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo and a first-round pick in exchange for McDonagh, which essentially equates to three first round picks for McDonagh given that Carlo was a high second rounder that’s played in the league since he was 20 years old? I wouldn’t. If the Rangers want to take an Anders Bjork/Brandon Carlo/draft pick package or a Robbie O’Gara/Jake DeBrusk/draft pick trade offer, then I might be tempted.

But I’ll be honest, Jake DeBrusk is a high character kid, he’s a player that’s only going to get better from his current solid level as a 21-year-old rookie and he’s the kind of player that could be a very good Bruin for the next 10 years. I don’t give up on those guys very easily if I’m Don Sweeney, and I would stick to my guns and not offer too much in the way of young players from Boston’s NHL roster in talks for McDonagh.

The bottom line with McDonagh and the Rangers is that they could wait until the draft to deal McDonagh if they don’t get the boatload of stuff they’re looking for. I think the Bruins should be patient with this one. It’s going to be a good test for Sweeney, who really hasn’t had to make a blockbuster-type deal leading up to the deadline in his three years running the team. He needs to make sure he gets this one right, and doesn’t give up too much of what’s making his team special right now. That’s a legit concern with a hockey club that’s showed so much promise to date this season, and has been so fun to watch.
 
You don’t touch this [Ryan McDonagh] deal, not with a ten foot pole! Often injured and just not worth giving up DeBrusk let someone else overpay for him
--Kenny Smith (@orrigan77)

 
And there’s your counterpoint. We’ll leave you on that with a week to go until we get all the answers we’re looking for at the NHL trade deadline. See you in the next bag!

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Is it panic time for the Bruins after injuries to Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron?

Is it panic time for the Bruins after injuries to Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron?

The first thing to keep in mind for the Bruins is that it could have been much, much worse. Sure this current four-game road trip has taken a massive toll with long-term injuries to both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron that will test both the B’s mettle and their organizational depth.  

Chara is going to miss at least a month with an MCL injury to his left knee and now Bergeron is also going to miss at least a month with an injury to his rib/sternoclavicular area after a hard, awkward tumble into the side boards.

They could have been season-ending injuries instead, so that’s much better news than it might have been for both players.

But alas the Bruins will miss their two biggest on-ice leaders, their two best defensive players and the two people most valuable to their penalty kill until at least Christmas, and perhaps even longer than that with the Winter Classic set for Jan. 1 vs. the Blackhawks. Oh, and Bergeron was also the team’s leading scorer with seven goals and 26 points in his 19 games played this season.

So it is time to hit the Bob Lobel-trademarked panic button at this point?

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Certainly there’s an argument to be made that it should be given how the team fell apart against Colorado once Chara exited that game with his knee injury. And the Bruins have been so dependent on their top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak this season that missing one of those three forwards will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on their offense.

But before true panic sets in, let’s remember what happened last season.

Bergeron missed 18 games due to injuries last year as well, and the Bruins managed to put together a 9-2-2 record in the month that he missed with a broken foot in the middle of the year when similar doom and gloom themes were intoned after his injury. So a similar group of Bruins players proved that it can be done and they did the same when Chara missed chunks of time last season with shoulder woes.  

The challenge will be finding players to step up as they did last season in the absence of their two most important players. Riley Nash jumped from the third line to the top line in between Marchand and Pastrnak, and gave the B’s a similar two-way center with a lesser offensive ceiling to hold things in place. Nash is gone now after signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent, but perhaps the underrated Joakim Nordstrom can do the same after Bruce Cassidy put him in the middle with Marchand and Jake DeBrusk in the win over the Coyotes.

The bigger long-term issue is going to be the absence of Chara with a defensemen corps that’s already missing Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Urho Vaakanainen, Kevan Miller and John Moore, and is seemingly introducing a new P-Bruins call-up with every single game. Bruce Cassidy, Kevin Dean and Co. are coaching their proverbial butts off right now by getting names like Connor Clifton, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon to play solid defense, but that isn’t going to be sustainable without Chara unless they start getting some of their reinforcements healthy again.

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The B's managed to get three of four points on the road against Dallas and Arizona by holding them to a total of two goals, but they were also outshot 70-46 in those two games. Some of it was about surprisingly good defense limiting mistakes and scoring chances, and some of it was about Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak being pretty close to flawless between the pipes. That’s a formula that’s going to need to continue for the next month while No. 33 and No. 37 get healthy.

The conservative, defense-first approach is the only way to fly right now with the team missing so much talent, but they’re also not going to have sustained success averaging 23 shots on net per night.

The final piece of optimistic information: The Bruins have been good enough in the season’s first six weeks to be in a playoff spot, and they will be there when the Thanksgiving holiday comes and goes as a regular-season benchmark.

The Black and Gold have built themselves a bit of a cushion for hard times like they’re about to face over the next four weeks, and they’ll be able to afford a period of .500 play while they get their bearings. But the B’s are also facing an Atlantic Division with some stiffer competition in improved teams in both Montreal and Buffalo, and they're also not as deep as last season’s group that amassed 112 points.

So the key Black and Gold mantra right now is to tread water and survive over the next four weeks while Bergeron and Chara recuperate, and then they can worry about the big picture with a Bruins group that hasn’t yet been able to really find its groove.   

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Bruins' Patrice Bergeron out at least four weeks with rib, sternoclavicular injury

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Bruins' Patrice Bergeron out at least four weeks with rib, sternoclavicular injury

Well, things just got a little worse for the Bruins on the injury front.

Patrice Bergeron is going to be out for at least four weeks with a rib and sternoclavicular injury. He was hurt in last week’s overtime loss to the Dallas Stars when his left shoulder area took the brunt of contact as he crashed awkwardly into the boards with Dallas forward Radek Faksa.

Bergeron missed some time after the collision into the boards, but finished out the game while a left shoulder/arm injury appeared to cause him enough discomfort that he was unable to take any faceoffs upon his return. Bergeron and John Moore (lower body injury) both left the team and returned to Boston after the Dallas to be evaluated for their injuries, an early indicator that No. 37’s injury was going to be a serious one.

The Bruins plugged versatile forward Joakim Nordstrom into a top-six center role with Bergeron out, but it remains to be seen what they’ll do over a longer period of time during his absence. Last season the Bruins had Riley Nash to fill in when Bergeron missed 18 games with groin and foot injuries, but it’s a different story this season. The Bruins have been almost completely dependent on the top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak for just about everything, both offensively and defensively.

Bergeron is currently seventh in the NHL with 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists) in 19 games this season, and the Bruins are going to be hard-pressed to replicate that kind of offense with anybody that does fill in for Bergeron. Beyond that, the Bruins will be missing their two best defensive players in Bergeron and Zdeno Chara with longer-term injuries.

Will this be a breaking point for the Bruins with a ton of bodies already missing on the back end with injuries, and now two of their biggest performers probably out until Christmas at the earliest? It remains to be seen, but the Bruins are going to need to win games in a different way with Bergeron now on the sidelines for an extended period of time. 

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