The Bruins continue to chase down free agency options ahead of the opening to NHL free agency on Sunday, but they’re also exploring the trade market as well.
In fact, it’s more likely that the Black and Gold are going to need to pursue a trade if they’re going to find a left shot D-man potentially capable of playing top-four minutes. With that in mind, the Bruins have explored cursory talks with the Tampa Bay Lightning on restricted free-agent defenseman Slater Koekkoek, per a league source.
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The D-man from Ontario is 24 and still trying to establish himself in the NHL on a very talented, deep Tampa Bay back end. He had his best season in 2017-18 with four goals, eight points and a plus-4 rating in 35 games.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Koekkoek certainly could benefit from a fresh start in a new organization and has flashed solid back-end skills in the AHL while posting 12 goals and 54 points in parts of three seasons there prior to settling in Tampa Bay this past season. It doesn’t appear that Koekkoek has really high-end offensive potential, but it looks as if he could be a solid, two-way D-man with top-four potential that’s getting wasted thus far with the Lightning.
The source indicated to NBCSportsBoston.com that the Lightning and Bruins weren’t likely to reach any kind of agreement based on things set up with them as Atlantic Division rivals for the foreseeable future. But credit Bruins general manager Don Sweeney for at least having the conversation and kicking the tires on a talented young player where the Bruins could buy low on a one-time first-round pick with a high potential ceiling.
The Edmonton Oilers are expected to be among the suitors when/if Koekkoek gets dealt, but it should be noted that Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman has maintained that the Lightning are going to re-sign all of their restricted free agents. Obviously, just about everything the Bruins are doing in trades and free agency is being held up until they get the definitive word on big-fish, free-agent center John Tavares.
Once the Tavares sweepstakes get settled, then some of the lesser items will certainly get revisited even if Koekkoek sits as a very remote possibility.