Chicago Blackhawks

NHL trade deadline: Bruins might have another top-6 winger option in Brandon Saad


NHL trade deadline: Bruins might have another top-6 winger option in Brandon Saad

The Bruins are left with Chris Kreider and Kyle Palmieri as the two biggest top-6 winger names still available on the trade market -- and likely to move -- ahead of Monday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline.

Part of the waiting game for Boston is on the Rangers and Devils, who are mulling if they’re indeed going to deal the impact wingers. Part of the waiting game is a hesitancy on the Bruins part to pay the kind of premium price those teams are still anticipating five days ahead of the deadline.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

That means the Bruins need alternatives to Kreider and Palmieri if the cost becomes too prohibitive as it seems like it is right now for Kreider, with the Rangers reportedly looking for a Rick Nash-type package for the speedy, big left winger.

"It's going to be a first-round pick, a prospect and some other piece," NBC Sports and TSN analyst Bob McKenzie said on NBC’s “Our Line Starts” podcast earlier this week. "Some other piece could be a player, it could be a lower-level prospect, it might be a lower-level draft pick, and there might be a conditional pick in there, too, if you re-sign him."

For the Bruins that would mean a first round pick, a top prospect like Urho Vaakanainen or Trent Frederic and then a potential roster piece like Danton Heinen. Certainly there’s flexibility in there with older prospects like Anders Bjork or Jeremy Lauzon potentially in the mix as well, but the bottom line is that it’s going to be a high price for a top drawer rental player like Kreider.

It should be an even higher price tag for a player like Palmieri who's been a big goal-producer and still has a year left on his contract beyond this season at a reasonable $4.85 million cap hit. The Bruins are interested in non-rental players like Palmieri that could solve Boston’s top-6 problem for a longer period of time, but there is most definitely a cost associated with that solution.  

Some of the other winger alternatives have already been dealt with both Tyler Toffoli and Blake Coleman moving well ahead of Monday’s deadline, but there are still other players out there that could fit Boston’s needs.

One of those wingers expected to move is Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad, per Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman on his 31 Thoughts podcast.

“If it’s Kreider, Palmieri or Brandon Saad, they might consider doing it,” said Friedman of the Bruins giving up a first-round pick in a deadline deal. “I think Boston would prefer to do one of their younger players that maybe hasn’t gotten as much of a run [in the NHL] as one would have hoped.”

Saad fits the profile as an offensively viable top-6 winger with considerable postseason experience, and he’s having a pretty good season with 18 goals and 28 points in 48 games with an even plus/minus rating. More importantly, the 27-year-old Saad will be available now that the Blackhawks have fallen hard out of playoff contention with a collapse during the month of February.

Saad has topped out at 31 goals and 53 points in a season during his career, but he’s consistently been in the 20 goal/45 points neighborhood in his career and has 16 goals in 72 career playoff games mostly with the Blackhawks. He’d be an upgrade over players like Karson Kuhlman and Danton Heinen that might get top-6 looks in the playoffs if the Bruins don’t make a move, but he also comes as a less-than-perfect solution as a natural left winger.

Like Palmieri, Saad is also signed for next season and would merit a higher trade cost given that he’s not a strict rental player, either.

Saad brings pretty good size at 6-foot-1, 202-pounds, but he’s not nearly as big or physical as Kreider is on the left wing. Palmieri has an advantage on both Kreider and Saad because he’s the natural right wing that the Bruins truly require right now. Saad also holds a $6 million cap hit that’s higher than either Kreider or Palmieri and that would force a few more hoops for Don Sweeney to jump through before consummating a deal.

While not as impressive in the household name department as Kreider or Palmieri, Sweeney needs options at the deadline and a player like Saad gives him exactly that with the pressure mounting to get a deal done.

Haggerty: Here's what Bruins need to add at deadline

Scoring drought weighed on Bruins' Charlie McAvoy, but now he's dominant

USA TODAY Sports photo

Scoring drought weighed on Bruins' Charlie McAvoy, but now he's dominant

CHICAGO — Some will point to Wednesday’s first goal of the season as a breakthrough moment this year for 22-year-old defenseman Charlie McAvoy after up and down play in the first half of the regular season.

There’s no doubt it was “a relief” as McAvoy called it after going through 51 games and four full months of hockey this season before the offensive D-man finally notched a goal on the ledger for the 2019-20 season.

“It’s nice. It was tough. It weighs [on you]. As much as you don’t want to say, you think about it and your confidence and everything. You feel like you can contribute a set amount and sometimes when it’s not there you take a bit of a hit. But I said to these guys ‘thanks for keeping my confidence high’ and they all do,” said McAvoy, looking around the Bruins dressing room. “Everybody was saying it was coming, it was coming. The response was pretty neat. They were all busting my chops. Hopefully from there my confidence [comes back] and maybe I see more things go in for me.

They wouldn’t let me up [after the goal]. I was down there [under the pile] for about 30 seconds and then I was like ‘I guess we’re just staying in Chicago tonight.’ It was awesome. We are such a close group and I could feel everybody’s genuine happiness for me. We all share that with each other when everybody does good things.

But the truth is that the game-winning overtime goal in Wednesday night’s 2-1 OT win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center had been in the works for a couple games as McAvoy has clearly elevated his play coming out of the extended 10-day break for All-Star Weekend and Boston’s bye week.

It was most readily apparent as McAvoy tapped in a Jake DeBrusk feed in transition to catapult the B’s to their fifth straight win after 22 minutes of strong performance against Chicago, but the simple fact is he’s been a dominant No. 1 defenseman for a couple of weeks.

It was McAvoy who drilled Mark Schiefele at the defensive blue in Winnipeg with a punishing hit that embroiled the Bruins into their combative win over the Jets, who set up each of Boston’s first two goals in Tuesday night’s shutout win over Vancouver and then it was McAvoy again last night stepping up and providing the heroics in overtime against the Blackhawks.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

“He was still playing very well for us. He’s had a little tough luck and at times he’s over-passed a little bit as well. But [in overtime] he had no choice and had to shoot it. I’m happy for him,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s just playing lots of minutes, playing to his strength and getting up the ice when he can. I liked his first assist [against Vancouver] with a shot through traffic. He’s a good match-up player for us every night and the offense will come. Maybe [the last two games] is a sign of things to come.”

There’s no coincidence to the fact that McAvoy has been playing his best hockey of the season while the Bruins have won five games in a row to fortify their position at the top of the Atlantic Division standings. It was a challenge at times for McAvoy to keep confidence up when the young D-man hadn’t scored in the first 51 games of the season, but that’s where his experienced teammates came into play.

Certainly, he’s feeling refreshed after the midseason break across the NHL and he’s playing his best, most instinctual hockey of the season right now.

“The break was very helpful physically for a little bit of rest and recovery for the body,” said McAvoy. “Coming back I feel energized and I feel good. I feel like I can move around skate a little more, and that I have a little more energy. It really goes a long way. I’m going to go for as long as that lasts, and then I’ll be looking for new routines and new recoveries to find ways to stay fresh.”

It’s a tall order for McAvoy to fill his job description every night as a No. 1 defenseman who needs to play in every situation and needs to make an impact offensively, defensively and physically, but the saying goes that much is expected to whom much is given.

McAvoy was given quite a bit in the hockey talent department — and he’s playing like the dominant force he can be over the last handful of games.

Did Blackhawks get robbed of win over Bruins after negated late goal?

Did Blackhawks get robbed of win over Bruins after negated late goal?

Dominant defense and a resurgent offense have powered the Boston Bruins' five-game winning streak.

Oh, and a dash of luck.

The Bruins defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on Thursday night thanks to Charlie McAvoy's overtime game-winner.

The game probably shouldn't have reached OT in the first place, though, as Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula potted a shorthanded goal with 1:05 remaining in regulation to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

But the goal didn't count -- because officials had blown the play dead seconds earlier, citing a hand pass from defenseman Olli Maatta.

A closer look at the play revealed the puck actually grazed Maatta's stick after he touched it with his hand, which would have negated the hand pass call and allowed Caggiula's goal to stand.

That's admittedly a tough call to make in real time. After the game, however, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said an official actually admitted to his mistake.

That message apparently reached Chicago head coach Jeremy Colliton, as well.

"They made a mistake, blew the whistle," Colliton said, via NBC Sports Chicago. "Not much you can say after that. It's done."

It was a confusing sequence, as Torey Krug had just been assessed a delayed penalty for tripping prior to Maatta's hand pass, resulting in a loud cheer from the United Center crowd that made it difficult to hear the official's whistle for a hand pass.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said he would have questioned if the goal stood, though.

"We heard the whistle on the bench," Cassidy said, via "So if they'd have counted it, I was like, 'Wait a minute.' There was definitely a whistle."

That whistle greatly benefited the Bruins, who cashed in on McAvoy's OT winner minutes later to seize the best record in the NHL.