The Bruins wanted a young right winger at the trade deadline who could be a top-six solution for years to come and they wanted to rid themselves of the David Backes contract for much-needed salary cap flexibility as well.
Don Sweeney accomplished both of those goals with the Friday trade with the Anaheim Ducks that shipped Backes, their 2020 first-round pick and defenseman prospect Axel Andersson in exchange for right winger Ondrej Kase, 24.
Kase is a middle-six winger already with a 20-goal season under his belt and his ability to generate 5-on-5 offense is an absolute area of need for a team that’s been far too reliant on special teams offense in recent years.
“He’s a young, talented player that’s a significant producer while 5-on-5, has shown the versatility to adapt his game on different lines and his shot volume his increased over the years,” said GM Don Sweeney. “It addresses a need. He’ll join the team back in Boston and we’ll move forward from there.
“With his speed, his scoring ability, his versatility within his own game and his ability to probably play with either [David] Krejci or [Charlie] Coyle on their right side, he adds speed and offensive ability to our hockey club. We’ve addressed what we think we needed.”
Fancy-stat types will love them some of the advanced statistics surrounding Kase’s game that show the Czech winger to be a versatile player capable of generating offense wherever he plays. It's to his credit that the youngster has looked comfortable playing on each of Anaheim’s top three lines in his Ducks career.
Even better, Kase is under Bruins control for next season at a $2.6 million cap hit and following that will be a restricted free agent still under Boston’s control.
The combination of trading Backes (and eating 25 percent of his contract) and bringing in Kase nets about $2 million in cap space for the Bruins over the next two seasons and that’s one of the biggest features of the trade.
Theoretically, the extra space gives Boston the additional cap space to A) make another deal prior to the Monday deadline and B) potentially sign defenseman Torey Krug to a long-term contract beyond this season.
The biggest asset the Bruins sacrificed was their first-round pick in this summer’s draft, of course. Still, it appears that selection is going to be at the bottom of the first round based on Boston’s position at the top of the standings and the expectations for the team headed into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The truth is that sacrificing a first-rounder is the cost of doing business to extricate themselves from the awful Backes contract, and to bring in a talented, young forward years away from free agency.
Still, the Bruins clearly winning this trade doesn’t come without risk or criticism.
In four seasons with the Ducks, the 5-foot-11, 186-pound Kase has never been healthy enough to play in more than 66 games in a regular season. He’s been out since Feb. 7 with a concussion and will be on injured reserve when he meets up with the Bruins in Boston at the start of next week.
Given that he’s never scored more than 20 goals or 38 points in a season and is on pace for 10 goals and 33 points this season, Kase feels more like a good third-line acquisition rather than the top-six goal-scorer that this team really needs to put them over the top.
It all makes one wonder whether there’s another shoe to drop with other tradeable assets on the NHL roster such as Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and John Moore, among others. Sweeney wasn’t ruling anything out while speaking with the media on a Friday afternoon conference call, but it’s clear he also wanted to put all the attention on the acquisition of Kase.
“I don’t know what will be, or can be, done before the deadline. We’ll continue to make calls on opportunities that may exist,” said Sweeney.
Still, the fact that the Bruins have already used their first-rounder in the Kase deal likely leaves them without ample ammunition to remain in the sweepstakes for bigger-name wingers Chris Kreider and Kyle Palmieri.
If this is all that the Bruins do ahead of the deadline, then they are most definitely better after adding Kase and subtracting Backes from the equation. But it doesn’t feel like they’ve done enough to make them the favorites in future playoff series against Tampa Bay or Washington this spring.
That’s really what it’s all about for a Bruins team in a Cup window that’s closing pretty rapidly.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of the NHL trade deadline. This Monday at 2:30 p.m., stream the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBoston.com.