Don Sweeney

Newest Bruin Ondrej Kase looking forward to possibly playing with David Krejci

Newest Bruin Ondrej Kase looking forward to possibly playing with David Krejci

As one might expect after grinding it out with an offensively-challenged group the last few seasons, Ondrej Kase is pumped at the possibilities with NHL point-leading Boston Bruins after being dealt from the Anaheim Ducks.

The 24-year-old Kase has seven goals and 23 points in 49 games with a minus-7 rating this season. He never skated on a line with a playmaker as gifted as his Czech countryman David Krejci during his time in Anaheim. So understandably, Kase is excited about a scenario where he could slide into the right-wing spot on Krejci’s line to start — and perhaps even remain there if chemistry develops quickly.

“I think [Krejci] is an unbelievable player, and I think anyone would want to play with him," said Kase, who posted a 20-goal campaign in 2017-18. "He can pass the puck very well, great passer…Unbelievable at passing. It’ll be very good to play with him. I think that it could help [my offense]. It’s hard to say; Krejci is a very, very good passer. He could find [me] very, very well. Yes, I hope it helps.”

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The good news for Kase and the Bruins is that the young right winger likes to shoot the puck. That’s something an overly passive B’s group could use at times. Kase would rank fifth on the Bruins with his 135 shots on net in 49 games this season, behind only David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk.

The newest Bruins’ shooting percentage this season is under six (5.2 to be exact). That would put him in company with guys like Chris Wagner and Brett Ritchie — players that don’t exactly scream out natural goal-scorer. It’s also well under his career-mark of 9.5 percent, and less than half of his shooting percentages from the last two seasons (13.7 and 11.7). Kase is hoping a change of scenery improves his bad luck.

“I am very, very excited to be part of the Boston Bruins and I can’t wait for the playoffs,” said Kase, who’ll be wearing No. 28 (most notably Mark Recchi's number from the Bruins' last Stanley Cup title). “I hope we win the Stanley Cup; that’s why I’m going to Boston.”

Haggerty: Kase trade's a good start, but are the Bruins done?

The talent around Kase will demonstrably change for the better in Boston. It’s still uncertain if he'll suit up immediately once he starts practicing with the team next week, as he’s working to return from a concussion. 

Then there’s the question of whether Kase ends up as a second or third-line right winger. Don Sweeney left Kase’s specific role up in the air, but pinpointed that he’d play right wing with either Krejci or third-line center Charlie Coyle.

“We did see his scoring abilities, his versatility, his own game, the ability to probably play either with [David] Krejci or [Charlie] Coyle on that right side, [and] he’s a right shot. [He] adds to the speed and offensive ability to our hockey club,” said Sweeney, who surrendered a first round pick, David Backes and young D-man Axel Andersson in the deal. 

“For us, we’ve addressed what we think we need and also [the trade] doesn’t take away from any of the players we have on our current roster. [We still have] players that have been pushing from down below from a depth perspective to continue to have our club hopefully staying healthy throughout our last twenty games, and into the playoffs.”

Either way, both the player and the team are banking on an offensive surge from Kase once he does get into the lineup.

Ondrej Kase trade is very good for the Bruins, but is it good enough?

Ondrej Kase trade is very good for the Bruins, but is it good enough?

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.

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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.

Bruins needs are no secret ahead of NHL trade deadline

Bruins needs are no secret ahead of NHL trade deadline

There are few secrets about the Bruins or the strengths and weaknesses that face them heading into the stretch run and Stanley Cup Playoffs that follow.

The Bruins rely on the NHL’s best line — the Perfection Line — superior special teams play, and the NHL’s top goaltending duo along with a strong defensemen group for their winning formula, and it’s proven plenty good enough during the regular season in recent years. The B’s currently sit at an NHL-best 86 points on the season and have a six-point lead on everybody else in the NHL aside from their hard-charging divisional rivals in Tampa Bay.

The Bruins have won nine of their last 10 games after a ragged stretch of play in December/January and have been rolling since the NHL All-Star break while understandably feeling good about their game right now.

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“We’re taking a lot more value in [the defensive] part of the game, and some of it is getting the balance in the lines so that they’re fresh, getting everyone involved,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think most of our minutes now you’ll see, our forwards are typically at the least amount is 10 minutes sometimes for the lower guys if they’re not killing too many penalties, so I think that helps everyone stay in the game as well.”

When the Bruins are going well as they are right now, they are getting balanced play from their roster. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and it’s something that gets exposed when they play high-quality competition.

The weaknesses on the Bruins roster are equally clear and easy to diagnose because it’s been the same old thing for the last handful of years.

The Bruins have tried multiple times to acquire top-6 wingers who can produce offense, whether it’s been band-aid deadline solutions like Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford, or a stab at an attempted long-term fix when they traded for Rangers power forward Rick Nash. They couldn’t predict the abrupt, concussion-influenced retirement from the NHL for Nash following a few months in Black and Gold, and so a top-6 winger continues to be Don Sweeney’s "white whale" on the Bruins roster.

Once the playoffs begin and the Bruins face deeper, bigger and stronger defensive groups, the prolific Perfection Line routinely goes through stretches where they are held in check by opponents. It’s a prominent factor when the Bruins lost to the Lightning in the second round two years ago, and one of the prime reasons the B’s fell in seven games to the St. Louis Blues last June in the Stanley Cup Final.

When it happens, the Bruins become almost completely reliant on their power play to provide offensive punch while the other forward lines haven’t been able to effectively fill the scoring void.

The only way that’s going to change is for the Bruins to bring in a top-6 forward who can play the role of game-breaker and finish off the offensive chances set up by linemates David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins need another forward line that can put a scare in opponents offensively and they simply don’t have it consistently right now, just as they haven’t had it in the last handful of seasons.  

With names like Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman and Jason Zucker now off the trade deadline board, the Bruins are down to some of their top big-name trade choices in Chris Kreider, Kyle Palmieri and Josh Anderson.

Kreider would be the optimal choice because of his skating speed, consistency and the size and occasional mean streak that the Bruins could surely use among their top-6 group. But there are options out there provided Sweeney doesn’t get hung up waiting for Kreider to be made available to teams.

The other need for the Bruins at this point?

With Kevan Miller out for the entire season to this point with a fractured kneecap that sidelined him for last spring’s entire Stanley Cup Final run as well, the Bruins are a little light on the back end. The B’s could use a big, strong, hardnosed and physical defenseman capable of holding other teams accountable and doling out physical punishment in the D-zone.

The Bruins may have found an in-house solution in 22-year-old Jeremy Lauzon, who most recently served a two-game suspension for drilling Derek Stepan with a big, high hit against the side boards in a home win over the Coyotes. But that particular roster need is the reason they were linked to defenseman Brenden Dillon in trade rumors before he was eventually shipped from the San Jose Sharks to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for a couple draft picks.

It’s also less than ideal to rely on a rookie like Lauzon as a rugged, grizzled enforcer on the back end when it comes to playoff time. That’s something else to consider when Don Sweeney goes shopping over the next five days ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline, a date that’s quickly becoming anticlimactic given all the trades getting consummated well ahead of time.

Sweeney knows the team’s greatest needs, he’s on the clock and the pressure is on the Bruins general manager to adequately address them ahead of next Monday’s deadline.