Thomas Vanek

Report: Veteran Brian Gionta, 39, drawing interest from Bruins

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Report: Veteran Brian Gionta, 39, drawing interest from Bruins

TORONTO – The Bruins are lining up their options at the NHL trade deadline and that includes backup plans in case things don’t go their way by late Monday afternoon. 

One of those might just be 40-year-old Jarome Iginla, who has been working out with the Providence Bruins this week. Another potentially remote possibility for the B’s is Brian Gionta coming off his stint with the US Olympic team in PyeongChang, according to a report from The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun.

Gionta, 39, had 15 goals and 35 points for the Buffalo Sabres last season, then sat out the first half of this season in order to compete with Team USA at the Olympics. Gionta and the Americans fell short of a medal, of course, and the captain had a pretty quiet tournament with college kids Ryan Donato and Troy Terry leading the way for the USA.

Clearly, the Bruins have a need for an experienced, heavy player on the wing to augment the multitudes of youthful, smaller, skilled players that the Bruins have currently have on the wing outside of David Backes. But the 5-foot-7, 178-pound Gionta really doesn’t fit Boston’s current roster need outside of the experience factor given his 112 games of Stanley Cup playoff experience.

As with Iginla, Gionta would seem to be a remote possibility for the Bruins if they happen to strike out on all of their trade scenarios leading up to the Monday 3 p.m. deadline. A trade for a big, heavy top-six winger like Edmonton's Patrick Maroon or Vancouver's Thomas Vanek would be much more meaningful roster improvements for the Bruins. 

Other than as a Plan B or Plan C, Gionta doesn’t make a lot of sense as an upgrade over what the Bruins currently have and really didn’t show much in the Olympic tournament to indicate there’s a ton left in the gas tank.

There certainly would be an interesting full circle element to Gionta’s career if he were to end up with the Bruins after starring at Boston College prior to the NHL. Still, the feeling from this humble hockey writer is that the B’s could do a lot better than that when it comes to augmenting their roster ahead of what the organization hopes will be a long playoff run in Boston.

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Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

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Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

Looking at it from the long term view, the Boston Bruins are in a fantastic position at this point in time.

They’re a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the NHL’s top spot, they have a group at the NHL level that’s an ideal combination of proven, veteran Cup winners and talented, enthusiastic young players ready to make their mark.

The Bruins also have a wealth of young prospects below the NHL level working their way to Boston whether it’s former first round picks like Jakub Zboril or Zach Senyshyn just a step away in Providence, or college hockey players like Ryan Donato or Trent Frederic that form the next wave of youngsters. The simple fact of the matter with the Black and Gold is that there isn’t going to be room for every single prospect at the NHL level, and that goes doubly so for a deep, talented group like the Bruins. Another simple NHL fact is that teams have to give up something to get something around the trade deadline, and that means the B’s are going to have to part with something of quality if they want to land a potential big fish like Ryan McDonagh or Rick Nash, or perhaps even a medium-sized fish like Michael Grabner.

Whether it’s again dealing with the Rangers, or the Edmonton Oilers for Patrick Maroon, or the Vancouver Canucks for Thomas Vanek, the GMs around the league are also well aware of the wealth of prospects within the Bruins organization. And they’re looking to land some of them in any potential deals with the Black and Gold. The Rangers, in particular, want NHL-ready prospects to quickly reload their roster, but that’s what all of these teams are looking for in potential rental deals, or trades for players like McDonagh with more term on the contract.

So the million dollar question is what the Bruins should be willing to part with in those types of deals. GMs will certainly ask about Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Brandon Carlo at the NHL level as all four players are midway through their entry level contracts, and have already established themselves as considerable NHL players. McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should all be completely off the table in any of the deals the Bruins could be expected to make, and the expectation is that Don Sweeney isn’t going to deal any of them. Those three players are already tightly woven within the fabric of the team, and subtracting them from the roster would substantially worsen the team both in the short term and the long term.

Carlo is perhaps in a little bit of a different story in that the 21-year-old could be a viable trade piece if it was in something like the McDonagh deal, where the Bruins were going to be able to substantially upgrade their defensemen situation. Still, the Bruins aren’t very deep organizationally when it comes to right shot defensemen, and dealing a young, promising righty like Carlo for a lefty like McDonagh would only further complicate that situation.

That's above and beyond the fact that a clever, experienced GM like Jeff Gorton is going to attempt to maximize his return for a big asset like McDonagh, and attempt to get a package featuring two young NHL players (Carlo and either DeBrusk or Heinen) and a pick in exchange for New York's captain. 

The bottom line: of the four established NHL players mostly likely to be coveted by other NHL GMs in trade talks, stay-at-home defenseman Carlo is the only that should be seriously considered as a trade piece.

In the same vein, the most viable Bruins prospect up front that could be moved in the right deal is Anders Bjork. The 21-year-old Bjork has four goals and 12 points in 30 games for the Bruins this season while jumping from Notre Dame straight to the NHL, and is currently injured with an upper body injury suffered last month. He’s shown great skating speed, good hockey IQ and the offensive creativity needed to be a top-6 forward, and has been considered the same class of forward prospect as Heinen and DeBrusk.

It’s still entirely possible that Bjork becomes the best of all three players when it’s all said and done, but it’s also clear Heinen and DeBrusk have hopped over him on the organizational depth chart as this season has played out.

More importantly, Bjork, if traded, could be replaced rather immediately in the B’s talent pipeline by forward Ryan Donato after his impressive five-goal performance for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. That’s how it works for an organization like the Bruins where draft and development has become a success story. Some prospects make it to the NHL level and supplant veterans while keeping the salary cap from becoming an issue, some prospects perhaps don’t live up to the hype and other prospects are used as trade assets to address roster needs at the NHL level when things like the trade deadline come to the fore.

The real challenge for Sweeney over the next few days will be deciding which ones like Robbie O’Gara can be utilized in trades to support the NHL team, and which ones like McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should be absolutely untouchable right now.

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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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