Considered a retooling franchise at the start of this season, the Boston Bruins sit second overall in the Eastern Conference. They’ve played themselves back into Stanley Cup contender status.
With the Feb.26 NHL trade deadline less than a month away, there’s speculation general manager Don Sweeney could make a move or two to bolster their roster for the playoffs. However, the success they’ve enjoyed thus far with their current roster could give Sweeney a reason to stand pat on deadline day.
That’s not to suggest the Bruins don’t have any roster needs. Last Sunday, Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe pointed out they’re using rookie Jake DeBrusk and center Ryan Spooner as wingers on center David Krejci‘s line. That’s forced Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy to rely more heavily on his first and third lines in defensive situations.
Shinzawa speculated it’s a “good bet” they’ll seek “a more experienced all-around right wing” before the deadline. He suggested Vancouver’s Thomas Vanek, Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman or even Chicago’s Patrick Sharp as potential trade targets.
Their defense corps could also need additional depth should injuries strike down the stretch. Oft-injured Adam McQuaid recently returned to action and rookie star Charlie McAvoy is expected back soon from a procedure to address an abnormal heart rhythm. Still, a case could be made for Sweeney to add an affordable rental blueliner.
Boston’s depth in young NHL players and prospects prompted speculation they could be targeted by clubs attempting to move veteran talent at the deadline. On Jan. 26, the New York Post‘s Larry Brooks wondered if New York Rangers blueliner Ryan McDonagh might be worth to contenders, such as the Bruins, that are rich in assets.
Two days prior, however, TSN’s Darren Dreger said he didn’t get the sense that the Bruins are contemplating a major move. While Sweeney might be willing to listen to offers, he doesn’t appear to be seeking a big deal.
Sweeney could be reluctant to part with his talented youngsters to bring in veteran players. On Jan. 16, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said there were rumors the Bruins had told teams they weren’t moving their best young players or prospects.
It’s easy to understand why. Rookie winger Danton Heinen (11 goals, 33 points in 44 games) is on pace for a 20-goal, 60-point season. McAvoy is second among the Bruins in ice time (22:49) and on track for a 40-point campaign. DeBrusk (25 points in 44 games) could reach 20 goals and 45 points. Sophomore blueliner Brandon Carlo is fitting well into a shutdown role.
Since taking over as GM in 2015, Sweeney put in a lot of effort – and, at times, took some heat – restocking the Bruins roster with promising youngsters. With his efforts coming to fruition this season, he’s not under any pressure to make a big move.
As the trade deadline approaches, much will depend on the Bruins’ position in the standings. They’re among the league’s hottest teams, running up an impressive 18-game points streak of 14-0-4 that ended on Jan. 30 with a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Entering February, the Bruins are statistically among the league leaders. They had the second-lowest goals-against per game (2.44) and the second-fewest shots-against per game (29.3). They also had the sixth-best penalty-killing percentage (83.2), goals per game (3.21) and faceoff win percentage (51.8), as well as the seventh-best power-play percentage (21.2).
Unforeseen factors could also force Sweeney to consider a trade. His club could stumble through February. Injuries could take a toll. The wear and tear of the long season could catch up with those rookies unaccustomed to the NHL grind.
Should Sweeney decide to bring in a rental player, perhaps he’ll use his 2018 second-round pick or dip into his second-tier prospects for trade bait.
Nevertheless, if the Bruins maintain their winning ways and strong stats throughout February, Sweeney could have little reason to tweak his roster.