There is absolutely no shortage of (mostly unrealistic and annoying) opinions amongst Bruins fans as to what the Bruins should do at this year’s trade deadline. Many people are of the belief that this team needs to swing for the fences if they hope to win the Cup this year, and that they should do it and deal with the consequences later. I pretty strongly disagree with that statement. But, that being said, I do think making some smaller moves is the right choice. Here’s a look at some potential Bruins trade targets at forward this year. Be sure to check back Friday for the defense edition!
Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres
No, non, nee, nein, nej. Just NO. Stop it. Get the idea out of your head right now. It’s not going to happen nor should it. The ask is going to be way too high (although likely not quite as high as some are expecting). The Bruins just don’t have enough to offer because David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy aren’t going anywhere. Plus, making the money work would be next to impossible. The Bruins would have to put together a crazy package to move enough salary out, or Buffalo would have to retain some of Eichel’s salary, which they won’t do. So no. It’s not happening. Let’s stop pretending like it’s even remotely close to being an option before I rip my hair out.
Taylor Hall, LW, Buffalo Sabres
Again, no. Just no. Don’t even think about it. Just like Eichel, it’s not going to happen nor should it. The Bruins backed off from Hall during free agency for a reason. He wanted too much money. The Bruins simply can’t afford to take on $8 million. They couldn’t then, and they certainly can’t now, nor should they. On top of that, I truly don’t believe he’d be a great fit in Boston. He’s not the type of player that usually does well here, and that’s not a knock on him. It’s just reality. He wants to be the star and get paid like it, and there’s absolutely no problem with that. It just makes him a bad fit on the Bruins with their team-first attitude and history of stars taking pay cuts to stay.
Even if Hall would fit in well, it’s still not a good idea. He’s having a bad season, with just one goal (albeit 11 assists) in 20 games. A change of scenery would likely do him good because of how much of a dumpster fire the Sabres are (sorry to my fellow writer here, Zach Jezioro). But, I don’t think he will ever play up to that contract, as he had a down year last year in Arizona too. So, it’s just too much of a gamble.
A few other players on my list are having bad seasons too, but their contracts are significantly cheaper. There could also be a bit of a bidding war over Hall, as a lot of teams will look into him thinking they can unlock his best. That alone is a reason to stay away, as bidding wars typically result in massive overpayments. So, just get the idea of him coming out to Boston out of your head right now. It’s simply not a realistic or smart move.
Sam Bennett, C, Calgary Flames
Another potential option for the Bruins at the trade deadline is Sam Bennett. He’s a natural left-shot center, but he’s versatile enough to play on either wing. The Bruins’ most pressing need at forward is a right-wing for David Krejci (stop me if you’ve heard that before), and I’m not convinced Bennett can be that person. It’s a lot to ask a left-shot center to play on his off-wing. Plus, Bennett has yet to live up to his potential as the fourth overall pick in 2014. But, he doesn’t necessarily have to fill that second-line spot. He could slot in on the third-line and someone like Craig Smith could move up to play with Krejci. Or, and this is much less ideal since he doesn’t play great there, Coyle could move up and over to the wing. There are ways they could make it work
So, despite the potential issues, I feel like Bennett is worth a call. For starters, he’s young and has a ton of upside. A change of scenery could help him find his game. In addition to that, he’d come pretty cheap, particularly since he has had a bad season (just three goals and one assist in 22 games) and it’s known he wants out. But, perhaps most importantly is Bennett historically takes it up a notch in the playoffs. That’s something the Bruins could really use because secondary scoring is significantly more important in the playoffs than it is during the regular season.
However, that being said, he is not the best option out there for the Bruins because fitting him in could be difficult. Plus, COVID-19 makes it very hard for players to travel across the U.S.-Canada border, as any player entering Canada would have to quarantine for 14 days. So, it’s not ideal for the Flames either. But, if I were Sweeney, I’d at least kick the tires and see what it’d cost you. Phone calls never hurt anyone!
Jake Virtanen, RW, Vancouver Canucks
Jake Virtanen is another solid option for the Bruins. In fact, I like him quite a bit better than I like Bennett. He’s got good size (listed at 6’1 and 226 pounds) and plays a physical game. That’s the type of player Krejci has previously thrived with. Virtanen was also a pretty prolific scorer in juniors. But, while it has gotten better year after year (with the notable exception of this season), that scoring touch has yet to fully translate to the NHL.
However, a change of scenery and getting to play with a pass-first guy like Krejci could be just what he needs. He still has a cannon of a shot and has shown flashes of his full potential (which is a lot) throughout his career. He’s also still just 24 years old, so there’s still a lot of room for growth and development. Virtanen’s contract is also good, as it runs through next season at $2.55 million a year. That makes it so if he fits in well in Boston, he won’t interfere with them making other moves, and if he doesn’t, he could make for great expansion draft bait.
On top of all that, like Bennett, he would probably come pretty cheap. He’s had such a bad season this year (just one goal and zero assists through 21 games) that his trade value has plummeted. The number one problem the Bruins would face when it comes to acquiring him though would again be what they’d give in return. As I said above, any player entering Canada has to quarantine for 14 days. So, that’d be a tough pill to swallow for the Canucks. It’s not insurmountable, but it makes things a lot more difficult. That being said though, despite his rough season, I think he’s worth considering. The potential reward far outweighs the risk in my opinion.
Bobby Ryan, RW, Detroit Red Wings
The last forward I’m going to highlight here is Bobby Ryan. Another big right-winger (listed at 6’2 and 208 pounds), he could be another good fit with Krejci. He’s 33, so not young with upside, and had been declining up until this season. But, he’s seen a bit of a resurgence this year (although still not up to his prime), with six goals and seven assists in 24 games, which is up from five goals and three assists in 24 games last year. That’s not even mentioning the fact that he’s doing that on a league-worst Detroit Red Wings team.
There’s an argument to be made that that’s part of the reason why he’s doing so well because he’s being used more. But, if the Bruins were to use him on Krejci’s line, it wouldn’t be much different usage, and he’d be with much better linemates. So, I can’t see a reason to believe he’d drop off if he came to the Bruins (and if he did, it wouldn’t be by much). Ryan also steps up come playoff time, tallying 15 points in 19 games for the Senators in his most recent playoff performance, which was back in 2016-17.
The other positive of Ryan is he’s the lowest-risk option and the only near-guarantee to do well. Unlike Virtanen and Bennett, he’s having a good season. He’s also only under contract through the end of this season for just $1 million. He shouldn’t cost a ton to acquire either, particularly given the Red Wings status. So, Ryan is the biggest bang for your buck out of everyone here. The other two have the potential to be more, but there are no guarantees. I would much rather see Sweeney go out and get someone who is practically guaranteed to help you both during the regular season and playoffs than another gamble. So, if the Bruins decide to target a forward, I think they should take the longest look at getting Ryan.
Obviously, there are a lot of other forward options out there for the Bruins at the deadline. But, Eichel and Hall are the names I see people throw around the most, so I thought I’d burst that bubble, and then the other three I think would all be at least decent fits. That being said, the Bruins don’t necessarily have to make a move at forward. It’s probably a good idea, but if they don’t do it, I don’t think it’ll be detrimental to them, especially if Kase gets healthy and plays well. So, that’s why I don’t want them to make a big move for someone. I just can’t see it having a big enough impact to be worth it.
So, I hope Sweeney doesn’t swing for the fences with a forward. Ryan, Bennett, or Virtanen would all likely be good fits and would come at a low cost. Ryan is the surest bet of the three, and comes with the cheapest contract and fewest headaches, so he’s the one I want them to go after the most. But, we’ll just have to wait and see how everything plays out between now and then before we can properly assess their needs. What do you think? Which forward should the Bruins target, if anyone? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of Paul Sancya/AP.
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