The Bruins Need to Target Rentals at This Year’s Trade Deadline

With just five days to go until the NHL trade deadline, things are finally starting to heat up. It’s still expected to be a quieter deadline than usual due to the flat salary cap and quarantine restrictions due to COVID-19. There are also significantly more buyers than sellers. This year’s deadline is also complicated by teams planning for the Seattle Kraken’s arrival this summer. So, there are a lot of new obstacles this year. But, things will still happen, and the rumor mill is getting stronger by the day. 

The Bruins will be buyers at this year’s trade deadline. Some fans think they should be sellers, but that’s frankly insane and there’s simply no way it happens. So please, for the sake of my sanity, stop saying it. Rumor has it that Bruins GM Don Sweeney has been very busy looking for a top-6 forward and a defenseman. There has also been a little chatter that he’s looking for a goalie, but I don’t have much confidence in those sources. So, I’m assuming he was just doing his due diligence and nothing will actually happen on that front. But anyway, when it comes to what type of players the Bruins should acquire, I hold a very unpopular opinion. Without further ado, let’s dig in.

The Bruins Should Only Target Rentals

Unlike most people, I strongly believe that the Bruins should almost exclusively be looking at rental players at the trade deadline and not players with term. I know a lot of people hate the idea of giving up assets to potentially lose a player for nothing. However, with the Seattle expansion draft happening this summer, that’s going to happen anyway. If you acquire a player with term, you either then have to protect them, thus exposing a player you would’ve otherwise protected, or expose them, and likely lose them for nothing. 

The only way to avoid either of those scenarios is if, for example, you trade a player you would’ve protected otherwise to acquire a player with term. However, it’s rather unlikely Sweeney does that this year, as he’s shopping for players to fill holes. It makes no sense for him to trade a good player for a good player when the whole point here is to get more good players. So, acquiring a player with term will almost certainly end in the Bruins exposing someone they wouldn’t have otherwise, or by exposing the player they just spent assets to acquire. They both end with the team losing a good player for nothing after spending assets to get the team an additional good player. That’s far from ideal.

Acquiring a Rental Likely Avoids This Situation

Meanwhile, if the Bruins acquire a rental, they can avoid losing a good player for nothing after spending assets. In this scenario, they won’t have to protect the player they acquire unless they stupidly re-sign him before the expansion draft. This allows them to protect everybody they’ve been planning on protecting all season. Then, after the expansion draft, they can just sign the player they acquired. Obviously, that’s the ideal situation.

I know what many of you are thinking: the Bruins have a terrible track record when it comes to retaining rentals. However, this year will be different. Unlike in past years, the Bruins will have PLENTY of money to spend in the off-season. So, they’ll actually be able to afford to pay the player close to what they want as long as it’s a reasonable number. Because of that, I have confidence that if they want to, they’ll be able to retain any player they acquire this season.

Which Rentals Should the Bruins Look At?

Now that I’ve established why acquiring a rental at the trade deadline instead of a player with term is a good idea, let’s move on to which ones they should target. 

Kyle Palmieri

Kyle Palmieri is the biggest name the Bruins have been linked to, and for good reason. He’d be a perfect addition to the top-six. The Bruins desperately need a 5v5 scoring winger, and he’s just that. He’s having a down year, but the Devils are not exactly a good team. So, I’m not too concerned about it, especially since his shooting percentage is well below his average. That will turn around once he gets to a better team.

Another bonus to Palmieri is he shouldn’t be too expensive to get. Given his down year, he’s probably worth a second-round pick plus a later-round one (think fourth or fifth). However, with the demand for scoring wingers this year, he’ll probably cost more than that. With how hesitant teams seem to be to give up first-round picks, as long as there isn’t a bidding war, a middling prospect and second-round pick should get it done. This is particularly true if the Bruins can pull this deal off before Taylor Hall is traded. He is the biggest name on the market, so teams will try to get him before moving on to a guy like Palmieri. Once Hall moves, then there’s likely to be a bidding war for everyone else. So, if this is the route the Bruins want to go, they need to do it sooner rather than later.

The only potential obstacle to the Bruins acquiring Palmieri is his cap hit. The Bruins have the cap space for him thanks to John Moore and Ondrej Kase being on the LTIR. But, taking on his full cap hit wouldn’t leave them with much room to do anything else, so it’s likely they’d want to the Devils to eat some salary, or they’d look for a way to move some out. But, I still don’t foresee it being a big issue, so I’m not overly worried about it.

Dmitry Kulikov

As for defensemen, Dmitry Kulikov is a name that came up for the Bruins recently. I never thought about him as an option before, but the more I think about it, the more enticing it is. Kulikov is a Devil, just like Palmieri, and they’re both UFAs (unrestricted free agents) this summer. If the Bruins could put together a package and acquire both of these players, it kills two birds with one stone, and even leaves them a bit of room to make another smaller move.

Kulikov is far from an offensive defenseman (we’re talking two points in 36 games this season), but he is an excellent defensive defenseman. He’s a left-shot, which is something the Bruins sorely need, and does an outstanding job of preventing high-danger chances. He’s made P.K. Subban a much better player this season, and I see no reason why he couldn’t do that in Boston. At the very least, he would be an upgrade over Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril, and he would likely make it possible for McAvoy and Grzelcyk to play together on a more consistent basis. Given how good that pairing has been this season, that’s huge. 

Another bonus of Kulikov is his price. He really isn’t worth much. He’s incredibly underrated on the current market, and wouldn’t fetch more than a mid to late-round pick. On top of that, he only makes $1.15 million. So, making room for him under the cap shouldn’t be too complicated. Acquiring Kulikov makes a ton of sense for the Bruins, especially if they can get Palmieri in the same package.

Other Players the Bruins Should Look Into

Palmieri and Kulikov should be the Bruins’ main trade deadline targets right now, and I think they are. However, there are other options out there for them. A month ago, I wrote about forward and defense targets for the Bruins. For the most part, I still agree with them. In particular, I’m still high on Bobby Ryan. He has seven goals and seven assists in 33 games for a truly terrible Red Wings team. He would most likely pick it up a notch with a new team. Ryan also has a track record of playoff success. So, he would be a good addition to the Bruins.

Even if they can get someone like Palmieri, I think they should still look to acquire Ryan. He won’t be expensive to get, and he could be a big help. He’s also on a cheap contract, so he’ll be easy to squeeze under the cap.

I also still think Alex Goligoski would be a decent addition on defense if they can’t get Kulikov. However, with Arizona right on the playoff bubble, I don’t think they’re going to be eager to move him anymore. If the Bruins can get him, with Arizona retaining salary, for about what they’d pay for Kulikov, then sure. But Kulikov is undoubtedly the better option right now, and I can’t see why the Bruins wouldn’t be able to get him.

I’m sure there are a lot of names out there that I’m blanking on or just haven’t really thought about. If there are any you think I’m missing (that are not named Taylor Hall or Mattias Ekholm because I will yell), then be sure to let me know in the comments or over on Twitter!

Final Thoughts

All in all, I very strongly believe that the Bruins need to focus on rental only at this trade deadline. I would much rather just have the chance of losing a good player for nothing after spending assets than knowing it will happen. The team can absolutely still go all-in and only focus on rentals, so that isn’t an excuse either. To me, it really just doesn’t make sense to go out and get players with term when there are several great rental options available.

As for who the Bruins should go after, Kyle Palmieri and Dmitry Kulikov should be the Bruins’ main targets, and it seems like they are. They both fill big holes in the Bruins lineup pretty perfectly, and shouldn’t cost the farm to acquire unless there’s a bidding war (which, if they can get the deal done soon, there won’t be). So, I hope Sweeney continues to work hard at getting these deals done, and brings these players to Boston.

As for other players, no matter what happens, I think Bobby Ryan would be a good low-risk and low-cost addition to the team. So, I hope they take a long look at him as well. Alex Goligoski also wouldn’t be a terrible idea if the Bruins can’t get Kulikov for some reason and he’s still available for a low cost.

That being said, Palmieri and Kulikov are definitely the ones the Bruins need to focus on right now. As long as the cost doesn’t get too high, there’s no reason they shouldn’t do it in my opinion. They both fit under the cap even without salary moving out, so that won’t even be an issue. To me, it’s the best and easiest way to significantly improve this team. What players do you think the Bruins should target at the trade deadline? Be sure to let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of Elise Amendola.

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