Boston Bruins

Why the Bruins should (and shouldn't) trade their first-round pick

Why the Bruins should (and shouldn't) trade their first-round pick


Don Sweeney said at the NHL combine that he’s willing to trade the 18th overall selection in this month’s draft. It’s something a GM should say, as it benefits no one to rule out all options this early. 

Yet should the Bruins actually move the pick? They’ve drafted well and they haven’t exactly crushed it in the trade market. Then again, the team has needs and plays in a bad (and therefore up-for-grabs) conference. 

Michael Felger expressed concerns over a possible trade involving the pick on Sports Sunday, which were warranted, but the Bruins shouldn’t necessarily be hell-bent on keeping the pick. Some things to consider: 

WHY THEY SHOULD TRADE THE PICK

- The Eastern Conference kind of sucks these days. The Senators made it to overtime of Game 7 of the conference finals. Plus, the Capitals won’t be able to keep the best roster in the conference together. 

So even though the Bruins are far away from where they once were, this conference might be there for the taking for a mediocre team. You’ve got to imagine the Lightning will bounce back, but adding another legitimate piece might actually make the B’s a contender in a very weak conference. 

- There are two obvious needs on the roster: Left wing and left-shot defenseman. If one is out there that’s at a reasonable age and price, the B’s would be wise to explore it. 

- Are they trying to contend or not? Zdeno Chara is in the final year of his contract, and although there’s a decent shot he’ll stick around on an extension, he’s 40. That he’s still a very good No. 1 defenseman is impressive, but there’s a whiz-or-get-off-the-pot element to the Chara window. 

WHY THEY SHOULDN’T

- The obvious question: What are they going to get? Sweeney has made three trades for  first-round picks, but he’s never traded a first-rounder himself. His track record of NHL moves is suspect, as his biggest moves in trade and free agency have netted the Bruins Jimmy Hayes, Matt Beleskey and David Backes, all of whom have been overpays. 

A move involving Boston’s first-rounder would present Sweeney to make a potentially significant addition via trade and correct past missteps. It could also add to the list, however. 

- What does a first-rounder get you? Excluding deals made by the Bruins, some recent trades at the draft have seen teams acquire Griffin Reinhart, Bobby Ryan and Robin Lehner. In the case of the Ryan trade, the Senators also had to add prospects. So what could No. 18 get the Bruins given their needs?

Two names that come to mind: Gabriel Landeskog, who is signed for four more years at a bad cap hit of $5.5 million and Cam Fowler, who is still 25 and has one year left on his deal. Fowler could be an interesting pickup for the Bruins given that he's a skilled left-shot defenseman and won't cost them big against the cap ($4 million). Plus, Anaheim doesn't have a first-round pick. If the Bruins set out to acquire Landeskog, they should aim to have the Avalanche eat at least $1 million a year of that cap hit. 

- As Felger pointed out, spending the pick plays to this group’s strengths. Charlie McAvoy was not the surefire consensus pick at No. 13 last year -- Jakob Chychrun and Dante Fabbro could have been the pick and nobody would have batted an eye -- but Sweeney and his group made a home run of a selection. Same goes for 2015 second-rounder Brandon Carlo. When you’re good at drafting and the jury’s still out on your trading, why not just draft? 

- With the buyout charge to Dennis Seidenberg bumping up by $1 million and David Pastrnak set to get something like $6 million a year as a restricted free agent, the Bruins are looking at already being in the upper $60 millions range with a $73 million salary cap ceiling. Perhaps the B’s can shed a pricy contract via trade or by the Knights taking one off their hands in the expansion draft, but it’s not like the Bruins can afford to add a ton of salary this offseason. 

Bruins prospects Zboril, Senyshyn and McIntyre among camp cuts

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Bruins prospects Zboril, Senyshyn and McIntyre among camp cuts

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins had waited and gave a long look before making their first substantial cuts in training camp, but they have done that after Saturday’s mistake-filled preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The timing clearly had more to do with the opening of Providence Bruins on Monday morning than a lifeless performance in the preseason, but it feels like for some players that their underperformance on Saturday led to them being cut from NHL camp.  Youngsters Anton Blidh, Colby Cave, Jesse Gabrielle, Justin Hickman, Zane McIntyre, Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Zboril have all been sent to P-Bruins camp for its start on Monday morning, and they’ll be joined by fellow camp participants Chris Breen, Connor Clifton, Taylor Doherty, Colton Hargrove and Chris Porter that were in Boston’s camp on minor league contracts. McIntyre gave up four goals in the loss to the Red Wings before getting pulled in favor of Malcolm Subban for the third period, and talented young first-round talents Senyshyn and Zboril both showed in camp that they still need some development time in the AHL.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy went through the performances of a number of young B’s prospects in camp following Sunday’s practice, and slightly ahead of Sunday night’s announcement of substantial training camp cuts.

“We were hoping that we’d see the [young guys] separate themselves in camp, and we’re seeing some of them doing that,” said Cassidy, with young B’s prospects like Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen fitting into that category. “Let’s use [Saturday night’s] game as an example. [DeBrusk] is a young guy in that position and he had two or three good chances in tight and just part of that is finishing now. [Heinen] has had some pretty good games where he’s made some plays and scored. Bjork has been dynamic at times.  

“[Ryan Fitzgerald] has played well. [Gabrielle] has had his moments even though he lost his discipline a little bit the other night. JFK has been a tough one to evaluate being injured, so hopefully he’s ready to go later this week. We’re getting good mileage out of those guys, but we’re going to be playing against stronger lineups so the task gets a little more challenging. On the back end [Grzelcyk] has played in three games and he’s done some good things with puck-moving. He’s just trying to close quicker and do the things we’re asking him to do. [Robbie] O’Gara has been more consistent in his all-around game than maybe Zboril or [Jeremy] Lauzon where it’s all new to them. But we didn’t really expect those guys to come in on the back end and dominate. It’s about playing well, being consistent and getting better.”

Young B’s players like Grzelcyk, O’Gara and Lauzon are still hanging around in camp along with JFK as well, so their NHL audition continues as some of their peers get busy on their development in Providence starting this week. 

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Haggerty: Right fit for Backes one of camp's lingering mysteries

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Haggerty: Right fit for Backes one of camp's lingering mysteries

BRIGHTON, Mass – With the start of Providence Bruins camp bearing down on Monday, the Boston Bruins know their NHL training camp numbers will be thinning out very shortly. That won’t change some pretty established forward combinations that head coach Bruce Cassidy has been working with throughout camp thus far.

Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have skated together consistently as they obviously should as one of the league’s most lethal duos, and they’ve been teamed with rookie Anders Bjork at right wing pretty consistently through camp. David Krejci and David Pastrnak have also been linked together for every practice, game and drill since the 21-year-old Pastrnak signed his new six-year contract, and it’s been rookie Jake DeBrusk with them for most of camp.
Matt Beleskey finished the night in Detroit with Krejci and Pastrnak, and one begins to wonder if that’s where the established, 28-year-old Beleskey finds himself when the regular season begins.

That may or may not change after the young left winger was taken off their line in Saturday night’s preseason debacle in Detroit, but the point stands that Krejci and Pastrnak are expected to be on the same line to start the season. The same would seem to be the case with Riley Nash and Noel Acciari as fourth liners that really established themselves toward the end of last season, and have had Tim Schaller and Jesse Gabrielle cycle through as candidates.

That leaves the Bruins third line where the choices aren’t quite as easy for Cassidy, and where there are several different options for the Bruins coaching staff. Ryan Spooner and David Backes played together an ample amount of time last season, and would seem to be a good combo where their very different strengths can complement each other. Sean Kuraly and Backes would certainly give the Bruins a big, bruising, North/South third line dimension, and showed how effective they could be in the first round of the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson got some early looks with Backes as well, but it seems a foregone conclusion he'll start in the AHL after getting dinged up earlier this week in preseason action. Backes hasn’t been shy about his preference to see where this combo could take them given his preference for a bit of old school smash-mouth hockey.

“It depends on usage, and that conversation has yet to be had. Are we going to be a checking line that’s going to get the matchup against the other team’s top line, or if we’re going to roll three lines that can responsibly play against any line then the makeup of [the line] changes a little bit,” said Backes. “I think another big body to get pucks in and have that grind really wearing things down, and kind of setting things up for the line after us, is first and foremost on my mind.

“I think there are certainly plays to be made on entrances, but there’s a lot of times when there’s not. But starting up that grind game that’s there at times, the more often it’s there the better we are. It can be overwhelming for teams to have to be in their end for minutes on end, and get a fresh line change, while you’re still in the offensive zone. That’s how goals are created that aren’t made on the rush. In the second half of the game [against the Red Wings] with JFK not feeling so hot, Sean Kuraly and myself felt pretty good with his speed, his ability and just the unselfish type of “let’s go in here and grind” to make space for the other guys. I don’t know how it all sorts out or if they’ve A, B, C and D type of choices, but there’s still a great deal of camp. So hopefully that all gets sorted out, so we’re able to build chemistry with whoever it is.”

There are other pieces to be worked in like Frank Vatrano or possibly Beleskey if both of Boston’s rookie wingers stick on the NHL roster, but it would seem that the Bruins are facing a major philosophical decision with their third line after bringing Spooner back into the fold. Do they go big, strong and “crash and bang” with Kuraly and Backes, or do the Bruins try to amp up Backes’ offensive production as trigger man with Ryan Spooner setting him as a speedy, skilled playmaker?

“[Kuraly and Backes] enjoy playing together, and in the playoffs they had some level of success,” said Cassidy of Backes, who finished with an underwhelming 17 goals and 38 points in his first season with the Bruins. “At some point we have to get a look at that. Noel was in that mix. Do we want to add skill on the left side if Kuraly is in to complement them, or do we want kind of three North/South guys? Those are the things that training camp is going to answer. It’s difficult because if you’re building a heavier line, and you’ve also got a Ryan Spooner who is more of a skill guy with Vatrano speed. Now the questions will come what’s your third line? We’re going to do whatever is best to suit the team, and we’ll number the lines as we see fit afterward.

“But I think it’s important that Backes has the right type of chemistry player [on his line]. We’ve addressed the top two with Krejci and [Pastrnak] and Bergie and Marchand, so now we’ve got to find the proper fit for Backes for him to be an effective player for us. He’s a very good hockey player and we’ve got to make sure he plays with people that complement his game too.”

So what would this humble hockey writer do if he were making the hockey decisions?

Probably start Spooner with Backes and Vatrano on the third line to start the season given Spooner’s considerable talent on the power play, and what’s been a bit more determined effort to battle for one-on-one pucks in the preseason. There’s no harm in potentially keeping Kuraly as the 13th forward on the NHL roster, and then going to him if A) Spooner falls back into previous bad habits or B) the B’s coaching staff determines they need more of a punishing fore-check presence as they did mid-streak against the Sens in the playoffs.

It may not be perfect and the surplus of third line bodies may result in an early season trade given the need around the NHL for talented bottom-six centers, but the Bruins need to do whatever is necessary to consistently squeeze more production and quality shifts out of that group, and particularly out of Backes, this season. 

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