Bruins trade targets: Five defensemen Boston should pursue originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins just became the fastest team to reach 80 points in a season. They are an absolute juggernaut loaded with impressive talent and depth at every position.
So, what should a team like that do before the March 3 trade deadline to get even better?
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Additional depth on the blue line is always a good place to start. Defensive depth is critical to success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and a lack of it has been a real thorn in Boston's side during recent playoff runs. Injuries to defensemen are often a factor in the playoffs, so you need guys able to step in and play a specific role well.
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Two of the most talked about defensemen in trade rumors/speculation are Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes and John Klingberg of the Anaheim Ducks. Chychrun is a really good player, but the cost to acquire him has reportedly been massive and he's not very durable. He's never played more than 68 games in a single season and has already missed 19 this year. Chychrun also plays the left side, and the B's are pretty much set there with Hampus Lindholm, Matt Grzelcyk and Derek Forbort. Klingberg's scoring production is down this season and his puck possession metrics are not impressive at all. He's also making $7 million this season.
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The B's made a huge (and very successful) trade for Hampus Lindholm before last season's trade deadline. A defenseman of that caliber has not appeared in rumors/speculation this season. So, unless that changes, most of the logical fits will mostly be depth guys rather than top-four d-men.
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A couple common themes you'll notice with the guys listed below are size, penalty killing and cheap salary cap hits. The Bruins are very close to the salary cap, which makes pulling off a deal for a defenseman with a $5-plus million cap hit pretty tough.
Here are five defensemen the Bruins should consider pursuing before the trade deadline (all salary information via CapFriendly).
Luke Schenn, Canucks
Contract: $850,000 cap hit, UFA in 2023
Schenn is a smart, reliable defenseman who can play 15 to 18 minutes per game, mostly in defensive situations. He'd also contribute to the penalty kill, where he averages 1:47 of ice time per game for the Canucks this season. He leads the league with 227 hits and has blocked 74 shots in 47 games.
The veteran d-man has plenty of playoff experience, including 31 career games played and two Stanley Cup titles with the Lightning in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
Schenn would be a quality third-pairing or seventh defenseman for a contender like the Bruins. He also would provide good insurance against a Derek Forbort or Brandon Carlo injury on the right side of the blue line.
Another positive about Schenn is his tiny cap hit, which the Bruins could absorb without moving salary out.
Given Schenn's history with both the Lightning and Leafs, he would be a logical trade target for those teams. If the Bruins make the second round of the playoffs, their opponent would be either the Leafs or Lightning. So, not only would trading for Schenn give the B's better defensive depth, it would keep him away from a likely postseason opponent.
Vladislav Gavrikov, Blue Jackets
Contract: $2.8 million cap hit, UFA in 2023
Gavrikov is a big (6-foot-3, 213 pounds), strong, two-way defenseman who can log a lot of minutes (22:16 per game this season) against quality competition, especially in tough defensive situations. He also is a very good penalty killer and leads the Blue Jackets with 3:42 of shorthanded ice time per game. He's not a great playmaker and his scoring rates are down this season compared to 2021-22. Gavrikov is more of a defensive defenseman, and those players are valuable in the playoffs.
His low $2.8 million cap hit also makes it easier for teams to acquire him. In fact, he has one of the lowest cap hits among the top-tier of rental defensemen on the market.
Shayne Gostisbehere, Coyotes
Contract: $4.5 million cap hit, UFA in 2023
Gostisbehere is a good offensive defenseman who creates scoring chances for himself and teammates. He's on pace to score 15 goals after finding the back of the net 14 times last season. He's also on track to tally 40-plus points for the second consecutive campaign. His ability to generate offense at even strength and the power play, and transition the puck quickly with accurate, quick passes up ice should make him a coveted third-pairing addition for a contending team. Gostisbehere also can play a lot of minutes and ranks second on the Coyotes at 22:38 of ice time per game.
Even though he shoots left-handed, Gostisbehere plays the right side in Arizona, and the Bruins could use more depth on the right side of the blue line.
The Coyotes are battling the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Ducks for the worst record in the league and the best draft lottery odds. The defenseman on the Coyotes roster getting the most attention in trade rumors/speculation is Jakob Chychrun, but Gostisbehere should have plenty of value to contenders as well. And unlike Chychrun, Gostisbehere is a free agent this summer, so there should be plenty of incentive for Arizona to trade him and continue stockpiling assets for the franchise's rebuild.
Ethan Bear, Canucks
Contract: $2.2 million cap hit, RFA in 2023
The Canucks have accounted for more than 50 percent of all shot attempts and shots on net at 5-on-5 when Ethan Bear and Quinn Hughes are on the ice. No other defensemen on the team drive puck possession at that level. Bear is the only Canucks defenseman with a positive scoring chance differential (plus-6) at 5-on-5.
Bear doesn't take many penalties (0.38 penalties taken per 60 minutes), either, and he's above average in the transition game with accurate breakout passes from his own zone. He can contribute to the penalty kill, too, and is averaging 1:44 of shorthanded ice time per game. If needed, Bear could play 17-20 minutes overall per game as well.
Bear is a player who could fit with Boston long term if he was acquired and proved to be a good fit. He's just 25 years old and will be an RFA in the summer.
Justin Braun, Flyers
Contract: $1 million cap hit, UFA in 2023
Braun has been a healthy scratch for several games this season, and with the Flyers unlikely to contend for a playoff spot, getting any kind of asset for him prior to the trade deadline would be a win for Philly.
The Bruins acquired Josh Brown from the Senators before last year's trade deadline for extra depth and toughness on the blue line. Braun would be the same type of addition. He has averaged 1:57 of shorthanded ice time this season, and he has plenty of size at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. Braun also is a right-shot defenseman, which, as noted above, is something the Bruins need one more of before the playoffs. Braun could play late in the season when/if the Bruins wrap up home ice advantage throughout the playoffs, thus giving guys like Forbort and Carlo a nice rest before the postseason grind.