How Bruins NHL trade deadline plan is affected by Devils’ dealings

Matt Kalman
February 17, 2020 - 8:50 am

A lot of Bruins fans woke Sunday not even knowing there was a New Jersey forward named Blake Coleman.

By the afternoon, when TSN insider Darren Dreger tweeted that the Bruins were among the teams pursuing a trade for the versatile left-handed shot, many started calculating where the 21-goal scorer would fit better on a line with center David Krejci or Charlie Coyle.

Eventually news of Coleman trade was released, and it was a mixed review for Bruins backers. On one hand it was frustrating that the hard-charging Tampa Bay Lightning acquired him to bolster their already formidable forward corps.

But on the other hand, the price was steep for a player with one more left of term (the 28-year-old Coleman will carry a cap charge of $1.8 million next season).

The Coleman trade was the Devils’ second deal of the day, as earlier Sunday they sent 37-year-old defenseman Andy Greene to the New York Islanders for a pretty solid package.

So what does it all mean for the Bruins and general manager Don Sweeney leading up to the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline? Here are a few thoughts:

Where’s the rental market going?

Based on name recognition, experience and production, one would think a rental like New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider (if he’s available) would bring a haul even larger than the one New Jersey got for Coleman. But it appears that in the Coleman case, as well as the Jason Zucker-Pittsburgh case, contending teams are putting a premium on players with term left. The Bruins’ ability to get Coyle from Minnesota last season in exchange for just Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick might’ve been a result of this market not being set or just a product of an overwhelmed GM not knowing what he was doing a few months before he was eventually fired after his first season on the job.

Regardless, one would think that the market for rentals – Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli, Nashville’s Mikael Granlund and Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau among them – would feature lower prices without a promise that the player will re-sign in his new city (a scenario that helped Vegas land Mark Stone from Ottawa last season). At the very least one might think the first-round picks would be off the table.

Of course, there’s still the issue of supply and demand, which leads me too …

Who’s still forward hunting?

The Penguins and Lightning might be done adding high-end forwards after picking up Zucker and Coleman. But the Bruins will still have plenty of competition for forwards, including the Islanders, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues.

The Avalanche are the scariest team in the trade mix because they have a legitimate Stanley Cup-contending team with nearly $30 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, to spend. They could drive the rental market up if they decide to truly go all-in to win. They were rumored among the Coleman suitors and one has to wonder if they’re waiting until the last minute to make a big splash.

In general, rental prices could be high not just because there are so many bidders but because sellers (in particular the Rangers and Ottawa) might still think they can re-sign the player.

So thinking back to players with term …

Who then would the Bruins target?

Well, as long as New Jersey is tearing down, Kyle Palmieri could be had. It would be wiser to trade a first-round pick and a high-end prospects like Urho Vaakanainen, or even a young NHLer like Anders Bjork, for a player that Boston would have for two playoff runs. Although this space doesn’t totally agree, consensus says this Bruins’ core has a window of two years to bring home the Stanley Cup one more time. That fits perfect with Palmieri’s term and his $4.65 million cap hit.

Of course, there’s a forward in Buffalo that could be among the interesting players with term: Marcus Johansson. The only reason the Bruins didn’t go whole hog to bring the crafty wing back last summer was a lack of cap space. The Bruins’ injuries, in particular Kevan Miller’s injury, have opened up some room for a player like Johansson. Considering how well he fit in last year’s playoffs, the Bruins would be nuts to not try to bring him back, assuming the Bruins aren’t on his 10-team no-trade list (what a slap in the face that would be). He has just 24 points in 50 games this season, but it’s difficult to judge a player’s production when he’s skating in a mess like the Sabres.

So once they get Palmieri or Johansson or a similar forward …

What about defense help?

The emergence of Jeremy Lauzon has helped make the Bruins defense corps look physically stronger and deeper. If they’re going to pay a premium for a forward with term, that won’t leave much in terms of assets or cap space for a defenseman that’s better than what they already have. If they get a lesser-heralded forward without touching some of their prizes, a defenseman like Brendan Dillon of San Jose becomes a possibility again.

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