Anderson: How the Bruins will approach the trade deadline

Ty Anderson
February 09, 2018 - 4:03 pm

Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports

The Bruins are apparently back to completely breaking teams.

It was after a 6-1 demolition of the Rangers on Wednesday night -- complete with depressing postgame comments from Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh -- that Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton and president Glen Sather confirmed that the Blueshirts would become sellers in an effort to accelerate their upcoming rebuilding process.

That has almost nothing to do with the Bruins, I know. But it did get me thinking.

The Bruins, a legitimate threat that sits just three points behind the Lightning for the most in the entire National Hockey League (and with two games in hand over the Bolts), should be among the biggest buyers between now and the league’s Feb. 26 trade deadline.

They have all the makings of a potential Stanley Cup team, and in a wide open league, there’s something to be said for seizing your opportunity. There’s also a burning desire to squeeze at least one more Stanley Cup out of top-tier talents like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, and David Krejci before the true end comes for them in an increasingly younger NHL. 

So… buying is the only option, no?

In theory, yes. But not if it comes at the expense of the process that B’s general manager Don Sweeney remains committed to for the long-term success of the franchise. That has been a slight ‘problem’ in early rumors, you’d have to imagine.

Sweeney has made it known to opposing general managers that the prospects that have helped his NHL team this season -- Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and Charlie McAvoy, etc. -- are not moving.

At this point, it’s also tough to imagine the Bruins willingly parting with even those complementary young pieces, such as Matt Grzelcyk and perhaps even Peter Cehlarik, given their impact or potential impact in the event of a top-six or top-four injury. And when you move beyond their prospect pool and classic tweener types once ripe for fantasy trades, their top-nine seems relatively untouchable.

The first line is obviously untouchable, the third line with Heinen on the left side of Riley Nash and David Backes has emerged as a legitimate shutdown line (it’s become a junior Bergeron line in a lot of ways), and this fourth is the best fourth line the Black and Gold have had since the glory days of the Thornton-Campbell-Paille trio. Even Ryan Spooner, after what seemed like over a year of trying to reinvent himself into legitimacy in Boston, has looked like a piece worth keeping as he’s successfully worked himself into a capable right-side presence with Krejci and DeBrusk.

So without the willingness to move their young players or established talents -- something I still believe to be the case in regards to their deadline approach, with the Bruins obviously hyper-aware of the prices sellers will come to them with for obviously diminishing returns -- it’s tough to find a legitimately game-changing return. It feels painfully obvious to point out that a package built around Austin Czarnik, Frank Vatrano, and first-round pick does not land you a Rick Nash or even someone like the sneakily impactful Michael Grabner. Not in this seller’s market and with countless teams still trying to convince themselves of their playoff hopes between now and the deadline (a.k.a where the B’s constantly found themselves as recently as just two years ago).

But the earlier point on Spooner’s emergence as a viable winger also shines a light on the biggest problem with the B’s buying added help up front: They don’t really need it.

Not when you factor in the way it could and would throw the rest of their noticeably and incredibly in-sync lines to make it all work, and with a considerably condensed stretch run that will be short on meaningful, chemistry-developing practices (the Bruins will finish their year with 22 games in 41 days).

Even if there is a piece on this roster that you want to move for a possible upgrade (keep in mind that it’ll have to meet a likely inflated price tag), though, it’s going to be a hard sell to the rest of the somewhat youthful room given the way they’ve meshed. Though still guided by the leadership of players that have seen it all during their time here, there’s no guaranteeing this would be as seamless as the grizzled vets of buying Black and Gold teams in 2012, 2013, and 2014 understanding that it’s simply a business.That's especially important to consider if you're the Bruins, who have stressed building a positive and winning culture throughout this near-perfect retooling.

And when you’ve captured points in 26 of your last 29 games, I think there’s a natural sense of reluctance to mess with absolutely anything. There's also a sense that the B's still have the weapons to survive if and when the comedown of a slump makes its way to the Garden, with capable bodies on their NHL roster in the press box (Kevan Miller’s latest injury has kept the Bruins from making an awkward decision in regards to their seemingly loaded right side), and with more than a few insurance policies in the AHL.

This allows the Bruins, determined to do things differently with this next window (which they would admit arrived sooner than they originally anticipated), to breathe easier knowing they have in-house options should it all hit the fan like it did for their defense corps in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And as a team that’s lived through about four different cap-crunches in the last decade alone, the Bruins know just how important those in-house options (if developed properly) can be to a franchise’s long-term sustainability as a perennial Cup threat.

That’s not something Sweeney wants to take a step away from any time soon.

So maybe continuing to break teams with what you have will work just fine this year.

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