2024 NHL trade deadline: Analyzing Bruins' best assets to make moves


2024 NHL trade deadline: Analyzing Bruins’ best assets to make moves originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins have been one of the NHL’s most active trade deadline teams since Don Sweeney took over as the general manager in 2015.

He has made at least one deal before the deadline in each of his eight seasons in charge. Sometimes he makes multiple deals, including last season when the B’s went all-in.

Even though the Bruins sit atop the Eastern Conference again, it would be surprising if they were as aggressive at the trade deadline this season as they were in 2023. The B’s don’t have a ton of high-quality trade assets, especially when compared to other contenders. Boston’s salary cap situation — less than $1 million in space, per CapFriendly — also is an issue.

But we still should expect the Bruins to try to make some kind of move, even if it’s a small depth piece.

So, what assets do the Bruins have to make deals before the trade deadline? Here’s a rundown of what they could use (Note: This list is not based on any reporting).

NHL roster players

Don Sweeney has done a great job adding very good veteran players at the trade deadline in recent years, including the likes of Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, Rick Nash, Hampus Lindholm, Tyler Bertuzzi, Dmitry Orlov, etc. He’s never had to give up a meaningful player from his own roster to make those deals. They’ve mostly involved prospects and draft picks.

Doing that this season will be more of a challenge because the B’s have less than $1 million in salary cap space. That’s a very, very low amount. If the Bruins want to bring in a veteran with a salary cap hit above $3-4 million, they might need to trade a player off their NHL roster.

Matt Grzelcyk, D

Grzelcyk, when healthy, is a very good driver of puck possession, a strong skater and someone who creates scoring chances with his playmaking ability. He has tremendous chemistry with longtime teammate Charlie McAvoy going back to their Boston University days. He’s also able to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Grzelcyk is too valuable to the Bruins’ quest for the Stanley Cup to trade just because he could leave in the summer. Of course, it wouldn’t be great for the B’s if he walked for nothing as a free agent, but he still has good value to this year’s team. His salary cap hit for this season is $3.68 million.

Jake DeBrusk, LW/RW

The Bruins have to make a decision with DeBrusk. He’s their best forward who can become a UFA this summer. Players who are 27 years old with three 20-goal seasons and a strong two-way skill set are not easy to find and expensive to acquire.

Sure, DeBrusk can be very hot-and-cold as a scorer, but he’s one of the few legit top-six wings on the roster after David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. So unless the Bruins are trading DeBrusk for a better wing, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to move him. A middle-six wing is among Boston’s top needs at the deadline. Trading DeBrusk makes that need even more glaring.

Matthew Poitras, C

It would probably take a lot for the Bruins to move Poitras. He has the potential to be a top-six center at some point, and he’s also on a cheap entry-level contract through 2025-26. That’s pretty valuable. Even though he tallied just four points in 11 games played between December and January, he still ranks pretty high in many offensive categories for players his age.

Poitras’ offensive skill, hockey IQ and willingness to battle for pucks in tough areas are among the qualities that make him such an exciting young player. There’s no reason to trade him unless the B’s are getting a legit top-six center in return.

Jakub Lauko, RW

Lauko brings some much-needed physicality and snarl to the ice, but he doesn’t provide much of an impact offensively with 13 career points. If the Bruins can upgrade his spot in the lineup with a more experienced and more consistent scorer, that would be worth exploring.

Prospects

The Bruins’ prospect pool ranks 30th out of 32 teams in The Athletic’s updated yearly rankings released earlier this month. Therefore, you’ll notice a bit of a trend in our analysis. The fact is, unless the Bruins are getting a premium player in return, it makes little sense to trade many of these prospects. Giving up on them for rentals would be a shortsighted move.

The Bruins also have just eight picks in the next two drafts, so if they move one or more of their top five or top 10 prospects, replacing them in the system with similarly skilled players won’t be easy.

Mason Lohrei, D

Lohrei projects to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. His skating ability and offensive talent/instincts are very impressive. He’s also young and on an entry-level contract through 2024-25. These types of players are highly valuable. For this reason, and others, it’s hard to envision the Bruins trading Lohrei. He’s by far their best defenseman prospect.

Georgii Merkulov, C

Merkulov got a quick four-game stint in Boston earlier this season. He’s been one of the Providence Bruins’ best players with 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists) in 41 games. Merkulov is among the B’s top five prospects, so unless they are getting a substantial NHL player in return, dealing him makes little sense.

John Beecher, C

Beecher is a strong skater, good on faceoffs, is able to kill penalties and has shown an ability to handle tough defensive minutes at the NHL level. That said, if the Bruins could find a more experienced fourth-liner capable of bringing a little more scoring punch, maybe Beecher would be expendable.

Fabian Lysell, RW

Lysell is playing great in Providence right now with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in his last 17 games. He has a great shot, excellent speed and creates scoring chances for teammates with his passing skill and vision. If the Bruins don’t bring in a top-six wing at the trade deadline, they should give Lysell a chance to prove himself at the NHL level. And, frankly, the best time to do that is probably pretty soon.

If he comes up to Boston and plays well, it not only helps the B’s but also would improve his trade value. But given the lack of high-end prospects in Boston’s system, the B’s should only move Lysell if a top-six wing with term on his contract is coming here.

Draft Picks

If there’s one factor that might hurt the Bruins’ ability to make a meaningful upgrade before the trade deadline, it’s their lack of draft capital. The following chart tells the story.

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2025 first-round pick

The Bruins traded away 2023 and 2024 first-round picks for rentals last season. They went all-in, and it was the right call given how well the team was playing. But it would be foolish to give up another first-rounder for a rental this season. The only scenario in which trading a first-round pick makes sense is if the Bruins are acquiring a player in his prime who will be in Boston long-term, similar to the Hampus Lindholm trade and subsequent extension before the 2022 deadline.

2025 third-round pick

The Bruins don’t pick until the fourth round in 2024. They also don’t have a second-rounder in 2025. So if they don’t want to trade their 2025 first-round pick, this third-rounder in 2025 is probably their most valuable selection.





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