Recently, there has been a ton of chatter about the potential that Jim Benning may make a move with his old beantown buddies. Before the Christmas break, Elliote Friedman speculated the Bruins may have interest in Zack Kassian. This sparked Joe Haggerty to wonder whether the Bruins would make a bigger move centered around Loui Eriksson and Kevin Bieksa. Jason Botchford touched on the rumours in the Provies mentioning that the Canucks most likely trade assets are Chris Higgins, Zack Kassian, and Eddie Lack.
With all the chatter swirling around, let’s take a deeper look at potential scenarios after the jump.
The Bruins have a lot of work to do on the salary cap front before next summer. They have only 13 players under contract for next year, but already have $56.6M committed. Assuming the cap ends up being around $72M, this leaves them with $20.4M to sign 11 players after excluding Marc Savard’s $4M AAV salary. This sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider they have to sign two of their top 4 defensemen (Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug), their first line right winger (Reilly Smith), Carl Soderberg, who has been their second-line center for much of the season while David Krejci was injured, and backup goalie Niklas Svedberg, who has been excellent, it’s clear that something has to give.
Adam McQuiad and Matt Bartkowski are also unsigned for 2015-16 and have been playing significant minutes on the B’s backline when Zdeno Chara was injured. The Bruins are also currently 9th in the Eastern conference, and have been struggling putting pucks in the net this year, so there is definitely interest in bolstering their forward group as well as retooling their 2015-16 salary cap situation.
On the other hand, while the Canucks are clearly a middle of the pack team at best, management seems committed to go all in to make the playoffs this year. While I think its likely the Canucks will squeak into the playoffs, in order to have any chance in making it anywhere they’d have to improve in pretty much every area, so its hard to narrow down exactly what they’d be looking for.
First, its probably worth setting some basic assumptions. I do not expect the Bruins to move anyone from their core (Bergeron, Smith, Marchand, Lucic, Krejci, Chara, Hamilton, Rask). The Smith-Bergeron-Marchand line has been one of the most dominant possession lines in the league, and play together ~83% of the time at evens. There’s no way the Bruins are messing with this chemistry. Similarly, David Krejci has missed a significant portion of the year due to injury, but while he’s been healthy he’s played 89% of his even strength shifts with Milan Lucic in which time they’ve posted 53.3% Corsi. In contrast, when paired with Carl Soderberg as his center, Lucic posted a 48% Corsi. It shouldn’t be understated the impact a healthy David Krejci will have on Lucic, and by extension the Bruins, production.
On the blueline, Doogie Hamilton is quickly establishing himself as a high-end defender at both ends of the ice, and when healthy, Zdeno Chara continues to perform at an elite level. It goes without saying that the Bruins have no interest in moving the reigning Vezina trophy winner. So where does that leave us?
|Player||Position||TOI Quartile||ES TOI||ES CF%||ES CF Rel||ES P/60|
|Dennis Seidenberg (NTC)||D||1st pair||18.6||50.1||-3.6||0.7|
|Torey Krug||D||2nd pair||16.7||53||2.3||1|
|Matt Bartkowski||D||3rd pair||15.2||52.3||0.9||0.7|
|Carl Soderberg||C||1st line||14.2||52.2||-0.2||1.9|
|Loui Eriksson (NTC)||R||1st line||13.6||53.5||1.7||1.4|
If there was one player that the Bruins should want to get rid of, it’s Dennis Seidenberg. Seidenberg hasn’t had a positive even strength corsi, relative to his teamates, season since 2008-09. His even strength -3.6 corsi relative for the current year places him amongst the lowest defensemen in the league for those defensemen receiving top pairing minutes, which is Jack Johnson territory. He’s currently 33, and signed at a $4M AAV through the 2017-18 season, so its quite likely that we’ll continue to see his play deteriorate. This contract looks bad now, but will be an absolute millstone going forward, which makes it unlikely the Canucks would want him, regardless of whether or not Seidenberg would waive his no trade clause to come to Vancouver. Benning should want no part of this one.
Eriksson is signed through the 2015-16 season at a $4.25M AAV, so moving his contract would go a long way to helping the Bruins sign their core young players in the summer. His possession numbers are slightly above average for a player receiving 1st line minutes, however his corsi relative to his peers is below the midpoint of forwards receiving first line minutes. Basically, he’s an average possession player for a top-six forward, which is okay.
The real area of concern is his even strength P/60 which at 1.49/60 this season is below average for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd line forwards. Notably, its also lower than eight Canucks forwards, including Brad Richardson and Zack Kassian, and essentially tied with Shawn Matthias and Derek Dorsett. Fortunately, Eriksson has traditionally been a more prolific scorer than this, but his scoring rate from 2012-14 was still nearly identical to that of Kassian, Matthias, Chris Higgins, and Jannik Hansen.
As with Seidenberg, Loui Eriksson has a NTC, but given the way things have gone for him since coming to Boston in the Tyler Seguin trades, its not out of the realm of possibility that he may be up for a change in scenery. The only issue is its pretty hard to argue that he would actually be an upgrade to the Canucks top 9. Just like Seidenberg, I’m not saying they won’t trade for Eriksson, just that they probably shouldn’t. Eriksson’s days of being “the most underrated player in the NHL” are long behind him.
Soderberg has actually had a pretty good season for the Bruins, and currently is third amongst Bruins forwards in Pts/60 behind Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and about average for those players receiving first-line minutes. His possession numbers are decent (slightly above average corsi for 1st line players, but slightly below average corsi relative to his teamates). The issue with Soderberg is that with Krejci back in the lineup, the Bruins have been able to move Soderberg back to the third line, which makes them pretty strong down the middle.
While they will likely not be able to resign him in the summer, my suspicion would be that they’d rather keep Soderberg for the playoffs given the importance of strength down the middle. From the Canucks perspective, Nick Bonino has actually posted comparable possession figures (CF% 52.2, CF Rel 2.9) with better a P/60 at 2.7. There’s no doubt that Soderberg would be an upgrade over Brad Richardson, but I can’t see the Canucks trading away an asset of any significance for a short-term rental upgrade to their third line center.
If there’s any roster that I’d expect the Bruins to move its Matt Bartkowski. At 26, this is the first year that Bartkowski has been able to stick at the NHL level, and when he’s been in the lineup he’s received minutes consistent with a 4/5 defensemen. For that utilization, he’s posted better than average possession metrics, both in terms of even strength corsi (52.3%) and relative to his teammates (0.9). In fact, the only Canucks defensemen to post better corsi numbers than Bartkowski this year are Chris Tanev and Alex Edler. The caution flag is that he’s only played 16 games this year, and has been a healthy scratch on many occasions, so he really hasn’t played nearly enough time to reasonably conclude on his talent level. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Bartkowski ends up in a Canucks jersey should Benning and Chiarelli make a deal.
Krug managed to score 40 points last year in his rookie year and has followed that this year by posted excellent possession metrics in a second pairing role. From where I sit, it very much looks like Krug has a long-term future as a top four defender, and the only reason I would think he’d be available is if the Bruins think they’ll be unable to sign him in the summer given the amounts that will have to be allocated to Smith and Hamilton’s new deals. I seriously doubt he’s available, but if he is, the Canucks should put in a big push here.
Hockey’s Future has them ranked as the 22nd overall in terms of team prospect depth, so there’s not a ton to choose from. 2014 first round pick David Pastnak has wildly exceeded expectations so far in his first year in the AHL, posting a point a game, and I think its pretty unlikely that they’ll move him. Ryan Spooner (22) and Alex Khokhlachev (21) haven’t been able to establish themselves at the NHL level as of yet, despite having success in the AHL. Seth Griffith (21) has played 25 games so far in his rookie year for the Bruins, basically with 4th line minutes and 4th line production. You won’t be hearing his name in any Calder trophy discussions.
The unfortunate reality for both Canucks and Bruins fans is that in the years that Benning contributed to the Bruin’s draft (2007-2013) the only picks they had which have impressive success at the NHL level are Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, both of which were consensus, no-brainer picks at the spots they were selected.
Other than Torey Krug, which seems the most unlikely to happen, there’s really not much I can get excited about in terms of trade options with the Bruins. If the players on the move include guys like Kassian and Higgins, then it seems very unlikely that Vancouver will be able to either address a need or improve their roster for this season and the future.
That said, this new Canucks management team has telegraphed every single big move they’ve made. The Benning signing, Ryan Kesler trade to Anaheim, and Ryan Miller were all widely speculated in the media before the moves were announced. The current trade chatter is reminiscent of those deals so it’s not unreasonable to conclude that a trade with the Bruins is a distinct possibility.