Reading (too much) into trade rumors involving the Bruins and Avalanche
|02.13.17 at 5:41 pm ET|
Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic was a smiling face spotted in the press box during Sunday’s game between the Bruins and Canadiens.
Sakic’s Avalanche, of course, were not in Boston nor will they be anytime soon. Sakic was accompanied to TD Garden by assistant GM Chris MacFarland and amateur scout Neil Shea, too, so I mean it was pretty clear that this was more than just a night in the Hub. The Avalanche, with an 11-point lead on the worst record in the NHL, are sellers, and both the Bruins and Canadiens are expected to be buyers. So the Avalanche are scouting. And scouting hard.
In what was an obvious ‘two birds with one stone’ kind of situation for Sakic and crew, things became interesting when nearly the entire second intermission was spent with Sakic and Bruins general manager Don Sweeney chatting it up against the walls of the ninth level.
It was certainly worth noting given where these two franchises are right now, namely with the calls for big changes that have followed each club all season long. But it’s also the ultimate ‘could be something, could be nothing’ that comes with bored reporters sitting in a booth with nothing to watch or report for 18 minutes.
At the same time, there’s nothing new when it comes to what these teams want from the other.
The Bruins have had interest in Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog for quite some time now.
Landeskog can play the heavy game that the Black and Gold have always had an affinity for, and he’s probably in need of a fresh start somewhere else given his declining numbers in three straight seasons (Landeskog is paced for what would be a career-low 37 points). Signed through 2021 at just over $5.5 million per season, Landeskog would also present the Bruins with a capable second-line option on the left side behind the elite Brad Marchand, which has been an issue at times this season, as injuries and inconsistencies have derailed or delayed Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano at various points this season. The need to find a fit next to David Krejci on that second line is a big one for the Bruins, too. Peter Cehlarik was the latest to get a crack to Krejci’s left, and was returned to the P-Bruins early this morning after tallying two assists in last night’s 4-0 win over the Canadiens.
But do the Bruins, who will have to pony up a good chunk of change on a new contract for budding superstar David Pastrnak this summer (likely somewhere in the $6 million per season range), really want to invest in a player that’s trended downwards in back-to-back-to-back seasons with the pure hope that it’ll work out here and that he’ll begin to live up to his expectations as a former No. 2 overall pick? At first glance, likely not. But then you remember what Sweeney said less than a week ago.
“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term,” Sweeney admitted of his trade deadline plans. “Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”
The position of strength that interests the Avs, too, comes with the 6-foot-5 Brandon Carlo.
A 20-year-old that’s already playing top-pairing minutes as a fit with Zdeno Chara, Carlo fits a definite need for a defenseless Avalanche group (even if the Avs’ right side looks relatively set between Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie). But do the Bruins have a strong enough read on what Carlo truly is to justify trading him? Utilized in a defense-first role under Claude Julien, interim head coach has said that he believes there’s a more offensive side to Carlo’s game, and would like to find ways to bring that out.
At the same time, however, the Bruins are somewhat jammed on the right side between Carlo, Colin Miller (who is playing the best hockey of his career), Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller (Miller has played the left side because of this jam), and it will not get any easier once 2016 first-round pick Charlie McAvoy makes the jump from Comm Ave to Causeway Street next fall.
(Speaking of McAvoy and the Terriers, Sakic and his cohorts will be at the Garden once again on Monday night, too, to scout the Beanpot final between Boston University and Harvard. That game will feature four Bruins prospects between BU’s McAvoy, forward Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, along with the Crimson’s Ryan Donato and defenseman Wiley Sherman.)
And not much has changed overall. While everybody has seemed to indicate (maybe the better word there is believe or maybe even hope) that the Bruins and Avs will make a deal at some point, Sweeney has not seemed to budge on the idea that he’s not moving Carlo, who makes less than $800,000 for two more seasons after this one, for the pricier Landeskog.
But what about for the Avs’ other talented forward, Matt Duchene?
Another player that’s on the market (and one that the Habs have been expected to go all in on, which is an additional reason for Sakic’s presence at the Garden on Sunday), Duchene has scored 15 goals and 32 points in 48 games played this season. Although considered a natural center, Duchene has played both the left and right wings at times throughout his tenure with the Avalanche, and recorded the first 30-goal season of his pro career last year. And much like Landeskog, Duchene would not be a rental-type that Sweeney wants to avoid, and would count against a team’s cap for $6 million per season through 2019.
The quick-skating, shot-first forward may fit what the Bruins are looking for under Cassidy a bit more than Landeskog, too.
But like the problems that come with a Landeskog trade, Duchene would create a similar cap-jam when it comes to signing Pastrnak next summer if the lone NHL centerpiece moved out of Boston in the deal is the more-than-affordable Carlo contract.
And that could make the difference between the Bruins committing to such a deal or this is just being more talk.
“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” Sweeney said during his media availability following Julien’s firing last week. “But I think it does tail with the fact that I’m not going to be shortsighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now. Our players and our core players are too good to not have that plan in place in the short-term and the long-term.”
A plan that has until the league’s Mar. 1 trade deadline to become clearer.
That’s more than enough time for some more intermission chats.