After Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic was seen speaking with Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney during the second period of the Bruins’ 4-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens last night, the internet has exploded with speculation of a potential deal in the works. The expectations are not unprecedented; it was reported earlier this season that the Bruins were interested in the captain of the last-place Avs, available winger Gabriel Landeskog. However, they balked at the asking price of a package including impressive rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo and those talks apparently had fallen apart.
They seem to be back on now though. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa writes this morning that both executives are under immense pressure and have been in constant communication lately. Sakic’s squad is one of the worst in recent memory, while Sweeney’s team has missed the playoffs two years in a row, despite a deep and talented roster, and just fired the best coach in team history in an effort to get back to the postseason. While many Bruins fans would like to see the team refrain from making any desperate moves, as trading young players has not worked out for them over the last decade (see: Joe Thornton, Kris Versteeg, Blake Wheeler, Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton, ect.), Boston undoubtedly needs some scoring help, both this year and in the future, as Sweeney said himself recently.
With lots of talent in the system, both up front and on the blue line, Boston has the pieces to make a major trade if they so choose. What they lack, is immediate help at left wing. Brad Marchand and Frank Vatrano have top left side spots locked up long-term, but Matt Beleskey has had a down year after career-highs in 2016-17 and Tim Schaller is not a top-nine option. Rookie Peter Cehlarik, recently recalled from the AHL’s Providence Bruins where he has been the best player all year long, played great in front of Sakic last night, but is a pass-first player on a team in search of a sniper. Former college star Danton Heinen failed to make a difference in his Boston tryouts earlier this year and 2015 first-rounder Jake DeBrusk has failed to earn his first career call-up yet. The Bruins most promising left wing option in the system may be Marchand clone Jesse Gabrielle or Notre Dame star Anders Bjork.
Thus, the desire to acquire Landeskog, if that is Sweeney’s intention, makes sense. However, the cost could be too high. Shinzawa believes that the likes of Cehlarik, center Ryan Spooner, or defenseman Colin Miller may not be enough for the Avalanche and that they are stuck on the Colorado-native Carlo. The Bruins first instinct to reject even the thought of moving the young blue liner is correct though. At just 20 years old, the 6’5″ Carlo has played major minutes, both regular strength and special teams, all season long and has learned under one of the best, Zdeno Chara. He has size, strength, skating ability, and now experience at a very young age. Would the Bruins really trade a player with the makings of a top-pair defenseman for the next decade? Shinzawa does note that they have top prospect Charlie McAvoy, perhaps the only untouchable in the system, waiting in the wings and three NHL-caliber defenseman on the right side in Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid. However, he acknowledges that the upcoming Expansion Draft may strip them of one of those three. An argument can also be made that Kevan Miller is top-six defenseman in Boston by necessity, not talent. The Bruins are right to consider McAvoy as a non-starter, but Carlo should be in that group too, and originally was. The Bruins have been on the hunt for a top-pair replacement for Chara as well, as the big man has one year remaining on his contract before he surely retires, and moving Carlo would deny them of what could be the perfect in-house replica. Unless Sweeney had a change of heart, perhaps he is trying to entice Sakic with a combination of a potential replacement for Landeskog on the left side (Spooner, Cehlarik, Beleskey, Heinen), another top defensive prospect like World Junior standouts Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, or Ryan Lindgren, and one of a plethora of strong center prospects – another major need for the Avs – like Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Trent Frederic, Ryan Donato, or Ryan Fitzgerald. In fact, Sakic will reportedly take in the Beanpot Tournament final tonight in Boston, featuring Boston University and Harvard, and will get to see Bruins prospects Forsbacka-Karlsson, Donato, McAvoy, and Wiley Sherman in action. Could that ties into the deal?
There are a lot of question marks remaining about the targets of both teams. After all, the Carlo asking price may have Sweeney moving on to other Colorado targets like former Bruin Jarome Iginla, winger Blake Comeau, or rental defenseman Fedor Tyutin. A deal is far from a sure thing, but the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche are definitely talking trades with about two weeks remaining before the March 1st NHL Trade Deadline. Keep an eye on these two teams moving forward.