Even before the Boston Bruins’ rash of defensive injuries and the loss of Patrice Bergeron, the team was having early-season issues with secondary scoring. With their No. 1 center and so much talent on the back end now out of commission, that need is now even more exasperated. As The Athletic’s Joe McDonald writes (subscription required), they have zeroed in on a center as their biggest need, one who could presumably make up for Bergeron’s absence for the next four weeks before taking over the third line center slot.
Heading into the season, the Bruins gave prospects Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic, and Jack Studnicka a shot to win the third line center spot in training camp. When none succeeded initially, Boston then tried Sean Kuraly and David Backes in the role, without any better results. The team has relied on free agent addition Joakim Nordstrom for much of the season thus far and recently recalled Forsbacka Karlsson as well. McDonald believes that “JFK” is the key to what comes next for the Bruins. The 22-year-old has two points in seven games so far this season and has seen his responsibilities grow, capped off by centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak last night and matching up against Sidney Crosby when the Bruins faced the Pittsburgh Penguins. McDonald opines that the Bruins are testing Forsbacka Karlsson to see if he could be the in-house solution to their problems, rather than make a trade.
Yet, if it comes to it, it seems that Boston has found their favored trade target. McDonald reports that the Bruins have had conversations with the Minnesota Wild as early as this past summer about Charlie Coyle and have renewed their interest in acquiring the forward. McDonald cites colleague Michael Russo, who recently listed Coyle as one of the Wild’s available players and feels that his ceiling is limited. However, the two-way forward can play both center and right wing and would fit in nicely with what the Bruins need. Coyle has cracked 20 goals in a season just once but is a capable play-maker who could open up the ice for some of Boston’s more natural shooters who have had a hard time getting clean looks this season. Add in that Coyle is a Boston area-native and Boston University alum and it makes sense that the Bruins are intrigued by the familiar name with a solid skill set.
However, McDonald opines that in order to acquire Coyle, the Bruins would likely have to move one of Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, or Ryan Donato just to get talks started. Understandably, Minnesota is having a strong start to the season and lacks motivation to move Coyle if not properly incentivized. Yet, if the team feels similarly to Russo that Coyle has limited upside and is inconsistent, the possibility remains open that they would be willing to move Coyle and his $3.2MM cap hit in a more affordable trade. Heinen enjoyed a surprise breakout rookie season last year and Donato is considered one of, if not the Bruins’ top forward prospect. Boston would likely hold out hope that a package centered around Bjork or a lesser piece would do the trick. If not, the Bruins will likely continue to weigh the benefits of pursuing the trade or simply sticking with Forsbacka Karlsson for a while longer.