Are the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks taking their recent scouting of each other to the next level?
As reported here last month, the Ducks and Bruins had been scouting each other more frequently and a league source told Boston Hockey Now Saturday that the two teams are now once again sending more than just a pro scout to watch each other’s games. Ducks Special Assignment Scout Dave Nonis has been a regular at TD Garden and while part of that is that he lives close by, on more than one occasion he has been joined by another member or members of the Ducks’ hockey operations department.
The Bruins claimed the recent waiving of forwards Brett Ritchie and David Backes were made to clear room for the returns of forwards Karson Kuhlman and Anton Blidh. Kuhlman returned Thursday night and collected two assists in a 4-1 Bruins win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Blidh (shoulder) is nearing a return from injured reserve as well. For now and likely until after the NHL All-Star break and a subsequent bye week, clearing just over $1.6 million in cap space for those two players by waving Ritchie and Backes may be all that comes of the moves, but there is a league-wide sentiment this weekend that the moves very well could be a prelude to something bigger.
Given the fact that the Ducks and Bruins continue to scout each other and that Elliotte Friedman reported in his latest 31 Thoughts that Ducks GM Bob Murray is willing to “use his cap space to ease other clubs’ salary issues”, there could very well be something brewing between the two teams with the February 25 NHL trade deadline just over a month away. The Ducks have $6.9 in cap space while the Bruins have just $1.2 million, including the long-term injury reserve money they’re using.
Murray reportedly wants young assets and the Bruins do have those both on their NHL roster and in the minors, juniors and college hockey. What younger players Murray would want in exchange for players like Ducks wingers Rickard Rakell and Ondrej Kase – who more than one NHL source claimed the Bruins are interested in – is not known at this point. It’s clear though that both teams are exploring their options with each other.
Rakell, 26, is in the fourth year of a six-year contract that carries a cap hit of $3.7 million. The 6-foot, 180-pound winger, who can play both sides, has 12 goals and 16 assists in 42 games this season. After back-to-back 30-goal seasons, Rakell had just 18 goals and 43 points in 69 games last season.
Kase, 24, is only on his second NHL contract, in the second year of a three-year deal that carries a $2.6 million cap hit. The 6-foot, 190-pound right winger had 20 goals in 66 games two seasons ago but just 11 lamplighters in an injury-riddled campaign last season.
Either winger would definitely be an upgrade over the constant rotating door that is the right wing slot on the second line next to center David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. That being said, winger Anders Bjork deserves credit for his recent play and time skating alongside Krejci and DeBrusk. The problem though has been Bjork’s finish. He has just one goal in his last eleven games. With the Bruins’ scoring woes continuing over the past month and the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning pulling to within just six points of the first-place Bruins Friday night, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney appears to be getting closer to pulling the trigger on a trade and the Ducks remain a very real possibility to be a trade partner.