Could the NHL’s proposed plan to still hold the 2020 NHL Draft even before they potentially return to play in the summer help forward Jake DeBrusk remain a Boston Bruin?
Boston Hockey Now has learned through multiple sources that DeBrusk, who was set to become a restricted free agent July 1, was discussed in trade talks leading into the most recent NHL trade deadline back on February 24 and the expectation was that even more teams would inquire on his availability at the originally scheduled NHL draft June 26-27 in Montreal. With that draft scrapped and the inability for teams to make trades leading into and at what would likely be a virtual draft on June 5, DeBrusk will obviously remain a Bruin until at least next fall when any proposed resumption of play would conclude.
“I can tell you that the Bruins weren’t necessarily shopping DeBrusk but they have definitely listened and if he wasn’t extended before the original draft, his name would’ve been out there,” one NHL source told BHN Tuesday. “Now all bets are off because who the hell knows when anything will happen and you can’t make trades at this draft so maybe that changes things for him and the Bruins.”
With the Bruins still trying to find a way to sign defenseman Torey Krug, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent whenever this season ends, they likely will have to shed cap space somewhere and the 23-year-old DeBrusk still has trade value should they decide to go that route. Forwards Anders Bjork (RFA) and Joakim Nordstrom (UFA) and defenseman Zdeno Chara (UFA), Kevyn Miller (UFA) and Matt Grzelcyk (RFA) are all on expiring contracts as well.
It’s no secret the Bruins want more from DeBrusk and want him to be a steady presence on the second line with David Krejci. After a breakthrough sophomore campaign in 2018-19 where he scored a career-high 27 goals and had 15 assists in 68 games, DeBrusk has struggled again to find consistency this season. He has 19 goals and 16 assists in 65 games and had just one goal in his last 12 games when the Bruins stepped off the ice at Wells Fargo Arena after a 2-0 shutout win over the Philadelphia Flyers on March 10 two days before the NHL paused the 2019-20 regular season.
In a Zoom interview with the media back on April 22, DeBrusk didn’t pull punches when assessing his game and said he’s still trying to find that consistency level he knows the Bruins want from him.
“It’s something that I strive for, something that every player in this league strives for is consistency,” DeBrusk replied when asked if he had found that consistency yet this season. “I have watched my games, I’ve kind of taken a step back and looked back at my whole year. Being back home with my dad, he’s been all over me about it so I’ve been thinking a little bit more harder than usual, I guess. But to be honest with you I don’t know if I had a consistent stretch this year, looking back at it I don’t know if I really necessarily put a staple of my game into this year at all.”
Thanks to that inconsistency, DeBrusk often found himself in head coach Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse, getting benched in-game and shuffled up and down the forward lines.
“Anything — just playing the game, attacking,” Cassidy answered bluntly back on January 5 after DeBrusk went pointless for a third straight game in a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. “The other day he drew a penalty by chipping a puck behind a guy. His biggest asset is his foot speed, so he has to use that. Be a little bit more tenacious on pucks, create some of his own shots, to take a basketball term. Doesn’t always need ‘Krech’ [Krejci] to get him the puck; go chase one down or win a foot race. We chipped a lot of pucks today, the puck was bouncing all over. Would have been a good night for it. Find his own shot one-on-one.”
If the NHL can find a way to salvage the regular season and the playoffs, it sounds like DeBrusk could be playing not just for a new contract but also to remain in Black and Gold.