An NHL source has confirmed to Boston Hockey Now that the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks have engaged in trade talks since the Bruins were eliminated from the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning on August 31.
It is not known whom the two teams kicked the tires on but Canucks GM Jim Benning has let it be known that he immediately started working the phones once his team was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs back on September 4. Benning has some key restricted and unrestricted free agents to sign and he is looking to shed some salary via trades and acquire a top 4 defenseman as well.
Given the fact that the Boston Bruins have let it be known publicly that they’re looking for more offense and would like to add a scoring forward, the name that immediately comes to mind is forward Brock Boeser. There was no confirmation that Boeser was discussed but the feeling around the Canucks though is that it would take a Top 4 defenseman to pry Boeser away. The read here is that the Canucks would want Charlie McAvoy to be the return from the Bruins to make that trade happen. Another NHL source has confirmed to BHN that McAvoy is a non-starter as far as the Bruins are concerned.
Benning has also looked to other teams for a top 4 defenseman on the trade market but apparently wasn’t able to pry away one that in his eyes would be worth dealing away the former Calder Cup finalist Boeser. After scoring 29 goals in his rookie season (2017-18) and then 26 in 2018-19, Boeser lit the lamp just 16 times in 57 games this past season.
As the Canucks battled the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs, rumors actually surfaced that Boeser could be used to bring back a top 4 defenseman but the 23-year-old forward didn’t believe he was in danger of being dealt away.
One Canucks forward that is definitely on the trade block is 24-year-old Jake Virtanen. The sixth overall pick from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft is a restricted free agent and following the series loss to the Canucks, Benning made it be known that he was disappointed with Virtanen’s performance this past season.
“We’re going to have to make some tough decisions maybe even on some young players,” Benning stated in his end of the season press conference.
After that, Benning went on Sportsnet 650 and hinted that Virtanen’s time as a Canuck could be coming to a close.
“I thought he worked and competed hard in the playoffs. He scored that big goal for us in Game 6. To be perfectly honest with you, though, I was expecting more from Jake in the playoffs,” Benning said. “He can skate, he’s strong. He can get to the net. He’s a guy we’re going to have to talk about here going forward. We’ve been patient with him in his development, but he’s a guy I was expecting to produce more for us.”
The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Virtanen had 16 goals and 16 assists in 69 games this season and followed that up with two goals and an assist in 16 playoff games.
A name that has popped up more in trade chatter recently is Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo. BHN hasn’t been able to confirm whether or not Carlo was brought up in the talks between the Canucks and the Bruins but the guess here is that given the fact Carlo is suddenly a common name heard, that might have been who Sweeney could be willing to trade for Boeser if he was available. What about Virtanen though?
This puck scribe wouldn’t do that trade but with 23-year-old Carlo heading into the final season of his contract that carries a $2.8 million cap hit and Virtanen definitely up for a raise, Benning could bite. The question is, do the Bruins really want to trade the defenseman they have envisioned becoming the steady rearguard that could eat up minutes in their top 4 and on the penalty kill, much like captain Zdeno Chara did in his prime years in Boston.
As reported here Saturday, it’s very unlikely that the Boston Bruins will be major players in the unrestricted free agent market that kicks off on October 9. The team’s parent company Delaware North, has taken a major financial hit from the COVID19 pandemic and recently had to make some layoffs both in their Buffalo headquarters and nationally. Considering that Delaware North makes their money in the hospitality and gaming businesses, things won’t be getting better anytime soon and all signs point towards the open wallet Don Sweeney has been given in recent free agency periods, being tightened. However, that doesn’t mean that Sweeney can’t explore potentially impactful ‘hockey trades’ to improve his team as long as the cap money makes sense. Sweeney is clearly working the phones to find that fit and improve his team.