An NHL source has confirmed to Boston Hockey Now, the recent reports that Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney is listening to trade offers for 23-year-old winger Jake DeBrusk. There have been plenty of Bruins trade rumors flying around this week but according to the source, many around the league found this rumor to be the least surprising.
“This was one of the worst kept secrets in the league,” the source said.
That’s because DeBrusk is part of the young core that Sweeney and Team President Cam Neely need to step up and take the transition from the veteran core to the next level. Is DeBrusk still part of that process? Clearly, the Bruins are debating that and they let it know that while he’s so far the only player from the three consecutive first round picks Sweeney made at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft playing regularly at the NHL level, he’s not off-limits.
DeBrusk is a restricted free agent coming off a so-so year with 19 goals and 16 assists in 65 games. He did, however, fall three short of the 30-goal plateau in 68 games in the 2019-20 season. DeBrusk only had four goals in 13 Stanley Cup playoff games in the Toronto bubble but two of those goals were clutch. DeBrusk does have a flair for the dramatic and there is a mean streak when he decides to channel it but as he has admitted himself, DeBrusk can go invisible for far too long.
“I feel confident in my play, I guess I feel confident in how I can help this team, I know what kind of player I can be,” DeBrusk said during his end of the season Zoom call with the media. “And this year I don’t think it could be replicated to be honest with you. I mean for how the common perception is, you know I’m still one goal away from 20 goals and that’s one thing I looked at you know once the first pause happened. I felt like I was completely different than what I guess that said. It’s not easy to do in this league but I definitely have a lot better and I haven’t even really tuned into that yet, which is frustrating, but I think that these learning experiences from my struggles have really helped me or will help me as a pro when I continue on here.”
When Sweeney spoke a few days later, the Boston Bruins GM put younger players, such as DeBrusk, on notice and let them know that the team is starting to grow impatient with some of them. When asked whether he still planned on that wave of internal growth he’s been waiting for the last three offseasons or would he take an external route to improve the team, Sweeney made it clear to his fellow NHL GM’s he was ready to wheel and deal some of his youth like DeBrusk if it makes sense for the Bruins cap-wise and on the ice.
“Again, I don’t know what transactions may or may not take place for our hockey club or any others,” Sweeney replied. “Obviously, there are trades that have happened even while the playoffs going on, which is again very unique to everybody. There’s been plenty of talk of teams trying to move pieces around and players to improve their own clubs and we’re going to do the exact same thing.”
Sweeney then acknowledged that he was already having exploratory conversations to gauge the value of the aforementioned group that’s been knocking on the door but also hinted that he hasn’t completely run out of patience for players like DeBrusk to step up.
“Having conversations, I’m pretty aware of how teams are valuing players on our roster, Sweeney said. “So, I have to look at it and say, ok, does that mean we have the internal growth available to fill that spot. Anytime you look at moving players in and out, you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul in the situation. We have to understand that. Where we have depth in our organization and where we’re trying to improve is an area that we have to understand and there is always exposure and risk associated with that. Knowing – generally, you know your own players better than anybody else’s but you’re trying to learn what the other player can bring to the table and where he fits. We did that at the deadline. It worked in the Carolina series and it didn’t work in the Lightning series perhaps as an organization.
Again, we didn’t play our best hockey and we weren’t at full strength. It’s really incumbent upon me as a manager to improve our club. It’s on me to explore every opportunity we have to improve it. There are certain players I certainly want to avoid because they are part of what we are trying to accomplish right now and in the future. And we’ll try to do that. but I have to explore to continue to improve our club.”
The read here is that if the DeBrusk camp comes (or has come) flying out of the gate looking for more than a $3.5 million cap hit per season, DeBrusk part of a Bruins trade this offseason. His admitted regression last season doesn’t justify such a raise from the $863,333 cap hit he carried the last three seasons. If DeBrusk, who from this perch, still has tremendous potential, acknowledges he can be better and agrees to prove himself in a reasonable bridge deal, DeBrusk will only be in his hometown once a season and during the offseason for the next two to three seasons.
The rumors of the Boston Bruins trade involving DeBrusk to the Edmonton Oilers and other clubs will percolate while the Bruins address some other trade scenarios but unlike defenseman Torey Krug, there is still a chance that DeBrusk is a Bruin next season, whenever that is.