Are the Boston Bruins the third team in the reported trade that would see the Vegas Golden Knights send defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Florida Panthers and the Panthers ship defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to another team?
Over the past 18 hours, three NHL sources confirmed to Boston Hockey Now that the Boston Bruins have looked into acquiring Weegar given the fact that he went to arbitration and word around the league for the last few weeks has been that the Panthers were shopping the six-foot, 200-pound rugged defenseman that they drafted in the seventh round (206th overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The speculation amongst these three sources was that MacKenzie Weegar would end up with Winnipeg Jets but late Sunday evening it appeared that the three-way trade between the Jets, Panthers, and Knights had hit a snag because another team had jumped into the fray. One source claimed that the team was the Bruins.
On Sunday, friend of BHN, Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest reported that the Knights were on the verge of dealing Schmidt to the Panthers in order to clear the necessary salary cap space to sign top unrestricted free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Our friend and colleague George Richards of Florida Hockey Now then speculated that MacKenzie Weegar -a restricted free agent, who recently elected to go to arbitration- would be the odd man out on the Panthers’ blue line.
“If the Panthers were to bring Schmidt, a top-pair defenseman, that would only add more heat to the MacKenzie Weegar trade rumors which have been circulating the past few days.
Weegar, 26, is currently paired up with Aaron Ekblad on Florida’s top defensive pairing but would likely be replaced by Schmidt.
Florida would also have eight NHL defenseman under contract (counting the restricted free agent Weegar) not counting the likes of Brady Keeper and Chase Priskie.”
MacKenzie Weegar would definitely fit the mold of ‘hard to play against’ which is something both Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and team President Cam Neely have acknowledged was a goal to become this offseason. He finished last season with seven goals and 11 assists in 45 games and had 76 hits and 71 blocked shots. That’s definitely some ‘Big Bad Bruins’ type stats that Sweeney and Neely both acknowledged the Bruins were once again missing in their second round series loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There’s one problem though that makes one wonder why the Bruins would be targeting Weegar:
Weegar is a right-shot defenseman and would give the Bruins a right side of Weegar, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Connor Clifton. There have been whispers that Clifton was being shopped but head coach Bruce Cassidy loves the former Quinnipiac star so that’s unlikely. Add Sweeney has already acknowledged that they are indeed looking – both externally and internally – to fill the void left by the departure of Torey Krug on the left side and on the powerplay.
“We’re certainly exploring all the avenues of both free agency and through trade,” Sweeney said Saturday. “I’m not going to tell you that I have something on the burner here. I do believe we addressed an area that we had a need in. We’ve allowed for internal completion to continue to bubble up and we have several young players in that mindset and that’s healthy for our group overall.”
So while the MacKenzie Weegar interest is real, the bigger questions are, who will be traded away if they acquire Weegar or another right-shot defenseman, and yes, who is coming in to fill Krug’s slot on the left?