It’s beginning to feel like it will be a lost year for Boston Bruins winger Ondrej Kase due to injury. And that begs the question exactly what they’re going to get for a player that came to Boston in a trade package that sent a first round pick going the other way to the Anaheim Ducks last season. Part of the trade cost was unloading the David Backes contract as well, but the 25-year-old Kase was somebody that definitely factored into the Boston Bruins’ plans as a top-6 winger capable of providing even-strength offense.
Instead Kase has played exactly eight regular season games for the Bruins over the last two seasons and compiled exactly five assists in a B’s uniform counting the playoff games in the Toronto bubble last summer. Kase has skated intermittently on his own for weeks now while never feeling well enough to join the team for practice, and there is no timetable for his return from a suspected concussion suffered in a collision with Miles Wood back in January.
Bruce Cassidy was pretty frank with the media during a Tuesday afternoon zoom call saying anything that the Bruins get out of Kase this season would be considered “gravy” given his current situation.
“Will we ever be 100 percent healthy?” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Only Don Sweeney can answer that whether we need to do something where we may not be [100 percent healthy]. For our performance, I certainly anticipate we’ll have our full group soon.
“Kase has skated, but he’s such an unknown for him that you always have go forward assuming it will be gravy if he’s able to get back in there. It’s been such a long time [that he’s been out] since the second game of the year.”
The Kase situation has led the Bruins to scramble once again at the right wing position on their second line, a constant problem since Jarome Iginla left Boston following the 2013-14 season. It’s developing into a situation where the Bruins may need to go searching for another long-term solution for the second line right wing spot given a situation where Kase feels like he’s become damaged goods for the Black and Gold.
Injuries are something that Bruins GM Don Sweeney admitted could impact their strategy headed into the April 12 trade deadline.
“The health of our group and how well we’re playing will sometimes determine [the trade deadline], as well as the availability of players you might like to add. There are all sorts of variables associated with it, and I can’t tell you whether or not we’re going to make a move in any direction because as I’ve said before, we’d like to. But a little bit of the health for our hockey club may dictate that,” said Sweeney. “We’re facing more compressed schedules through the next 28 games, and it’s going to be against a war of attrition.
“In the playoffs you have a war of attrition, but I think the balance of the schedules is going to represent some of those challenges. Some players are getting an opportunity — we’re testing depth and we’ve played twelve defensemen over the course of 28 games. Obviously, several forwards are getting an opportunity. We’d like to be healthy and fully evaluate, but that might not be possible as well. It is a factor of what we’re trying to do and what we’d like to do.”
The recent trade rumors surrounding Arizona Coyotes right wing Conor Garland may have as much to do with Kase’s health situation as they do a Boston desire to bring the Scituate native into the Black and Gold fold. Of course, there are also opportunities for young guys like Jack Studnicka, Oskar Steen and Zach Senyshyn as well, but to date none of them have seized on those chances created by Kase’s long term absence from the Boston Bruins scene.