It’s the time of year when new names are added to the rumor mix, and that’s no different for the Boston Bruins with the NHL trade deadline less than three weeks away.
Arizona Coyotes forward and Scituate native Conor Garland has developed in the desert into a top-6 right wing over the last couple of years and has nine goals and 25 points in 32 games this season. Furthermore, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman is reporting that Coyotes management has begun looking at Garland as a possible trade piece that could restock an Arizona system with younger assets and would save them some money as he’s about to get a massive pay raise this offseason coming out of his entry level deal.
Here’s what Friedman said in his 31 thoughts blog this week: “A name that surprised me: Conor Garland. I don’t think there’s much Arizona wouldn’t consider, but this one is very intriguing. He’s finishing his current contract at $775,000, is nearly a point-per-game player, and is tied for 24th in the NHL in even-strength points. I’m told the way the Coyotes see it is they need to replenish and moving him could do it. He’s also arbitration-eligible this summer and next, followed by unrestricted free agency, so a much-deserved raise is on the way.
One thing Arizona has told teams: It’s not interested in multiple picks that are late in rounds. So you’ve got to bring more than that. Obvious onlooker: Boston. The Bruins need to score, and he’s a onetime junior Bruin. That makes them contractually obligated to trade for him.”
The “junior Bruin” part is, of course, tongue-in-cheek, but Garland fits the profile for the Black and Gold given his local roots and his strong ties with some of the other Massachusetts guys currently on the B’s roster. It makes sense that the Bruins begin investigating some of their forward trade targets a little more intently now with the news from Jimmy Murphy that they are cooling on trade interest for Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm. A source close to Garland indicated to Boston Hockey Now that a trade from the perpetually rebuilding Coyotes wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but there was no indication whether the Bruins would be one of those interested suitors.
That being said, the 24-year-old checks all the boxes for the Boston Bruins as a young, local talent that’s just now reaching his full potential at the NHL level, and could be part of the B’s core group moving forward. He’s also a player that had to work hard as an unheralded fifth round pick that consistently had his size questioned at the lower levels, so there is some character built in there. For all these reasons, Garland might be worth the hefty price if it cost the Boston Bruins one of their top prospects like Jack Studnicka, Jakub Lauko or Urho Vaakanainen along with an obligatory top draft pick.
He’s on pace for 23 goals and 63 points over the course of a full 82-game regular season and he potted 22 goals last year during the COVID-shortened regular season. The Bruins have also admitted in recent days there are zero expectations that Ondrej Kase (concussion) is going to be able to return this season, so they are short at least one top-6 winger on the right side.
He’s not the biggest guy at 5-foot-10, 170-pounds, but he’s done most of his offensive damage without the benefit of a power play boost. His 18 even strength goals last season would have placed him fourth behind the Perfection Line trio in that category, and his seven even-strength goals would rank third on the Black and Gold this season.
For a team that’s been in the bottom third of the NHL in even-strength offense all year and currently ranks 30th in the NHL with 44 even-strength goals this year. Only the Buffalo Sabres have scored fewer 5-on-5 goals this year, so that’s an area of immediate concern for a Bruins team in need of upgrades at the trade deadline.