It seems like this kind of thing happens every season with the Boston Bruins and it rarely comes to fruition.
But once again ahead of the NHL trade deadline, the Bruins are firmly in the mix for some significant player transactions given their specific needs for a top-4 defenseman and a top-6 winger with offensive finish to his game. The two big names available up front right now are New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri and Buffalo Sabres left wing Taylor Hall, with both impact players being held out of their respective lineups due to ongoing trade discussions.
Given the Bruins’ needs, though, they could realistically be in a position to potentially fill two needs with one super-sized hockey trade. That’s why the rumors are swirling about their interest in Kyle Palmieri and veteran New Jersey defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in a move that could address both major areas of need for the Black and Gold.
Boston Hockey Now has confirmed with hockey sources that there have indeed been trade discussions between the Bruins and Devils, and obviously a player like Palmieri would be a good fit for the Black and Gold. Palmieri has eight goals and 17 points in 34 games this season and has been a certified Bruins killer with five goals in six games against Boston this season.
The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta mentioned this possibility on the Montreal airwaves this morning as well.
Dave Pagnotta on TSN690: Bruins and Devils have had back and forth talks on Palmieri and Kulikov. TOR, COL, FLA also interested in Palmieri.
— J (@Account4hockey) April 6, 2021
At this point the Islanders, Avalanche, Maple Leafs and the Hurricanes are the other teams lining up as suitors for New Jersey’s available assets.
Overall, the 29-year-old Palmieri has been very effective for the Devils while good for 25 goals/50 points just about every season with the Devils. And he’d be the kind of top-6 right wing that would allow Craig Smith to slide back down to the third line with Charlie Coyle, which is the kind of lineup depth the Bruins haven’t been healthy enough to enjoy all year with Ondrej Kase injured.
The cost would likely be in the same neighborhood as the first round pick and forward prospect that the Devils nabbed from the Lightning last season in the Blake Coleman deal, but that’s the cost of doing business for the Boston Bruins if they do fully intend to go for it this season.
The 30-year-old Kulikov is a little less dazzling, of course, with two assists and a minus-3 rating in 35 games while averaging 19:38 of ice time as a top-4 guy for Jersey this season. It’s been five seasons since Kulikov was an effective offensive defenseman that commanded power play time, but he’s clearly an NHL-caliber D-man, which is something that the jury is still out on when it comes to young Bruins guys like Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril.
Clearly the Bruins haven’t been able to fill the back end void left by the departures of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara in free agency, and now that’s become a glaring need for Boston down the stretch.
“Listen, we’ve had trouble below the blue line all year, we don’t have those guys…I’ll use an example here,” said Cassidy. “Late in [Monday night’s OT loss to the Flyers] Sean Kuraly made a hell of a play. Down low, kind of recovers a puck below the goal line as a center. He makes a little hesitation move, a little deception, and then drops it to, I think it was Lauzon, who in that particular case [was] the open guy. It’s just some confidence; probably a guy who’s been in that position before and it’s just a really nice play to put out a fire so to speak in terms of a forecheck.
“We just don’t have enough of that back there right now. Guys are working on it but some of them, it’s not in their DNA as much as others. I mean, Matt Grzelcyk’s been excellent at that since he walked through the door here and we’ve encouraged that. We need a little more of that and a little deception. Maybe a better read so we execute the right read and the right play, but that’s still a work in progress back there, and it will be. It will be until guys are more comfortable and that’s a fact of life for us.”
The Devils obviously won’t be the only trade targets for the Boston Bruins if they decide to double up and acquire a winger/D-man combo to address their needs.
Similarly, hardnosed Blue Jackets winger Nick Foligno and Columbus D-man David Savard will be on the block and potentially available in a combo deal. Same with Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson with the Anaheim Ducks, and Marc Staal and Bobby Ryan with the Detroit Red Wings. Or old friend Colin Miller and Hall with the Buffalo Sabres as they are once again rebuilding and casting off veteran players at the trade deadline.
Realistically, the Bruins have pulled this off only once in the semi-recent past when Peter Chiarelli dealt for both Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau in a trade with the New York Islanders at the 2012 NHL trade deadline. And that clearly wasn’t enough to put them over the top in a first round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Regardless, it’s a tricky time for the Bruins as they decide how “all in” they should be this week when their No. 1 goaltender is on the shelf with a suspected bad back, and they have struggled mightily offensively due to injuries, the grueling schedule and some players that just haven’t developed as the Bruins would have hoped they would.