As we all sit idle through an extended holiday break for the Boston Bruins due to the current COVID shutdown, it awards us additional time to break down Boston’s issues with their current NHL roster a few months into the regular season.
There’s a clear and obvious need for a No. 2 center to replace David Krejci, who is officially past the December date requiring waivers to rejoin the Boston Bruins from Europe. And honestly why would he even want to hop on a Bruins team that doesn’t look built for a Stanley Cup playoff push right now even with his presence?
Anyway, the top-6 center isn’t even the most pressing need for the Bruins at this point.
It’s a top-4 left-shot defenseman capable of playing big minutes, stirring up some offense and playing a big, strong and physical role in the D-zone. It’s clear that featuring lightweights like Mike Reilly and Matt Grzelcyk on the left side isn’t an ideal top-4 solution for the B’s back end, and that Derek Forbort is best served not being forced into a top pairing, heavy minutes role with Charlie McAvoy.
Quite simply they need to get bigger, meaner and better on the left side with size, talent and preferably youth in a left-shot, top-4 defenseman. No problem filling a vital roster need that just about team across the NHL has as well, right?
Either way, the Boston Bruins didn’t expect to do much of anything ahead of the Christmas roster freeze, which began on Sunday and ends on Dec. 28, with so many NHL teams out of action due to COVID protocols.
“I mean, we’re still continuing to talk but you can imagine the entire league is a little bit handcuffed and we have the roster freeze coming up,” said Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney via Zoom at the end of last week. “So that’s probably going to put us in a situation where things aren’t — communication can continue but you can’t really do anything until you come out of it. And obviously we’re reacting to where our team is going to be coming out of the break and trying to prepare for that and then seeing who’s going to be healthy and recovered.
“On the schedule we have a game that we’d have to go to Canada for and some players will not be able to travel there so we still have some things to maneuver through and we’ll wait to see what the positions are and we’ll prepare to play coming out of the break and hopefully take this this pause where things turn in the right direction. We get everybody back and healthy, and we stay that way.”
All that being said, there is a possible, albeit a bit of a Hail Mary, solution to Boston’s back end problem sitting in wait this season.
It’s actually a player that went two picks after the Boston Bruins selected Charlie McAvoy in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft: Jakob Chychrun. The 23-year-old Arizona Coyotes defenseman dropped out of the top-10 in that particular draft class but has since developed into a player that’s averaged 20 plus minutes of ice time per game nearly his entire NHL career. Chychrun even garnered NHL All-Star and Norris Trophy consideration last season for the first time while posting 18 goals and 41 points in 56 games for the Coyotes last season.
He’s averaged an impressive 15 goals from the back end over the last two years and would fill a big time need Boston has for a blueliner that can shoot the puck.
Jakob Chychrun’s shot is just unreal. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/YumxVlHICq
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 14, 2021
It’s been a rough year for Chychrun in the desert this season with Oliver Ekman-Larsson gone and he’s got just two goals, seven points and a league-worst minus-29 mark in 26 games for the Yotes. But Chychrun has shown offensive dazzle to his game, a big-time ability to eat up ice time and even likes it mix it up physically as a 6-foot-2, 211-pounder.
— TEAL TOWN USA – A San Jose Sharks Podcast (@TEALTOWNUSA) May 9, 2021
He checks all the boxes for Boston Bruins’ needs and he’s cost-controlled with three more years at $4.6 million per season with plenty of noise coming out of Arizona that Chychrun will be the next Coyotes asset available to the highest bidder.
Would you like to see the Toronto Maple Leafs pull off a blockbuster deal for Jakob Chychrun?@RealKyper & @jtbourne discuss the interest around the league in Chychrun and what it would cost a team to acquire him!
— Sportsnet 590 The FAN (@FAN590) December 17, 2021
The question, as with any player like this, is the cost in terms of trade assets. It will cost first round picks and cheap, young talent for any hockey club seeking Chychrun in trade. The Boston Bruins hold the former, but not so much the latter as top NHL-adjacent prospects like Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen and Oskar Steen are not presently breaking through to Boston’s roster.
The Coyotes would undoubtedly be looking for something akin to the Jack Eichel deal with Vegas where Buffalo received an NHL-ready replacement for Chychrun, a top prospect and a couple of blue chip draft picks. What about Matt Grzelcyk, Jack Studnicka, a first round pick and a second rounder as a starting-off point for a conversation? Or maybe even swapping out Grzelcyk for Brandon Carlo as B’s trade bait if push comes to shove for a player like Chychrun that’s cap-friendly ($4.6 million for the next three seasons) and would absolutely move the needle on the ice for the Black and Gold?
Certainly, Jake DeBrusk makes sense as a logical NHL piece included in trade talks, so perhaps there’s something that could be built around DeBrusk, Vaakanainen and a pair of draft picks as well?
One thing is for certain with the Boston Bruins: They need to be bold if they want to sufficiently improve this season’s group for a possible Cup run, and even more so if they’re augmenting a core group for the long run as players like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand begin aging out of their NHL prime years.
A Chychrun trade would be a game-changing move and it’s exactly the kind of seismic transaction Sweeney should be swinging for at this point with a lot of questions to answer about the current direction of the organization.