If the Boston Bruins were wondering what it’s going to cost to land Vancouver Canucks forward JT Miller, they discovered the trade market value ahead of next month’s deadline with the Tyler Toffoli trade to the Calgary Flames.
The struggling Montreal Canadiens sent their solid 29-year-old winger to Calgary to be reunited with Darryl Sutter in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick, a 2024 fifth-round pick, bottom-6 forward Tyler Pitlick, and prospect Emil Heineman. It’s a clear sign by the Calgary Flames that they are going for it this season with a talented core group that currently sits second in the Pacific Division, and a clear waving of the white flag by the hapless Habs.
But for Boston’s interests, it’s the similarity between Toffoli and Miller that’s so interesting. They are comparable veteran forwards that both have additional years on their contracts, so they would be considered comparable in many ways. The 28-year-old Miller might have the upper hand given that he’s got that one 27-goal, a 74-point campaign under his belt, and given the versatility that allows him to play both center and wing.
Then again Toffoli has the advantage when it comes to playoff experience as a Stanley Cup winner that’s posted 16 goals in 76 career playoff games and been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice in his career with the Kings (2014) and the Canadiens just last season.
The bottom line for the Boston Bruins: The bar has been set for Miller’s value with one more year on his contract with a $5.25 million cap hit. It’s going to cost them a first-round pick, an additional draft pick, a top prospect like Jack Studnicka, and a roster player like Jake DeBrusk to replace the outgoing Miller. The question is whether Studnicka would be enough to get the deal done, or whether a team like the Canucks would demand first round pick Fabian Lysell after the speedy Swede light it up for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants all season. The 19-year-old Lysell has 15 goals and 34 points in 30 games for the Giants this season and is clearly on a lot of team’s radars as we enter the funny season for trade chatter and all kinds of rumors ahead of the deadline.
There’s little question that Miller could help the Bruins. He’s got over 150 goals and 400 points in his 604 game career, and his 17 goals and 48 points this season would rank third and second respectively amongst the current Boston Bruins roster. He also brings a little thump to his game as everyone remembers from this Miller hit on David Backes during the playoffs a few years’ back that knocked the power forward out of the series.
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) May 6, 2018
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney played it pretty close to the vest when asked about the team’s roster needs ahead of the deadline, and whether or not he’s pinpointed the exact needs for a Bruins hockey club that sits very comfortably in a playoff spot at the halfway mark of the season.
“It’s easier said than done relative to acquiring players that you think are the missing pieces,” said Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney while chatting with the media last week. “Ultimately, you’ve got to have depth at every position, and you’ve got to be playing your best hockey. We went into last year’s playoffs and lost the right side of our defense, and in year’s past we’ve lost the left side of our defense. There’s no way to predict injuries and attrition are going to happen, but you have to expect it to at some point in time.
“We evaluate our team all the time and it depends on how healthy we are and what situations we are in. The movement of David [Pastrnak] going down with Erik Haula and Taylor Hall has given us an uptick in scoring. We want that to continue. If you can find an impact player in any area, you’re not going to turn it down and then you can move other guys around. If we can find the best players to help our club then that’s what we’re going to do. As an organization we’ve definitely identified some players that may or may not be available, but some teams may not see it that way and are still evaluating what they’re going to do at the deadline.”
There’s little doubt that a No. 2 center replacement for David Krejci stands as a massive need, and that’s where names like Miller, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux and Ottawa’s Chris Tierney come into play. As our buddy Adrian Dater in Colorado is reporting this week, the Boston Bruins aren’t among Giroux’s choices for trade landing spots at this point with the Avs standing as his first choice.
There’s also a very distinct need for a left-shot defenseman that could handle top pair duties with Charlie McAvoy. Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun is the name atop that wish list, but Chychrun would undoubtedly also cost the Bruins their first round pick and perhaps even Jeremy Swayman as it appears the Coyotes are looking to land their new No. 1 goaltender via trade.
So the Boston Bruins will have to decide which spot is the bigger priority as Erik Haula has handled things reasonably well between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak since moving there, and Mike Reilly, Matt Grzelcyk, and Derek Forbort have struggled at different points as the left side of Boston’s defense this season.
It’s a tough spot to pick which is the bigger priority, but the fact there are two significant holes on Boston’s NHL roster speaks to the urgency to get a couple of deals done if the Boston Bruins hope to make a deep run this spring. It’s an equally difficult call to determine if the Bruins would be better off holding onto their first-round pick to help rebuild their prospect cupboard, and in doing so perhaps not go “all in” during what might be captain Patrice Bergeron’s final season with the Boston Bruins.
One thing is clear: Without reinforcements, the Boston Bruins look more like potential first-round fodder than capable of playing hockey deep into the month of June.