With the Stanley Cup Playoffs winding down, and the 2023 NHL Draft just over a month away, the NHL trade chatter is starting to pick up. Could there be a fit between the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers?
When asked Monday, about potential external replacements at center the Boston Bruins could target if Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retire, an NHL source told Boston Hockey Now that the Oilers ‘might move’ 30-year-old center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and that they’re looking for a defenseman in the return. (More on that below).
Like all the cap-strapped teams sitting at home while the league’s final four battle it out in the Conference Finals, the Bruins and Oilers are up against it. Both, still would love to make a hockey trade to get over the hump in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but also make trades to unload used salary cap space and get younger. Some draft capital wouldn’t hurt either.
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has already prepped the media and Bruins fans for change.
“We’re not going to be the same team, but our mandate internally, collectively as a group, is we have a really strong core of guys that hopefully as Jim [Montgomery] was talking about, will continue to grow, will take leadership responsibility moving forward regardless of whether or not Patrice and David walk back through the door because they need to,” Sweeney told the media back on May 9.
As an NHL executive source pointed out to Boston Hockey Now last week, the salary cap hell Sweeney is about to enter will likely force the Boston Bruins GM to move a player on the NHL trade market that he doesn’t necessarily want to trade.
“They got no choice right?” the NHL executive source asked Boston Hockey Now rhetorically last Thursday. “They’re going to be moving guys they don’t really want to move but have to. But they may move guys they don’t have to change it up just because of salary cap. Donny said it already, ‘change is coming'”
One would think that change for cap flexibility surely wouldn’t involve taking on a 30-year-old Hopkins who still has six years remaining on an eight-year contract that carries a $5.1M AAV. One look at the rest of the Oilers’ roster and, besides the untouchables in the middle in Connor McvDavid and Leon Draisaitl, other than Nugent-Hopkins, there’s no immediate help that could jump into the Bruins top 6 if needed next season. Could there be a bottom six option?
Another NHL source on Monday suggested the Bruins look into 23-year-old, 6-foot-3, 201-pound Oilers center Ryan McLeod. Edmonton drafted McLeod with a second round (40th overall) pick at the 2018 NHL Draft. McLeod is coming out of his rookie season that saw him score 11 goals and add 12 assists in 57 games. He’s also coming out of his three-year entry-level contract that carried a $834,167 AAV.
In a perfect world, the Bruins are pretty set in their middle six with Pavel Zacha, who is heading into the first year of a four-year contract ($4.7M AAV), and Charlie Coyle who has three years left on a six-year contract with a $5.2M AAV. But there’s the strong possibility this offseason and the season after it could be far from perfect, or expected.
This is all speculation and there’s no confirmed intel that the Oilers are willing to entertain NHL trade offers for McLeod. If they do though, and they’re looking for defense in return, the read here would be the Bruins are a tough fit. The one Bruins defenseman that NHL trade speculation continues to swirl around is Matt Grzelcyk, and the Oilers just can’t take on his one year, $3.6 million cap hit. The Bruins would need to take some used cap space back, and they just can’t do that right now.