According to an NHL executive source, the Boston Bruins have, are, and will continue to explore the NHL trade market for a two-way defenseman.
“As I’ve told you before, Donny would like to add a defenseman. …sounds like a physical one too,” the source told Boston Hockey Now late Tuesday morning. “He’s always going to be linked to [Noah] Hanifin, I get that, but I think they want a guy that brings more of a physical game and moves the puck. He’s been looking for a while now, and you gotta think that intensifies with the way they’re playing right now.”
That would make sense, given that the Boston Bruins have become a sieve in from the neutral zone back over their last five games and gone 1-3-1. In four of those five games, the Bruins have allowed five or more goals and looked nothing like the team that started the 2023-24 regular season by winning 14 of their first 16 games. For most of those first 16 games, the Bruins were winning with a combination of stellar goaltending from Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, stingy team defense, and timely goals. However, they started to abandon their bread-and-butter style of play in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 11, and head coach Jim Montgomery began to warn that his team was starting to lose their identity since then.
That prophecy, unfortunately, was fulfilled and was on full display in another ugly 5-2 loss on Monday night against the Blue Jackets in Columbus.
“I thought every part of our game was tough, to be honest. I thought we had a pretty good start to the first eight to 10 minutes, and then they slowly but surely started to take over the game,” Montgomery told reporters after his team’s third-straight loss. “I thought we lost stick battles. I don’t think we were physical. So, there were a lot of areas of our game that we just flat out weren’t good enough.
I got to review the tape, and I mean, the message is we’re not playing to our standard that we believe is how we should play with the puck and without the puck. So, there’s a lot of things to address and move forward, but we’ve got to move forward.”
The question now is, will the Bruins address that from within, or will they find the solution on the NHL trade market?
During that loss to the Canadiens on Nov. 11, there was some chatter that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney could look into a potential NHL trade fit with the Calgary Flames for rugged, puck-moving defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who a day earlier had requested a trade from Calgary.
“I look at the Bruins right now and the way they’re built – they’re big, hard on the forecheck and playing playoff style – I’m thinking Sweeney’s in on Zadorov,” an NHL source opined to BHN then. “I know for a fact Sweeney’s looked into him before. They’ve been listening on [Matt] Grzelcyk. That could be a great 1-for-1 one for guys headed for free agency?”
A Zadorov for Matt Grzelcyk trade straight up would be a cap-compliant hockey trade. A left-shot for left-shot trade with Grzelcyk, 29, in the final season of a four-year contract that carries a $3.6 million cap hit and Zadorov, 28, in the final season of a two-year contract that carries a $3.7 million cap hit. Both are solid puck-moving defensemen, but Zadorov would add more size to a Bruins that has been pushed around as of late. Multiple sources have confirmed that the Bruins and Flames have chatted but there has been no confirmation that Zadorov was the main topic of conversation.