2021 NHL trade deadline: Updated list of top targets for Boston Bruins

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Nick Goss
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NHL trade deadline: Updated list of top targets for Boston Bruins originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The NHL trade deadline is less than 48 hours away, and the Boston Bruins have yet to make a move to improve their roster for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has made at least one move before the last five trade deadlines. Only once has he made a blockbuster deal -- acquiring Rick Nash in 2018. Sweeney has opted to make depth additions in most years.

The B's enter this season's deadline with a couple roster weaknesses to address. The blue line is the area requiring the most help, and finding another goal scorer should be prioritized as well.

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Here's an updated list of the top targets for the Bruins as the trade deadline nears.

FORWARDS

  • Taylor Hall, LW, BUF

  • Mike Hoffman, LW, STL

  • Alex Iafallo, LW, LAK

  • Nick Foligno, LW, CBJ

  • Mikael Granlund, C, NSH

  • Rickard Rakell, C, ANA

The Bruins entered Saturday ranked 29th in 5-on-5 goals with 61 in 37 games. They don't have enough scoring depth for a deep playoff run, which makes acquiring a middle-six forward an important task for Sweeney. 

All of the players listed above are eligible to be unrestricted free agents in the summer, except Rakell. 

Granlund would be a nice add given his impressive playmaking ability and versatility as a forward who can excel at center or left wing. Hoffman is a proven scorer who entered 2021 with six consecutive 20-goal seasons. The Blues have fallen out of a playoff spot and might be tempted to move Hoffman.

Iafollo has been a late add to the rumor mill. He has scored 10 goals with 24 points in 38 games for the Kings, who are seven points out of a playoff berth. Iafollo would be a nice third-line addition for the Bruins. However, as TSN's Pierre LeBrun noted, it's possible that Iafollo could re-sign with the Kings.

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Hall is one of the most popular names at the deadline. The Sabres are rebuilding and they should try to get an asset or two for him before he can become a free agent. Hall has an $8 million salary cap hit, so he doesn't have the easiest contract to move. He's also struggled with two goals and 19 points in 37 games. The former Hart Trophy winner has been driving puck possession and scoring chances in Buffalo, though, and would give the B's much-needed depth on the wing.

DEFENSEMEN

  • Mattias Ekholm, LD, NSH

  • Jamie Oleksiak, LD, DAL

  • Josh Manson, RD, ANA

  • Alex Goligoski, LD

  • Dmitry Kulikov, LD

Finding a veteran defenseman should be the team's top priority at the trade deadline given the injury worries and inexperience on Boston's blue line. The Bruins never properly replaced Zdeno Chara or Torey Krug after both departed in free agency before the 2020-21 season. 

A left-shot defenseman would be ideal, and luckily for the B's, several of them are rumored to be available. The best-case scenario is acquiring Predators star Mattias Ekholm, a legit top-four defenseman who excels defensively and drives puck possession. But the Preds have a four-point lead for the final playoff spot in the Central Division after a recent surge up the standings, so there's no real incentive for them to sell. Ekholm also is signed through next season.

One interesting rental option for the B's is Dmitry Kulikov. He's an experienced, hard-nosed defenseman who could play 20-plus minutes per game and take on tough defensive assignments. The Devils are sellers and the B's absolutely should make a play for him.

Jamie Oleksiak would add excellent size (6-foot-7 and 255 pounds) and toughness to the B's blue line. The Stars are seven points behind the Preds in the playoff race.

Mike Felger: Bruins should absolutely consider moving Tuukka Rask

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GOALTENDER

  • None

Last week when backup Jaroslav Halak (COVID-19 protocols) joined starter Tuukka Rask (injury) as veteran goalies unable to play, it made sense that the Bruins could potentially look to add a veteran netminder as insurance.

However, the encouraging recent play of young goalies Jeremy Swayman (2-0-0, .947 save percentage) and Dan Vladar (2-1-1, .922 save percentage) should make the need for another netminder very low on the team's priority list entering the trade deadline.

If, for whatever reason, Rask is unable to play late in the regular season or in the playoffs, Swayman and Vladar are more than capable of filling in as the backup or as a spot starter.