Bruins should treat this trade deadline like the end of an era

DJ Bean
NBC Sports Boston

Ya know that mumbo jumbo about playing every game like it's your last? There's probably something to that. It can get the best out of you.

And even if some of the Boston Bruins star players are still going to be here in two, three or four years, GM Don Sweeney should take that approach ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Consider where the Bruins -- who've been essentially caught by the Lightning but still have the best record in the NHL by a point -- stand. Torey Krug is on the team. Patrice Bergeron is still a star. David Krejci and Zdeno Chara are major contributors. Oh, and (I'll say this calmly) Tuukka Rask is the best goalie in the NHL this season, his best since winning the Vezina six years ago (, you idiot).

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I didn't even mention the All-Galaxy season from David Pastrnak, because perhaps those will happen regularly going forward.

How many of the other things will?

Krug is of course in a walk year. Krejci, 33, has one year left on his contract after this and has said in the past that he wants to finish his career back home in the Czech Republic. Maybe that's after another NHL contract, but maybe that contract is with another team. Chara might outlast Tom Brady in Boston, but like Brady, his best days are behind him. Rask's always been good, but when he's great, the Bruins are a threat.

So buy. Get a right wing for Krejci, get whatever else you think you need. Buy, buy, buy, because too many important players will either be gone or worse in a year or two.

This isn't a declaration that the circumstances are perfect. A very real possibility exists that playing into mid-June last season might have left the Bruins a little low on gas as the playoff games mount this spring. Then again, such circumstances didn't stop the Penguins from winning their second consecutive Cup Final appearance in 2017 or multiple Blackhawks teams (2010, 2015) from winning the Cup a year after they'd reached the conference finals.

So, a deep run can be made, and while the road won't be as easy as it was a year ago, the road still exists.

Bob McKenzie said on the Bruins-Canadiens broadcast Wednesday that Sweeney has been active in the trade market, but isn't thrilled with the prices for the some of the top forwards available.

Sweeney, the reigning GM of the Year, might be right in seeing if prices come down, but there should be no price too high. The Bruins shouldn't fear losing a trade or overspending. If there's any year that you overspend, it's this one.

With the exception of their 2020 fourth-rounder, the Bruins have all of their draft picks for the next two years. They've also got young players Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakainainen, Jeremy Lauzon, Trent Frederic and last year's first-round pick, John Beecher.

The guy I'd want? Tyler Toffoli from the Kings. He isn't as good as Rangers left wing Chris Kreider, but he'd be able to play right wing (which the Bruins need) and wouldn't cost as much. McKenzie speculated earlier this month that Toffoli, who has 15 goals this season and is unrestricted at season's end, might cost a second-round pick and a prospect, with Kreider potentially going for a first and a prospect.

To that, I say this: Get Toffoli done and go from there. Elliotte Friedman said last month that the Bruins have a deal for Toffoli "in their hip pocket," meaning they know what he'll cost and can make that deal if they want. I'd do that as soon as possible so the second-line right wing is solved, then if you want to go crazy and add the luxury of another star left wing (Kreider? Taylor Hall?!) you can explore that. But take care of the actual need first.

The only way in which price could be prohibitive would be the actual contracts the players carry. The Bruins have $3.1 million in cap space, which means salary might need to be retained by the trade partner in exchange for a better trade package. Toffoli's cap hit is $4.6 million. Kreider's is $4.625. Hall's is $3 million since the Devils are paying half of it for Arizona. Josh Anderson, whose status as a pending restricted free agent makes me wonder why a team would trade him, has a $1.85 million hit.

There are ways the Bruins could free up more space. Giving a team a prospect to take David Backes would shed at least half of Backes' $6 million cap hit (though his hit is currently $4.925 million since he's technically buried in the AHL). Various reports have suggested the Bruins could do it.

Boston could also subtract another player from its NHL roster via trade. John Moore ($2.75 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season) would free up space, and though he'll have value as an exposable player for the 2021 expansion draft, Sweeney should be willing to move Moore now if it means shedding cap space to add a more impactful player.

Regardless of how it's done, Bruins fans should be disappointed if they don't get at least one big name over the next week and a half. This is a really good team with a chance it shouldn't count on having every year. This is a no-brainer for Sweeney. 

Bruins should treat this trade deadline like the end of an era originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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