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DeBrusk acknowledges it's hard not to worry about NHL trade deadline

DeBrusk acknowledges it's hard not to worry about NHL trade deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Jake DeBrusk is still not signed beyond the 2023-24 NHL season. The March 8 NHL trade deadline is a little more than a week away.

So it's natural that, given the uncertainty surrounding his future, the Boston Bruins forward is feeling a little anxiety.

“Of course I do (worry),” DeBrusk told reporters Wednesday. “I mean, I understand. I feel like I've been around here long enough to know how the league works and that sense of things. Obviously, there's different things – guys get injured around the league and different stuff that kind of happens that is out of normal control.

"It'll be interesting to see what teams are aggressive, what teams aren't. But, of course you always have that in the back of your mind. Obviously two years ago was a little more intense on that side of things, but I think ever since I've been here, I've been worried.”

DeBrusk also told reporters that no progress has been made on an extension.

DeBrusk is in a slump right now. He has one goal in his last 12 games. Inconsistency has probably been his primary weakness as an NHL player. When he's hot, he's hot. But when the goals aren't there, the droughts can be lengthy.

To his credit, DeBrusk's improvement as a two-way player allows him to contribute in other ways, like penalty killing, when he's not scoring consistently. But the Bruins really need him to score goals, especially given their lack of scoring depth on the wing right now.

The Bruins lack salary cap space -- just $57,500 as of Thursday, per CapFriendly -- and don't have many top-tier prospects. Their draft capital has been gutted by recent trades. They don't have many quality trade assets or ways to clear salary cap space. Therefore, moving players off their NHL roster is probably the best way for the team to make upgrades before the trade deadline. DeBrusk, as a three-time 20-goal scorer and with a $4 million cap hit, is one piece the Bruins could consider using to make a move.

But one of the Bruins' biggest needs before the trade deadline is a middle-six forward, so if DeBrusk is traded, that weakness only becomes more glaring unless a similar player is brought in.

If DeBrusk does remain past the trade deadline, it would be fair to expect a surge in scoring from the 27-year-old forward. He signed a two-year extension on trade deadline day in 2022, then finished the regular season with 10 goals in his last 19 games. He scored eight times in 21 games following the 2023 trade deadline.

The Bruins are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference. They have a real chance to win multiple playoff rounds despite the team's recent struggles. This team is worth investing in. DeBrusk is one of the Bruins' best trade chips, but moving him carries risk, especially for a team that can be so inconsistent offensively and lacks depth on the wing.