You may have noticed we've been talking a lot recently about the trade deadline. Most of our talk has speculated on what the Bruins could give away - specifically their most popular trade chip in Loui Eriksson. We've argued that there's simply no way the Bruins can keep him and trade for the top 4D they'd need to even hope to make a playoff run.
Except...there might be. It involves a little risk, but potentially huge reward.
We've already discussed bringing back one New England native today in bringing Kevin Shattenkirk home from St. Louis - but there's an effort that might involve paying more than they could give.
However, the NY Rangers have their own UFA problem. A problem that they're looking to solve desperately this deadline - a problem that provides the Bruins with an opportunity to bring a native son home while also strengthening their D corps considerably.
Keith Yandle, proud product of Milton, MA, is coming to the end of his contract at Madison Square Garden and the Rangers are finding themselves pushed for cap space in a season where they need to re-sign several key players, among them Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider. There has been talk for weeks of the Rags dealing him for something at the deadline - although they too are in a strong position by sitting second in the Metropolitan Division, and thus it would seem strange for them to be looking at dealing one of their key offensive defensemen.
However, if the Bruins are willing to take a gamble on a home-run effort of their own, there are possibilities here.
Aside from anything, the Rangers need a wing. That gives possibilities with the Bruins currently looking at something of a log-jam of assets on the perimeter. Obviously Eriksson is the gold standard but who says the Bruins need to trade a rental for a rental?
Maybe there is another way here. A way that would see the Bruins sacrifice some of their more cost-controlled assets and depth in an attempt to get that one difference-making player.
For example - Seth Griffith has shown in Providence this year that he's more than ready to step forward into an NHL role...and yet unaccountably the Bruins management seems reluctant to play him. Maybe he could be packaged as part of a pick deal for Yandle.
Another name that's one to throw into the mix? Brett Connolly. The former Lightning first rounder has simply not found his feet in Boston, being given time and space playing on the top line with Patrice Bergeron for the majority of the year for very little return. He's clearly shown the talent as a sniper in the past and indeed hasn't been producing horrendously this season (8+14 for a $1 million cap hit is not a BAD production-it's just not what the Bruins would have hoped for). With Frank Vatrano waiting in the wings, Connolly is an expendable asset and is exactly the kind of cost-controlled young forward the Rangers have traditionally been lacking-as is Griffith.
Defensively, there's a little more of a struggle to sell...the Bruins should probably be dumping Dennis Seidenberg like hot garbage this summer for whatever they can get - Kevan Miller, too. But to throw Miller into a deal for Yandle along with a bunch of other pieces probably isn't the worst thing the B's could do - it gives the Rangers bottom-pair cover while allowing them to feed in one of their top D prospects (like Brady Skjei) to replace Yandle. Let's not forget that this is a Rags team that still needs to bring back Ryan McDonagh AND Marc Staal into the lineup...there's more than enough depth there to allow for losing Yandle.
From the Rangers perspective-they're losing a pending FA for young depth while already having the pieces ready to step in and play...their defense can absorb the loss of Yandle pretty well...otherwise this isn't a conversation we'd seriously be having.
The Bruins will need to pay a significant amount here, it is true. We're talking (probably) something like Connolly/Griffith PLUS depth defenseman plus a pick to even get the Rangers to listen, which is a lot to pay for a player who might up and leave in the summer.
But then again, the hometown pull and the "hometown discount" factor can't be discounted. If Yandle comes back to Boston he's playing in the town he grew up in, for the boyhood team he used to watch, surrounded by his friends and family. That's one hell of an incentive when it comes to new contract negotiations.
It will take some bravery from the Bruins' front office and possibly some clever lateral thinking, particularly over the summer. There will need to be contracts dumped, changes made and careful conversations had. It's very much a boom-or-bust move to bring Yandle back to Boston.
But it's a move that could energise the B's fanbase and indeed the team (everyone loves a hometown hero-look at Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes) while significantly upgrading their blueline and addressing a need that the team have been crying out for all year.
Maybe the time for "being safe" is over. If the Bruins are serious about making a playoff run, maybe it's time to swing for the fences.
Imagine the furore of Keith Yandle, in a Bruins jersey, leading the embattled team with several local products on an unlikely playoff run. It's the kind of story that the hockey gods love to write.
Maybe, it's time to give fate a little nudge-and be brave. Right now, the B's have little to lose and everything to gain.
After all, fate loves a local hero.