The silly season in the NHL is moving up another gear, and one of the biggest rumors in the early going heading towards the trade deadline involves the Bruins - there's been talk swirling for several weeks around Don Sweeney's chase for Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog, but it's returned with a vengeance the past few days, with Sweeney and Avalanche GM Joe Sakic being seen in conversation at the TD Garden only adding fuel to the fire.
On the face of it, the initial price being asked by the Avalanche was extortionate - here's what we said about a Landeskog trade when discussing it back in January:
"Trading for Landeskog smacks of a knee-jerk reaction from the Bruins front office - an attempt to convince a discontented fanbase calling for action that they are on the ball by solving a problem the Bruins don't really have. It makes no sense in the long term given the situation the B's are currently in. If we were talking about raiding the Avs for Tyson Barrie, then that's something that could be got behind, just as it was when it looked like a potential move at the trade deadline last season."
The price, too, was not one that looked too impressive, with the Avalanche reportedly starting negotiations at Brandon Carlo and a first round pick. That's a lot of money indeed for a player who it can be argued has not quite reached the heights expected of him yet.
However, it appears that there's been discussions continuing over the past month, and now Twitter (an unreliable source at the best of times, admittedly) is posing a trade of Landeskog for Jakub Zboril and Matt Beleskey.
Not gonna lie here. That's a deal that makes the ears prick up a little.
Here's why. Unlike Brandon Carlo for the Bruins, Matt Beleskey is eminently expendable. He's a player who has turned one season of excellent offensive play into a contract that probably overvalues his contribution. As a grinding two-way forward capable of slotting in anywhere in the bottom nine, Beleskey is a good fit and has value.
The trouble is, he's a player who the Bruins have in abundance. He might as well be Riley Nash. Or Jimmy Hayes. Or Tim Schaller.
All of whom are eminently cheaper than $3.8 million a year and provide a similar type of player and threat.
Gabriel Landeskog is a hell of an upgrade on a player who at best is a 15-goal scorer with any regularity in the NHL (Beleskey's breakout season for Anaheim came behind a ridiculously high shooting percentage and is not one he can realistically be expected to match) - he also does what Beleskey does but still has room to grow - you get the sense the former Duck and current Bruin has reached his peak).
This is a Bruins team that has too many bottom-six players who can play spot shifts in the top six. Releasing one of those - particularly one of the more expensive ones, in favour of a player like Landeskog is a deal that has to be taken.
What of the other piece in the puzzle of this rumored trade, Jakub Zboril? Granted, the Czech is a useful prospect but he's probably at best the third junior/college - aged defenseman the Bruins have, behind McAvoy and Lauzon. He's a player, like Beleskey, that is eminently expendable in such a deal, particularly for one of the marquee names floating around at the deadline.
Here's a thought, though.
What if the Bruins are aiming higher than Landeskog?
The name they should be going after on the Avalanche may cost a little more, but the ceiling is higher still.
If Don Sweeney is really looking for a home-run deal with the Avalanche, then the name - the only name - that should be in discussions is the other star forward the Avalanche are shopping - Matt Duchene.
Duchene is a player who could deliver a charge to the Bruins forward lines in a way Landeskog couldn't - as a skilled, creative center with $1.5 million less of a cap hit than David Krejci and four years younger than the Czech, he not only provides a ready-made replacement at the number 2 center position but also frees up one of the Bruins' biggest trade assets to be used in a deal for the elite defenseman the Boston fanbase are praying for.
If the cost of Landeskog is, as rumored, dropping slowly and now stands at the level of Beleskey and a prospect, then there's an opening for Duchene negotiations that should surely start around the same level - possibly a little higher. However, the upside of the Canadian over the Swede is one that opens up exciting possibilities - Duchene as a set-up man for a pure gunner like Frank Vatrano, for example, is a prospect that certainly should quicken the heart a little.
There's little question that if the Bruins are going to make a move, it has to be a big one, and there's definite appetite in the front office, it would appear, to go after a marquee name this trade deadline.
If the Bruins are going to do so with the Avalanche as trade partners, then Matt Duchene should be the priority, with Landeskog as the fallback.
The Bruins need Duchene far more than another gritty two-way winger - and when shuffling the pieces, Duchene will give the Bruins far more cards to play off the ice this trade deadline, as well as on it.