The weeks leading up to the start of free agency and the new league year are always the silly season in terms of trade rumors and proposals. This year has been no different.
Given the Bruins’ crash out of the playoffs and the way the 2019 season ended, it’s no surprise that the rumors are flowing freely.
When you consider the number of decisions the Bruins have on their plate and the obvious upgrades they need to make to the current roster, it makes sense to consider shaking things up.
One thing that makes little sense, however, is trading Jake DeBrusk.
It’s weird: it seems like certain segments of Bruins fandom have reached a consensus that the Bruins will be moving DeBrusk, seemingly out of nowhere.
While most commenters here don’t fall into that group, there certainly have been people who have mentioned moving on from DeBrusk.
I don’t get it.
When Bruins fans look at Jake DeBrusk, there are two issues: he can be streaky, and he’s not Mat Barzal/Kyle Connor/whoever else you want to complain about this time.
The latter isn’t his fault. The former is something he could stand to address, sure.
However, streakiness isn’t really a reason to bail on a 23-year-old winger.
He had a slightly down season this past year, recording 19 goals after nearly hitting 30 the year before.
Still, over the course of his three-year career, DeBrusk is a 20-goal scorer, on average.
He’s a controlled asset as well, given his RFA status. Why would you look to deal a guy who (at his most average) is a 20-goal scorer when you’re in control of his contract?
A popular theory has been to deal DeBrusk for help on defense, getting a player who can fill a hole left by the probable departure of Torey Krug.
While it’s true that bringing in a defenseman would help fill a hole, sending DeBrusk out in order to get that defenseman would just open up another hole elsewhere.
The Bruins’ organization depth isn’t exactly fantastic, and I’d argue there’s not a winger in Providence who’s ready to step into DeBrusk’s spot and chip in at least 20 goals.
Plus, as Chris pointed out in his excellent article last week, 5v5 scoring is a big weakness for this team.
Since his debut in 2017-2018, DeBrusk has the most even-strength goals on the team outside of the first line.
You could do the “well, yeah...he’s a second-line wing, he should have the most goals outside of the first line.”
If that’s true, then he’s doing his job, right? Right. So why are you looking to move him? If he’s performing as a second-line wing should perform, then signing him for second-line wing money should be a no-brainer.
To be honest, DeBrusk having a bit of a down year arguably came at the perfect time for the Bruins: it takes a bit of the negotiating power away from DeBrusk’s camp when angling for that new deal.
In all likelihood, DeBrusk is going to end up settling for a “prove it” contract, a short-term deal that will give him a shot at cashing in on his next deal. These contracts are risky for both parties, but ultimately, both sides win if the player does great (he gets more money, the team, in theory, has more success).
To me, the only way it makes sense to trade DeBrusk is if he refuses to sign a reasonable deal or if you’re dealing him for help elsewhere, while also filling his spot.
For example, if you trade DeBrusk for help on defense, you better have another move ready where you’re signing a free agent or bringing in a guy via trade who can fill that spot.
David Krejci has already dealt with a revolving door on his right wing for years. Trying to get Ondrej Kase up to speed while playing “Wheel of Left Wings” won’t benefit anyone.
None of this is to say that DeBrusk is untouchable, of course. Anyone can be traded.
However, it’s hard to picture a scenario where trading DeBrusk helps the Bruins patch up an issue without opening up a new one.
For that reason, the Bruins’ best bet would be to aim for a reasonable short-term deal, let DeBrusk continue to develop, and do this contract dance all over again in a couple of years.