Free Agency is already off to a hot start, as Philly, St. Louis, Colorado and Vegas haven’t waited on ceremony or the draft to get to wheeling and/or dealing. Don Sweeney, Boston’s GM has...a lot on his plate.
Fans are in a mix of furious and hurt from their catastrophic first round exit from the playoffs, and demand change and more importantly, an answer as to what Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci’s return looks like.
Sweeney can’t give an answer to the second thing, but change on the roster he’s built...that’s something he absolutely can do, and must do.
With 9 players leaving the team as UFAs (officially, anyway), there’s a lot of spaces on the main roster that need filling, and as of right now, he has about $4.9 Million in cap space to work with. That’s not a lot of money to go around in order to truly replenish the team’s roster, and with a dearth of draft picks, he realistically can’t sell fans on “The Future” at the NHL Draft on Wednesday and Thursday.
Not unless, he begins making deals. Where he may not have cap space and draft picks, he has useful, successful, and extremely valuable players on his roster he can use to bolster the B’s. He has an abundance of trade bait.
Before we go anywhere, what exactly does “Trade Bait” mean?
While we have the term, we haven’t really defined it beyond “tradeable asset”. But any asset, as we’ve learned throughout the last two decades, can get moved if you want it to happen hard enough. So what makes something “Trade Bait”? I posit a couple of criterion:
- Will be a UFA within 3 years: This is kinda big these days; no thanks to Gary B’s droplets of Cap increase. You need to get good...but only good within the confines of the hard cap. Well, you don’t have to actually follow the hard cap, as multiple teams throughout the years have shown, but over 90% of the league perplexingly chooses to honor it. So a cost-controlled asset that’s only gonna be here for a couple of years is perfect for a team looking to make a trade and promise Gary they’ll keep their money together.
- Is making a maximum of $6 million AAV: Seems pretty self-explanatory; Not too expensive that it becomes distracting, but not too inexpensive that you’re overpaying for a depth guy. You need to improve in a specific area, and so Note that this does not apply to Winnipeg and Blake Wheeler this year, because god just f@!king blow it up already I am so sick of that godforsaken team and their never ending toxic cycle that never changes unless someone actively calls them out which takes way too goddamn long and nobody’s job is ever on the line for it they never should’ve gone back to Winnipeg if this was how this stupid team was going to end up conducting itself god I hope they move to Arizona aga-I’m sorry I got sidetracked there for a minute. Anyway, contract that’s just big enough to be slightly annoying, but not big enough to be difficult to move.
- Fits a specific need: All NHL Players are exceptionally good at hockey. The game they are playing is fundamentally different from what you and your buddies play at beer league every other weekend in the winter. But some of those players are better at certain things than others, and that can give them X-Factors on getting drafted, getting contracts, and getting fans. That also means however, that they can be useful as trading chips because of that specific thing they do well...because they could be useful doing that on another team. Defensive Centers, playmakers, ass-kickers who can score, goaltenders, all can be found value for the prospective trader.
With all that in mind, who would be considered “Trade Bait” for the Boston Bruins?
Here are some names I think best fit that description:
Taylor Hall, Left Wing, UFA in 2025-26, $6 Million AAV, 36 points in 61 Games
Hall is one of those dudes who is really, really, really valuable no matter where he is in the lineup. His ability to create goals (not necessarily score them, but create them) is otherworldly and he always tries his damnedest to the point that I often see him as one of the most Interfered With men in the NHL. He is always finding position even if he can’t go around a guy to do it.
With that in mind, Hall is also doing a lot of work that would make him vital to keep, as his center is uh...
...Well, let’s just say he benefits from having Taylor around. But this is not a duty he should be strapped to; Hall’s skillset is something that can be done anywhere in an NHL lineup and he will succeed, though he would definitely be better set up somewhere in the upper half of your middle six or better.
Injury definitely took a bit out of his season in a way I’m sure he’d rather make up, but there’s still quite a lot in his favor; he’s a name people recognize, he’s a shot in the arm to any offense in the league, and he’s playing infinitely better than he was in Buffalo; having nearly entirely rehabilitated his image from the Edmonton/Buffalo years. The B’s could very easily get great value from him.
Jake DeBrusk, Winger, $4 Million AAV, UFA in 2024-25, 50 points in 64 games
Given the successful rehabilitation DeBrusk just did for his own image, it would be a bit of a shame to move on from him after such a good season. He’s tied his career best in goals, he’s been a fearless player in the opponent’s end, and an electric transition chance generator...he is also due for an extension next year, just had his first 50 point season, and is making a very moveable amount of money for one singular, solitary year.
DeBrusk is the kind of guy Sweeney would probably like to hang onto, but the right offer could make a guy like DeBrusk seem very likely a move.
I personally, don’t see it without a big haul going the other way. I think there’s a lot of emotional attachment towards getting Jake to play like Jake, and now that he’s playing like Jake, they want him to be here for awhile.
Matt Grzelcyk, RHD, UFA in 2024-25, $3,687,500 AAV, 26 points in 75 games
I am not personally convinced moving Matt Grzelcyk will be a net-win for the team without significant caveats. He is however, extremely moveable, and that’s huge if you want to use him as trade bait. Among the cheaper deals on the team for a puck-moving defenseman with a history of reliable play as an offensive defenseman is an extremely enticing offer to any team who might want to speed up their back end!
The catch is, Boston 100% would then immediately need to promote or procure a player back who does something similar, maybe not the same, but similar, to what Matt Grzelcyk does. Gryz is among the best zone exit creators on the team’s back-end, and arguably the best at doing it himself; something his defense partner, Brandon Carlo, struggles mightily to do and shows absolutely zero interest in doing himself. In fairness, the Bruins tend to have their forwards do their zone exits if they can help it, but it’s still something that needs to be addressed if Gryz ends up moving.
Trent Frederic, Center/Wing, Current RFA, 31 points in 79 games
I am also going to caution against trading Freddy, because in spite of his somewhat anemic offensive output for someone with his skating skills, he’s quickly becoming Your Uncle™’s favorite Bruin due to his feisty attitude and hard hitting nature...as well as becoming something of an unsung depth hero analytically. That’s the kind of guy you can rely on keeping the bottom 6 locked down for quite awhile if you’re Boston...or any team whose depth desperately needs a refresh.
Really, Freddy is the perfect kind of depth guy to sell to the hypothetical member of the 200 Hockey Men; he’s someone the Eggheads can appreciate, and he plays the kind of hockey they like. He’s even an RFA! Cost control, baby!
There will be discontent if he’s moved; Frederic is often called upon to be the guy people think of when they think of Bruins hockey, but his unique skillset combined with his positive on-ice impact means that he could be just as useful for Boston as a sweetener for a trade as he could be still wearing that black and gold sweater.
Jakub Lauko, Forward, Currently RFA, 7 points in 23 games, 17 points in 35 games in Providence
I really don’t want to put Lauko on this list. I like his game, it’s something unique to him that, with the right amount of reps, he could really hone into a potent weapon. But as a young, cost controlled asset with a really useful skill of “once the afterburners hit he can skate like the wind”, you can absolutely see a way to get value from the guy.
Personally speaking, I think this is the least likely guy to be traded of all of them; because Lauko finally looks like he has a real shot to spend an entire season on the main roster.
Linus Ullmark, Goaltender, $5 million AAV, UFA in 2025-26, .938 SV% in 48 starts
Ullmark had one of the best years a goaltender has had in the regular season in quite awhile; racking up accolades alongside the B’s as their 1A goaltender, and reaping the benefits of the B’s crushing defense making life as easy for him as possible minus some hiccups here or there.
This offseason however, is quickly becoming a hot goalie market; John Gibson is rumored to be on the move, Connor Hellebuyck absolutely wants out of Winnipeg (a good and morally correct decision), and there’s no telling what Calgary’s doing now that a mass exodus is being hinted at. The league’s average SV% is at it’s lowest in years, and a guy like Ullmark whose just recently played some of the best hockey of his career could be a major shot in the arm to a good number of teams looking to make that next step and become contenders.
Given the way Boston currently platoons their goaltenders these days, I think it’d also be reasonable to assume that they could move on from him without serious damage to their overall success; even if he would be missed terribly.
Jeremy Swayman, Goaltender, Currently RFA, .920 SV% in 33 starts
I am not saying this is a good or even advisable thing to do. I am merely pointing out that he is available, and fits the criterion.
Moving on from Swayman after all the hard work he put in to become the heir apparent would be an enormous misstep; especially given that the B’s would then have to do the same thing they’re doing now next season with Swayman and Brandon Bussi/Kyle Keyser, assuming Swayman is not given a long contract.
He is an RFA, he is young, and has a proven track record going back to high school of high quality play. A team in rebuild will always need to annoint a goaltender to lead them through their first few interesting years of trying to be contenders, and he could...not saying will...be useful on that particular front.
It’s already becoming a heated goalie market. If somebody calls, even knowing you might be making huge sacrifices for the next chapter of Boston Bruins hockey?
You ought to listen.
Kyle Keyser, Goaltender, Currently RFA, .900 SV% in 24 AHL games, .889 in 2 ECHL games
Keyser hasn’t really come up in goalie discussion these days due to the pipeline being packed up tight by Swayman and Bussi. Keyser’s pro level debut was...fine? It was fine, maybe not great considering how well his junior career has gone, but he’s still looking for longer playing time between three organizations that might be able to spot him more consistent work if Swayman suddenly ends up the Starter (okay, “1A”, this team doesn’t really have a starter these days)...but that’s a big if as of right now.
Keyser, if moved, wouldn’t be the centerpiece of a trade, but could very easily be used as a sweetener in a deal. Whatever happens to him next will either involve him climbing the ladder in Providence...or finding a new home either way.
With that, we have at least a pretty comprehensive list of guys they can use to facilitate trades. Maybe none of them get moved, or all of them get moved (jesus christ could you imagine. We’ve layed out the chips.
Now let’s see what everybody else is betting with...starting tomorrow!