Here's what Bruins should do after holiday roster freeze


The NHL holiday roster freeze is in full effect, which means that the Bruins are locked in with their current group until three days following Christmas.

Clearly, the Bruins can, and probably will, call up a player or two from Providence on an emergency basis if their own players aren’t healthy enough to play the final two games before the three-day holiday break. Still, the eight-day roster freeze gives the Black and Gold a good, natural break in the trade talks and chatter around the league and allows GM Don Sweeney and the rest of the B’s front office to take stock of what they have, what they need and what they’re probably not going to get around to this season.

Going into the season, there were questions about the large amounts of inexperience on the wings, a lack of a true top-four, left-shot defenseman to lessen the defensive burden on Zdeno Chara, and whether the Bruins had good enough quality at the backup goaltender position. Two months into the season, it’s clear that Anton Khudobin has already gone above and beyond the call of duty with a stretch where he carried the Bruins to four straight wins.

The young players on the wing have been a little inconsistent, but mostly very good to start their NHL careers, and the Bruins lead all NHL teams in total points (84 points) from their rookies while seven first-year players have potted their first NHL goal this season for the Black and Gold. The Bruins could absolutely use a top-six, tough guy-type, such as Wayne Simmonds or Patrick Maroon, if they were to become available. Adding some size, toughness and attitude up-front should be a long-range goal for an organization that has most of its tough guys on the back end with Chara, Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid.

But there is no dire pressing need up front with Danton Heinen on pace for 22 goals and 62 points and tied for third on the Bruins with 22 points in 28 games while playing extremely competitive, two-way hockey. Jake DeBrusk is on pace for 22 goals and 50 points as well, and gives David Krejci, when healthy, the kind of finisher and battle-winner that the veteran center needs.

The one position where there is some question as to whether an upgrade is needed might be Anders Bjork, who is on pace for 12 goals and 34 points this season and hasn’t really been able to play with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand as the B’s envisioned at the beginning of the season.

Bjork, 21, the former Notre Dame standout, has certainly been okay and shown flashes with his speed and skill but also looks like a player who might benefit from a stint in Providence if the Bruins went the veteran winger route.

The real question for the Bruins is whether the Eastern Conference is wide open enough for them to try to take a run this season with a pretty good mix of proven veterans and talented youngsters. If the Bruins think they could fast-forward their development to make a push this season, a veteran top-six winger with size, snarl and an ability to finish off Krejci’s passes could be on the trade deadline shopping list. 

Maroon could be really interesting as a rent-to-own kind of player in the last year of his deal, but it would require two things: The Oil staying well out of the playoff race for the next few months, and a newfound willingness for the B’s to deal with Peter Chiarelli after ignoring his overtures in the Dougie Hamilton trade talks three years ago.

The biggest area of need for the Bruins, however, continues to be a top-four, left-shot defenseman who could be paired with Charlie McAvoy in a puck-moving capacity, and allow Chara and Brandon Carlo to focus on shutdown duties. It would allow the Bruins to shift Torey Krug back into the bottom pairing/power-play role that he’s best suited for. It also would give the Bruins a more ideal balance of veteran/youngster on the back end. For most of this season the B’s have had two or three first or second-year players among their top-six defensemen in nightly lineups, and that’s awfully young to truly compete in the postseason.

There’s also the fact 40-year-old Chara is really the only frontline left-shot defensemen on Boston’s roster and smaller, puck-moving D-men like Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk are the only other natural left-handed defensemen on the roster. Kevan Miller has switched to the left side with mixed results at times over the last two seasons, and left shot D-men like Jakub Zboril, Robbie O’Gara and Jeremy Lauzon are all still in development mode in Providence.   

The perfect addition to the Bruins would be a young, veteran left shot defenseman that’s capable of playing in both zones, can move the puck and capable of chewing up big minutes as Chara continues to play into his 40s.

Who is that player going to be?

Well, it’s not going to be Cam Fowler after the Ducks have moved on from Sami Vatanen and Shea Theodore, and it’s not going to be right-shot defensemen Erik Karlsson (any scenarios with him wouldn’t even be realistic video-game trade scenarios) or Jacob Trouba (that ship has sailed for the Bruins). One name to keep an eye on moving forward? Oliver Ekman-Larsson continues to be wasted as a high-end, left-shot defenseman with the Arizona Coyotes and at times it looks like the losing is getting to him out in the desert.

Certainly he wouldn’t come cheaply and a deal like that would happen on Arizona’s timetable rather than when Boston wanted it to go down. But the Bruins have a treasure trove of talented young players, a surplus of young talent at the wing and on the back end, and even have high-priced veteran players if/when the Coyotes look to again take on cap space for cap floor considerations, as they have in the past.

On a smaller scale Luca Sbisa and Alec Martinez may become available closer to the trade deadline and those types of D-men could fill a need while buying time for Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon to continue their development.

The good news is there are going to be options for the Bruins to fill specific needs based on NHL players who will be made available. The better news is that the Bruins will have the prospect capital to get a deal done as they rapidly progress from pretender to possible contender status.

Now, it’s just a matter of Don Sweeney and the B’s front office waiting out the right deal and avoiding some of the missteps that have dogged them with trades in his first three years running things in Boston.  


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