Nick Goss

How Hampus Lindholm injury highlights Bruins' needs at NHL trade deadline

Bolstering their depth on the blue line needs to be a top priority for the B's before the trade deadline.

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The Boston Bruins' need for additional depth on the blue line has intensified after the latest update on Hampus Lindholm's injury.

The veteran defenseman is considered "week-to-week" and didn't join the Bruins for their four-game road trip through Western Canada and Seattle, head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters in Edmonton on Thursday.

Lindholm left Monday's win over the Stars in the third period with an apparent lower body injury after colliding with a Dallas player. The actual severity of the injury is not known, but the good news is Montgomery said surgery is not required.

Lindholm had the best season of his career in 2022-23 and finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting. He has not been as effective this season, especially offensively. But Lindholm is still a very good defenseman, and his absence is a major setback to Boston's lineup. Lindholm ranks second on the team with 23:42 of ice time per game. He plays in all situations, including both special teams units. Lindholm has been very durable, too. He missed just two games last season and played in each of Boston's first 56 games this year.

Lindholm's injury comes at an especially bad time for the Bruins as they prepare for the toughest portion of their entire schedule. They play 11 games over the next 19 days, a stretch that features seven matchups versus teams in a playoff spot.

The short-term solution on the left side of the blue line is Mason Lohrei, who was called up from the Providence Bruins earlier this week. This will be Lohrei's third stint with the B's this season. The Ohio State product has shown great promise offensively, and his skating is tremendous. But like many 23-year-old defensemen with limited NHL experience (just 27 games), his defensive abilities remain a work in progress.

Lohrei will absolutely help replace some of what Lindholm brings offensively. He can play on the power play, generate scoring chances and ignite the transition up ice.

But Lohrei won't give the Bruins what they really lack on the blue line, and that's another reliable penalty killer, and someone who can clear traffic from the front of the net and win puck battles in the tough areas of the ice.

The trade market is the best place for the Bruins to find that kind of player. We highlighted a few options earlier this month. Potential trade targets such as Joel Edmundson of the Washington Capitals and Ilya Lyubushkin of the Anaheim Ducks would bring some of the attributes noted above.

The problem for the Bruins, which has been said many times now, is they lack the kind of trade assets and salary cap space needed to make major moves. They're not in a position to win a bidding war with other contenders who might be pursuing the same veteran players on the market.

But the Bruins still need to make some kind of move to bolster their depth on the blue line. Derek Forbort has missed over 20 games due to injury this season. Matt Grzelcyk has missed more than 10. Now Lindholm is out and will miss at least four games.

The Bruins aren't in any danger of missing the playoffs, and it wouldn't be surprising if they finished the regular season with the Eastern Conference's best record. But if they are going to win multiple rounds come playoff time, another defenseman or two is needed. This was true before Lindholm's injury, and it's an even greater priority now.

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