Nick Goss

Linus Ullmark trade: Analyzing pros and cons of Bruins' return

The Bruins now have a first-round pick in Friday's draft.

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The much-anticipated Linus Ullmark trade has been made.

Just a few minutes before Monday night's Game 7 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins announced they had traded Ullmark to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for goalie Joonas Korpisalo, forward Mark Kastelic and a 2024 first-round draft pick (25th overall).

The Senators also will retain 25 percent of Korpisalo's salary, which decreases his salary cap hit from $4 million to $3 million.

At first glance, the Bruins' return for a Vezina-winning goalie is a little underwhelming, even though Ullmark has just one more year left on his contract and reportedly does not have an extension in place with the Senators at this time. However, the quality of this return will largely be determined by what the B's do with the No. 25 pick and how they use the additional salary cap space created.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney does have a great trade history. He consistently wins these deals, and it's arguably the part of his job that he does best.

With that in mind, let's analyze the initial pros and cons of the trade.

Pro: Getting a first-round pick

The Bruins did not pick in the first round in four of the last six drafts because they've traded away so many recent selections. They came into Monday without a pick in the first three rounds of the 2024 NHL Draft. The B's now have the 25th overall pick on Friday.

In fact, this pick was originally owned by the Bruins. They sent it to the Red Wings in the Tyler Bertuzzi trade in 2023. The Red Wings later dealt it to the Senators as part of the Alex DeBrincat trade.

The 2024 draft is viewed by many experts as weaker than normal. However, the Bruins' prospect pool is one of the worst in the league, especially after Matthew Poitras and Mason Lohrei made the jump to the NHL level last season. Boston's system could really use an infusion of young talent, and if the Bruins keep the pick, they can add a talented player to the mix.

The Bruins could also use this pick as part of a trade to acquire a veteran who can help the team win in the short term. The first round of the 2024 draft is Friday, with rounds two through seven on Saturday afternoon, so Sweeney and his staff have some time to figure out what the Bruins will do with this pick.

Con: Joonas Korpisalo's contract

Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo
James Carey Lauder/USA TODAY Sports
Joonas Korpisalo ranked 97th out of 98 goaltenders in goals saved above expected last season.

Korpisalo was one of the worst goalies in the league this past season.

He had a 21-26-4 record with a lackluster .890 save percentage and a 3.27 GAA. He ranked 97th out of 98 netminders in goals saved above expected (minus-16.7), per MoneyPuck. Jeremy Swayman (4th) and Ullmark (7th) were both top 10 in goals saved above expected.

In fairness, the Senators didn't play amazing in front of him, but they also ranked 15th in shots allowed and 22nd in scoring chances allowed at 5-on-5. It's not like they were getting dominated every night, and yet Korpisalo still struggled to produce. In fact, the B's weren't much better in those metrics. They ranked 18th in shots allowed and 17th in scoring chances allowed at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick.

His contract is not team-friendly and doesn't expire soon. Korpisalo is signed for four more seasons (through 2027-28) with a $3 million salary cap hit. A $3 million cap hit for an average or worse veteran goalie is not great.

There are a few ways for the Bruins to deal with Korpisalo's contract if they don't want him to be their backup next season. Boston could bury him in the minors, which would open up $1.15 million in cap relief and result in a $1.85 million dead cap hit. They could buy him out, too. Doing that, according to CapFriendly, would leave the Bruins with a cap hit of $250,000 next season, $625,000 in 2025-26, $1.375 million in 2026-27, $1.75 million in 2027-28, and then $1 million each year from 2028-29 through 2031-32.

The B's could also trade Korpisalo and attach an asset (like a draft pick) to entice a team to take him. Trading him and retaining salary is another option.

Maybe the Bruins can help Korpisalo rediscover the form he showed in 2022-23 with the Columbus Blue Jackets when he tallied a .913 save percentage in 28 games. Bob Essensa is the best goalie coach in the league and has gotten the best out of pretty much every netminder who's played for the Bruins over the last 10-15 years. But unless Korpisalo shows significant improvement, this trade is going to put massive pressure on Jeremy Swayman to not only play a ton of games but also produce at a very high level.

The best-case scenario for the Bruins with Korpisalo is turning him into a solid player in 2024-25 and then flipping him for an asset (or just cap relief) next offseason.

Pro: Mark Kastelic could surprise

Don't be surprised if Mark Kastelic earns the support of Bruins fans rather quickly. He plays the kind of hard-nosed, physical game that is appreciated in Boston. He's 6-foot-4, 226 pounds and isn't afraid to go to the hard areas of the ice to win puck battles. Kastelic also has good speed -- something the Bruins needed to add this offseason. He can fight, too.

Kastelic will likely play a bottom-six role. He is versatile enough to play center or right wing, which gives head coach Jim Montgomery some options. Kastelic isn't going to light up the stat sheet offensively, but he could still provide some decent scoring depth. The 25-year-old forward tallied 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 63 games for Ottawa this season.

Kastelic also is very good on faceoffs, which will really help the Bruins after they went from No. 2 in faceoff win percentage in 2022-23 to No. 21 this season without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. He took 349 faceoffs this past season and won 54.4 percent of them. Pavel Zacha led the B's with a 54.8 faceoff percentage.

The Bruins are not committed to Kastelic long term. He is signed for one more season with a small $835,000 salary cap hit and will be a restricted free agent next summer. He has the potential to be a useful low-cost player for Boston.

Con: Bruins didn't get any premium assets from Senators

The Bruins gave up a goalie who won the Vezina Trophy in 2023 and weren't able to get a young forward or defenseman who can play a meaningful role on next year's team.

Shane Pinto is a 23-year-old center and a restricted free agent for the Senators. He has much more offensive upside than Kastelic and would have been a better addition. Boston also wasn't able to land Jakob Chychrun, who is a legit top-four defenseman and has been the subject of trade rumors over the last few weeks.

The Bruins also weren't able to get the better of the Senators' two first-round picks. The Senators owned the No. 7 and No. 25 overall selections in this year's draft. Boston acquired the latter.

If Ullmark had an extension in place with the Senators at the time of this trade, maybe the Bruins would have gotten a better return.

Con: Bruins barely cleared any salary cap space

Salary cap space is super valuable in a hard cap league like the NHL. That said, the fact that the Bruins moved Ullmark and his $5 million cap hit and only ended up creating $1.165 million more cap space as a result of this trade is pretty underwhelming.

One of the biggest reasons why trading Ullmark made sense was to create additional cap space for the Bruins to pursue impact players in free agency or the trade market. The Bruins need a top-six center and a proven goal scorer on the wing. Those types of players are expensive to acquire. They also need to re-sign Jeremy Swayman, who is due for a huge raise after a stellar playoff run.

But the Bruins traded Ullmark for a very small cap space increase and took on Korpisalo's bad contract that runs for three more years. Not ideal.

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