There’s no other way around it: the Bruins need help.
With the trade deadline now less than a month away, the clock is clicking for Don Sweeney to address the biggest Bruins needs as they look to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence.
Earlier in the season, a top-six forward seemed to be the top item that needed to be addressed. While the offense starting to light the lamp a little more consistently, other areas are starting to move ahead on Sweeney’s priority list.
All while the Bruins are still in the middle of a rebuild on the fly mode.
By the time their bye week comes and goes in a couple of weeks, the Bruins, who currently sit in third in the Atlantic, could be on the outside looking in of a playoff spot as teams beneath them gain ground with their games in hand. Aside from the potential drop in the standings, not much will change with the areas that need improvement before the March 1 NHL trade deadline.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the Bruins’ biggest needs as Sweeney eyes potential upgrades in the stagnant trade market.
Zdeno Chara is having a solid year. Brandon Carlo, despite undergoing the proverbial rookie slump, has been mostly reliable. Colin Miller is making strides with every game played. And Torey Krug is finally giving the power play a much-needed boost at the point.
As positive as some of the individuals have been on the Bruins blue-line, they still need some help. Missed assignments and defensive breakdowns have crept up on the Black and Gold as seen for most of their four-game losing streak a couple of weeks ago.
The Bruins have a pretty good pipeline on D that includes Charlie McAvoy, Ryan Lindgren and Jeremy Lauzon. One of those aforementioned blue-liners would be intriguing for St. Louis if they want to revisit a potential Kevin Shattenkirk deal, especially in the wake of Ken Hitchcock’s dismissal.
A UFA at the end of the year Shattenkirk is the top defenseman potentially on the move. Aside from that, the market is pretty thin for top-four blue-liners.
Hardly is a No. 2 goaltender a priority for teams at the trade deadline. But as their depth behind Tuukka Rask continues to carousel, the last thing the Bruins can afford is to wear out their No. 1 netminder during the stretch run.
Even with Zane McIntyre giving the Bruins not playing badly whenever he starts, there appears to be no faith in the B’s backup goalies. Anton Khudobin is the only goalie other than Rask to win a game this year and he is down in Providence following inconsistent performances with the big club. Malcolm Subban has turned out to be a bust after the Bruins selected him in the first round of the 2012 Entry Draft.
The goaltending market includes Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury and not much else. The B’s may be stuck with McIntyre, Subban or Khudobin behind Rask, but desperation may lead Sweeney to find another backup option for March and April.
Brad Marchand is fresh off second star of the month honors for January and has notched two points in each of his last four games. David Krejci is starting to come around with consistent performances. Frank Vatrano is healthy again, and David Pastrnak is starting to find his groove after snapping his career-long goal drought of 17 games.
All of this would speculate that the Bruins are pretty good with their top two lines.
Then there’s the unknown status of Patrice Bergeron, who left Wednesday’s game against the Capitals after hobbling off the ice following a Matt Niskanen shot to the knee. If he were to miss a significant amount of time, then an upgrade the top-six becomes a bigger priority.
Even with Bergeron, it wouldn’t hurt Sweeney to add some top six depth to give Claude Julien more options. But it may come at a cost, especially if it involves Gabriel Landeskog or Matt Duchene from the Avalanche.
The options aren’t the best, but the Bruins cannot afford to stand pat, nor can they afford to make minor moves from previous trade deadlines. With Julien, Sweeney and perhaps Cam Neely’s job on the line, the B’s are caught in a dilemma.
After 3 p.m. on March 1, the big picture may have a little more color or stay black and white in the short term.
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