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NHL Notebook: Bruins reportedly have Tyler Toffoli deal in ‘hip pocket;’ could Ondrej Kase be a value pick-up?

(Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Bruins are reportedly going to be very, very active on the trade market this winter. 

It’s a shocking development, I know. I’ll give you some time to process this bombshell. 

While Anders Bjork has been solid since getting bumped up to David Krejci's line earlier this week, Don Sweeney and Co. would likely be much more comfortable going into the postseason with a bonafide 20-30 goal scorer skating in that top-six spot.

We’ve already discussed a couple of possible trade candidates this season — ranging from a local product in Rangers winger Chris Kreider to an established scorer out west in Kings forward Tyler Toffoli

Well, where there’s smoke …

To the surprise of just about no one, the Bruins are keeping a close watch on both Toffoli and Kreider, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

During Friedman’s “31 Thoughts” podcast, he noted that the Bruins will be one of many clubs that will monitor the market on Kreider — a soon-to-be UFA who has tallied 14 goals and 29 points through 44 games with the Rangers. 

However, if Kreider heads elsewhere (or New York opts to hold on to him and roll the dice this summer), Friedman added that Toffoli stands as a more-than-feasible backup plan for the Bruins. 

“I’ll tell you this, I do think Boston, if they wanted to, could do a deal for Toffoli almost at any time,” Friedman said. “I think they know they’ve got that in their hip pocket. So the question is — do you do that or do you wait for Kreider?”

Even as a rental, Toffoli would still likely require a team to part ways with an intriguing prospect or a coveted pick in order to scoop up the winger, who is on pace to score 22 goals this season for the cellar-dwelling Kings. 

Acquiring a winger like Kreider almost makes too much sense for the Bruins, given his local ties. But the Boston College alum and Boxford native would likely command an even steeper price as a trade target — given that many contenders would likely covet the 6-foot-3 winger and his ability to add both size and skill to a top-six unit. 

With Taylor Hall now in Arizona, Kreider stands as one of the headliners in this year’s trade-market pool, but Friedman isn’t so sure that the forward is a goner in New York. 

“My opinion is changing almost on the day on Kreider,” Friedman said. “Because I’ve had guys tell me that they think the Rangers are starting to think more and more about do they keep him.

“And again this will all play out over the next six weeks, but you get rid of him, it’s hard to replace. You know they’re starting to get some things going offensively. Their top couple of lines have some chemistry.”

As we all know, the trade market can be pretty fluid — and even if Boston might have Toffoli in its “hip pocket” right now, all it takes is another offer to get L.A. to bite and send the B’s right back to the drawing board. 

If Boston’s suspected trade targets such as Kreider, Toffoli and New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri either stand pat or are dealt elsewhere, where else could Sweeney look for a possible top-six solution? 

One name to keep tabs on is Anaheim winger Ondrej Kase. 

The 24-year-old Czech forward makes plenty of sense for the Bruins, given that he is a natural right-shot, right winger with plenty of potential when it comes to offensive production. 

Earlier this year, the tanking Ducks were hesitant to include Kase in a potential deal with Carolina for defenseman Justin Faulk — with Anaheim GM Bob Murray swatting down those rumors back in September.

But with Anaheim in need of a major rebuild, could the Ducks finally part ways with Kase in exchange for picks and prospects?

When it comes to value, Kase could be a player that many teams will monitor over the coming weeks, as the forward is under contract through the 2020-21 season with an annual cap hit of just $2.6 million.

Even if his scoring totals this season may not pop off the page (five goals, 17 points in 39 games), the underlying numbers tell of a winger capable of generating 5v5 offense thanks to his willingness to pepper the net.

Over the previous two seasons, Kase ranked 39th in the NHL (min. 500 minutes played) when it came to individual points per 60 minutes of 5v5 play at 2.23 — leading over players such Jamie Benn (2.22), Phil Kessel (2.22), Mikko Rantanen (2.13) and Vladimir Tarasenko (2.09). 

During that same stretch, Kase ranked ninth overall in terms of individual shots per 60 minutes at 10.54 — ahead of Nathan MacKinnon (10.53), Patrice Bergeron (9.93) and Jack Eichel (9.93).

Only injuries and a regular role outside of the top-six prevented Kase from breaking out on offense, although the winger was on pace for a 40-goal campaign last season through as late as December.

However, Kase’s 2018-19 campaign ended at just 30 games due to a torn labrum —  with the forward closing out the year with 11 goals and 20 total points during that strong start.

For all of Kase’s potential, there are plenty of risks for a team looking to acquire the winger, with injuries standing at the forefront. Along with his shoulder injury last season, he has also missed a good amount of time in previous years due to concussions — three total since making his NHL debut back in 2016.

He’s already missed a couple of games this year due to a pair of upper-body injuries, and one has to worry if these ailments (especially concussions) are starting to already pile up for a player that only turned 24 two months ago.

Since returning from his shoulder surgery, Kase hasn’t exactly broken through in 2019-20.

So far, Kase ranks 173rd in total points per 60 minutes of 5v5 play at 1.77, although his shot rates/60 are still pretty robust at 10.71 — even ahead of David Pastrnak’s 10.47. Perhaps Kase has been unlucky with his shots, or he hasn’t received much help from a rather stagnant Anaheim offense. After all, Kase’s total scoring output is actually below his expected goals rate of 7.06. 

Ultimately, the Bruins are likely better off going with a sure bet such as Palmieri, Kreider, Toffoli, etc. this deadline season. But if deals fall through or Boston is in search of a potential boom-or-bust option, Kase does offer plenty of intrigue.

OTHER NOTES

After battling through both a month-long slump and a nasty flu bug that is still making its way through the Bruins' locker room, many on Boston's roster would agree that the team's scheduled "Moms Trip" this week came at the perfect time. With the B's able to spend time with their loved ones and not fixate on their recent struggles, the club responded on the ice by winning both games in which their mothers were in attendance.

"It’s always nice having them around, for sure," Matt Grzelcyk said. "It’s no secret we weren’t finding ways to win. We were getting points, but you want to be able to close games out and that was kind of our weakness for a few games there. Having them around brought us a lot of energy, brought us together and I think allowed us to refocus. Going into Nashville, coaching change there, they were going to come out with a lot of energy, so it’s important for us to get a good start and we came out buzzing."

Following Boston's 5-4 victory over the Jets on Thursday, all of the Bruins' mothers were waiting in the team's locker room to congratulate the players following their second straight victory. Jake DeBrusk, one of the top performers on the night with two goals and three points, conducted his postgame interview with his mother, Cindy, by his side.

https://twitter.com/ConorRyan_93/status/1215469990536785920

Much to the team's chagrin, the moms won't be able to serve as a good-luck charm for every game this year. However, who knows what will happen when the postseason rolls around and the club is in need of a lift. Fan banner captains? Don't rule it out.

“I’d love to stay, I’d love to stay,” Cindy DeBrusk said. “It’s been an unbelievable few days. The Bruins have treated us so well and so it’s precious to have times with these guys. He’s far away, right? We’re a long way from home so it’s been amazing.”

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Good news for the Bruins and Patrice Bergeron — the B's top-line center will not have to attend the 2020 All-Star Game, as Toronto's Mitch Marner was tabbed as the Atlantic Division's "Last Man In" on Saturday. Boston will still send three to St. Louis for the All-Star festivities in Bruce Cassidy, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask. 

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Connor McDavid. That's it. Just watch the videos.

https://twitter.com/ConorRyan_93/status/1214373029083537409

https://twitter.com/EdmontonOilers/status/1216203862643593216

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Are they still looking for a replacement on Coach's Corner? How about Larry David? 

https://twitter.com/spittinchiclets/status/1214934712290086912

Stats and graphs via Natural Stat Trick & Sean Tierney.