The NHL trade deadline is now just three weeks away — and Don Sweeney and Co. are likely going to be pretty busy.
Even though the Bruins have impressed since returning from the league-mandated bye week, it is to be expected that Sweeney and his staff are going to explore just about every avenue in an effort to put this roster over the top before the calendar turns to spring.
"(We) have continued conversations around the league like everyone else is doing at this time to see what’s available — how we can improve our hockey club, if we can improve our hockey club,” Sweeney said last week. “We have prospects and such that we’re very unlikely to move unless a deal was just absolutely appropriate and that’s part of the business.
“We’d like to improve and add, but we may not. Just might be the situation. We have a good hockey club and we feel good about our players, so we have to use it internally, us and several other teams are tight against the cap, so it’s not an easy time to be making deals.”
The priority for Boston in terms of outside help hasn’t changed all that much in the past year, with the club still looking to find a reliable top-six winger to slot in next to David Krejci.
But, as we discussed earlier this week, the lower depths of Boston’s blue line could also be in line for an upgrade for the right price.
While the usual suspects like Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk should be locked in for the postseason, Grzelcyk’s partner on the third D pairing has been in a state of flux all year — with Boston in desperate need of a dependable skater that can log heavy minutes and add some snarl to the blue line.
Kevan Miller checks off plenty of those boxes, but the veteran is still a ways away from getting the green light for game action — and even if and when he gets cleared to return, there's no guarantee he can hold up over a grueling two-month stretch of playoff action.
Connor Clifton, who should return in mid-February from an upper-body injury, was a revelation last season, but has struggled with consistency this season. Whereas opposing 5v5 scoring chances dried up last season when Clifton was on the ice (0.95 goals against per 60 minutes), that number has jumped up to 2.08 for the young defenseman this year.
John Moore, still shaking off the rust from major offseason shoulder surgery, has struggled at times since returning to the lineup, especially when it comes to winning puck battles in Grade-A areas of the ice. Currently, Moore's GA/60 rate is 2.57 — tops among B's defensemen.
Given the current vacancy next to Grzelcyk, perhaps Boston could swing a trade to acquire a big body on the blue line like San Jose's Brenden Dillon or another NHL regular?
But as of late, a 22-year-old skater with just 20 games of NHL experience is making a solid case for himself when it comes to shoring up the back end of Boston's D corps.