If you missed the first part of this three part series, you can check it out here. I talked about the Bruins and their need to make a trade to help their forward group. At the beginning of the season, the talk surrounding the team focused on their blue line. As I wrote in Part I, there was a lot of incorrect chatter about Jacob Trouba and if Boston was going to offer-sheet him (even though it was clearly pointed out that they didn’t have the correct compensation for him) as he seemed to be the puzzle piece to fit the jigsaw.
When you look at the Bruins organization it is easy to see that their defensive issues should go away. Here’s the problem: that will take time. Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Ryan Lindgren and to a lesser extent Jakub Zboril (only because I’m not a huge Zboril guy) will take time to grow into their bodies and the NHL game. We’re already witnessing it with Brandon Carlo. Carlo played like a man on fire at the beginning of the season but as the season goes on and team’s get more video on him – his weaknesses will be easier to exploit. This will happen to McAvoy when he eventually comes to the Bruins. This will happen with Lindgren and Zboril (should Zboril come up here).
If there’s one thing Don Sweeney has done well it is stock the cupboard with defensemen who can make a legitimate impact on the Bruins in the future. Again, the issue is that this doesn’t help them right now and potentially being a playoff team means they need to decide to shit or get off the pot.
If the Bruins are going to pursue a defenseman, get ready to hear the name Kevin Shattenkirk. Kevin Shattenkirk is the “sexy” name when it comes to picking up a defenseman. During the 2016 draft, there was a ton of talk of the Blues and Bruins working out a deal, but Boston didn’t want to give up their first round pick (which ended up being Charlie McAvoy). Here’s the thing about Shattenkirk that I don’t think people really understand:
If you’re one of the people who believe in plus/minus, stop it. However, it is a number that gets thrown around by hockey fans – so let me throw this at you: Shattenkirk is a minus 10 this season as St. Louis’ second pairing (and probably number three) defenseman. Minus 10. To give you some context, that sandwiches him between Austin Czarnik and Matt Beleskey.
Also plus/minus is garbage and stop using it.
Among players that have played 500+ minutes this season, Kevin Shattenkirk is 32nd in the league in corsi for% at 52.93. This is actually a very good metric for Shattenkirk because it shows you that most of the time on the ice, he’s driving possession for the Blues. That’s a good thing to see, but it’s not great when you realize that a lot of players on the Bruins – like Adam McQuaid for example – have a higher corsi rating than him.
There’s also this piece of news that dropped yesterday:
Shattenkirk apparently denied an extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning that would have paid him $42M over the next 7 years. When he said no, Tampa pulled the offer. If there’s anyone who should be happy about that, it is Tampa.
Ron Hainsey is also out as he’s been traded to Pittsburgh for a second round pick.
So the question is what is out there for Boston defensively? Ideally, they’d want someone who can slot in the second pairing along side Torey Krug and have some term on their contract?
One guy the Bruins could benefit from is someone like Sami Vatanen. Vatanen’s contract is realtively cheap at $4,875,000 per year for the next three seasons. That fits Boston’s cap pretty nicely if they’re able to move a defenseman or two (cough: Adam McQuaid). In fact, if McQuaid is traded or taken by Las Vegas the loss of him and Liles basically makes up Vatanen’s salary. There’s also his hero chart:
Take from this what you will, but offensively in the past three years he’s been a top four defenseman. The one problem is that you can make the argument that Charlie McAvoy could potentially be a Sami Vatanen clone and that would even negate the need for Vatanen.
What else is out there for Boston? They could look at Dmitry Kulikov but I’m not sure Buffalo will trade within the division.
Unfortunately, the best route to go defensively may not be at the trade deadline at all. If Boston is going to grab a defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk, they’re going to massively overpay for him and Don Sweeney has already set the precedent that Carlo/McAvoy are off the table. Even then, this year’s UFA group for defensemen isn’t great.