The Bruins missed out on the Blake Coleman sweepstakes after Tampa swooped in with too strong of an offer for New Jersey to refuse. In addition, it was reported Tyler Toffoli was an external asset in Don Sweeney’s back pocket. However, yesterday, Toffoli was dealt to Vancouver, a long way from Boston. So what happened?
Considering the Bruins had Toffoli in their back pocket, it is hard to imagine they “missed” more than they likely “passed” on Toffoli. Tyler Toffoli seemed to be such a great fit for the Bruins, who are looking for a right winger to play in the middle 6 (2nd/3rd lines). Toffoli also would have brought along with him his playoff experience and a big frame. It seems hard to believe a player who would’ve fit that well would slip out of his hands. So why would Don Sweeney pass?
Don Sweeney must have one of two thoughts to pass on Toffoli:
A. Don Sweeney has faith in the players in the system
Bruce Cassidy has rotated both Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman between the 2nd/3rd lines on the right wings. It’s entirely possible Sweeney has faith in those two players to play good enough hockey in the middle six to win the Bruins a Stanley Cup.
Bjork has looked good in both roles, but seems to slot in almost too perfectly on the third line, alongside Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen. Meanwhile, Karson Kuhlman seems to get the job done in whichever role he takes on, but he doesn’t give the Bruins that extra oomph they need to get over the hump and roll 4 competitive and relentless lines.
While it is possible this is the route Don Sweeney is choosing, subsequently meaning he will stand pat going into the trade deadline, it is hard to believe. Sweeney has been one of the most active GM’s all season. He also saw just how close the Bruins were last year, only to fall short with a revolving door on Krejci’s right wing. For those two reasons, it’s hard to believe Sweeney will put his faith in young fringe players to get his team over the hump and earn a Stanley Cup ring.
B. Sweeney has his eyes on a bigger fish
Knowing Don Sweeney has been working the phones all year and that he watched his team come up short last season, it appears almost certain that he is looking to add to his roster. But why not Tyler Toffoli, who was in his back pocket all along?
It’s possible Don Sweeney is motivated by last seasons shortcomings, and that has motivated him to go the extra mile to get the best player with the best fit to fill the 2RW void. Which has been a glaring hole since 2014 when Jarome Iginla left. The two names out there arguably larger than that of Tyler Toffoli still rolling through the rumor mill are Chris Kreider and Kyle Palmeiri.
Chris Kreider has 23 goals and 19 assists for 42 points in 57 games with the New York Rangers this season. He is due for a new contract in July and is 28 years old. He’s a Massachusetts native and attended Boston College. He plays with an edge and is a greasy hockey player who could slot into Boston’s 2nd line with ease. However, Kreider favors the left wing as opposed to the right, which is already claimed by Jake DeBrusk.
Kyle Palmieri has 22 goals and 19 assists for 41 points in 54 games with the New Jersey Devils this season. He’s under contract for only $4.65M next season. He is also on pace to score 30+ goals this season. With the exception of the 2017-2018 season where he scored 24 goals in only 62 games, this is inevitably going to be his 5th consecutive season with 25+ goals. His scoring ability and greasy style of play would mesh nicely with DeBrusk and Krejci on the second line, producing secondary scoring behind the best line in hockey (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak).
Some outcast names include Mike Hoffman (FLA), J.G. Pageau (OTT), Ilya Kovalchuk (MTL), Patrick Marleau (SJS), Joe Thornton (SJS), and Ondrej Kase (ANH).
Don Sweeney may have faith in internal players, but it seems more likely he’s chasing a better player. Sweeney could land Palmieri or Kreider, or he could even acquire a name that surprises almost everyone. Regardless, it will be an interesting 6 days as we approach Monday’s trade deadline (February 24).