I heard a trade idea surfaced last week for the Bruins involving New York Rangers left winger Chris Kreider and my ears perked up. Kreider is likely going to move at the deadline and would most certainly fit the suit. Theoretically, the name proposed for the Bruins to give up in this conversation was defenseman Matt Grzelyck and my ears subsequently flopped. No thank you.
The conversation did get me thinking though.
As I see it, the Bruins would best benefit by adding another forward. That seems to be both the local and national consensus and as you watch the games, the Bruins scoring is consistently very top-heavy. A Top 6 forward would be a major splash but would likely merit an unrealistic price. A Top 9 forward is more likely, but again I’m not interested in weakening one unit to fortify another. The proverbial rob Peter to pay Paul.
There is another way.
My guess is that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will make a move. History shows that he’ll likely tap future assets like minor leaguers and draft capital to add in the offensive player they need to make another run at the Cup. The Rangers, LA Kings, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils and maybe even (gasp) the Montreal Canadiens are out of it and have players available to target. Would a package of draft picks or intriguing minor leaguers get a true NHL contributor in black and gold? Maybe, but if not, there is someone the Bruins could make available to get a deal done. That someone is Jaroslav Halak.
I didn’t say it wouldn’t hurt.
I do however feel that it would hurt far less than trading a Top 6 defensemen. Don’t get me wrong, if the Bruins can fortify their offense without moving a Top 6 defensemen or Halak I’m all for it, but if given a choice between a guy like Grzelyck or your back-up goaltender, I’m trading the guy who isn’t on the ice most days.
There is no doubt that Halak’s value to the Bruins has been immense. His own play has been stellar for most of his games in Boston and his pairing with Tuukka Rask has proven not only successful for the team but helpful to the Bruins top netminder. The two goalie system is the NHL’s version of load management and it has worked well for the B’s. No doubt about that.
There is however a rationale to move Halak.
After April 4 (the end of the regular season), unless there is an injury to Rask, Halak’s season would be for all intent and purposes over. Between the February 24 trade deadline and the start of the playoffs there are 19 games scheduled. The current split between Rask and Halak is 55 percent to 45 percent, favoring Rask. The time-share was the exact same last year.
In March of 2019, Rask played in 12 of the remaining 21 regular-season games after deadline. Good for a 57 percent share, while Halak played in nine games (43 percent). A slight uptick for Rask as the postseason neared. This year, there are three less regular-season games, post-deadline.
At last year’s pace, Rask would be in line to make 11 starts. The question then becomes, is eight games of Jaroslav Halak worth more than an additional and needed scoring threat for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations? Or, can you find a reasonable alternative to make up those eight games in goal and improve your offense at the same time?
I think you can.
Here’s my plan.
Kick Rask up to 13 of the final 19 games, roughly two-thirds of the action. That way he’s still getting rest each week and you only need to use your backup goaltender in six of the final 19 games. Whether that six-game solution is in Providence or a backup goalie you can get back in a deal for the offensive player you need, I think the risk is worth it.
Six regular-season games over six weeks. The yield could be an offensive player like Kreider, Tyler Toffoli from the LA Kings or Kyle Palmieri from the New Jersey Devils. Each are rumored to be available and are all proven scorers. If you can get one of those guys for some minor leaguers and or draft picks I’m all in, but if I need to move a current player to get it done, I’m moving Halak. The six-game tradeoff is well worth it to me.