The Boston Bruins struggled against the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators over the weekend but pulled out a resounding 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. Still, head coach Bruce Cassidy seems to have an idea of how to improve his team. In a recent media availability, he said:
“We have too many nice guys back there right now. To be honest with you, we need to have more pricks out there.”
Bruce Cassidy (from ‘Carlo Injures Wrist at Skate, May Not Play Against Senators,’ Boston Hockey Now, 19 Feb. 2022.
Chances are that if no Bruin has played with an edge this season, then none of them will play like a “prick” in the remaining 32 games. That means, to get the guy Cassidy wants, a move will have to be made between now and the approaching trade deadline.
It’s no secret that the Bruins’ blue line has had its struggles. Along with a penalty kill that is not nearly as dominant as it has been in the past, the team has not made it easy for rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark, who is new to the system. Outside of Charlie McAvoy, who should be in consideration for the Norris Trophy, the rest of the blue line has not lived up to expectations.
If the Bruins are serious about adding a bigger, tougher defenseman, they should target these players.
Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens
Every team with any possibility of making the playoffs is interested in Ben Chiarot of the Montreal Canadiens, and it’s not hard to see why. The left-shot defenseman is 6-foot-3, 234 pounds, and only 30 years old. He helped Montreal reach the Stanley Cup Final last season, and he built for the toughness of the postseason.
For the Bruins, he’d add some much-needed depth on the left side. He’ll play monster minutes (he averaged 25:15 during last season’s playoff run) and make the big hits that the team needs. He doesn’t have the best metrics; he’s a minus-26 in 45 games this season, with only nine points, but he will bring an aggressive style of play. He has 75 blocks and 97 hits this season; only McAvoy has more blocks on the Bruins (76) and only Curtis Lazar, a forward, exceeds his hits total (110).
At the end of the day and given the interest in him – and the fact that there is a new GM in Montreal, who will be looking to make a splash – Chiarot may be priced out of the Bruins’ range, especially if the Canadiens are looking for a first-round pick for him. He also has a 10-team no-trade clause in his contract.
The Bruins do not have the prospect pool depth to trade away their first-round pick. Maybe if they were only one defender away from being a serious Cup contender, they would consider it, but realistically, they aren’t. While Chiarot would bring the “prick” style Cassidy wants, the asking price will probably be too high. But there are other options.
Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken
Mark Giordano, the former captain of the Calgary Flames and current captain of the Seattle Kraken, is rumored to be available, given that he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He brings more of an offensive upside than Chiarot with 21 points in 45 games but doesn’t bring the same physicality. He has 85 blocks and only 36 hits, similar to a lot of the defensemen currently on the Bruins.
But, at 38-years-old, Giordano would bring age, experience, and leadership to a young blue line. He still brings an edge that hasn’t really existed within this group and could be someone to help take some of the weight off of McAvoy’s shoulders.
However, given his age, Giordano will want to go to a serious contender to make a play for his first Stanley Cup. He has a modified no-trade clause and may be looking for a team higher up in their division. The Bruins are currently in a wild-card spot.
Zdeno Chara, New York Islanders
This is a long shot, but at age 44, Zdeno Chara is still one of the most physical defensemen in the NHL. His production has dropped over the last few seasons, but he is still a presence on the ice.
Similar to Giordano, Chara would bring leadership and experience to the blue line. He won’t play the same minutes he did before but he fits Cassidy’s style. He has 84 hits in 42 games this season, only McAvoy, Connor Clifton, and Brandon Carlo have more than that.
With his age and the state of the Islanders, he would easily be the cheapest option on this list. The team would then have more to spend on a center and still boost their blue line.
Sweeney Should Make an Inquiry
If I’m Don Sweeney, I would call the Vegas Golden Knights to see who is available. They are teetering on the edge of their cap space, saved only by long-term injured reserve, similar to what the Tampa Bay Lightning did last season. At some point, someone will need to be traded. It probably wouldn’t cost the Bruins too much to acquire a defenseman, and they have plenty of talented players who could provide the edge Cassidy wants.
It also wouldn’t hurt to see if Seattle is open to trading Jeremy Lauzon and bringing him back to Boston. He’d be another option to bolster their depth on the left side. He’s registered 147 hits so far this season, 37 more than the Bruins leader, Lazar. He’s 14th in the league in hits, while the Bruins don’t have a player in the top 20.
Bruins Must Keep Their First-Round Pick
It would be great to see Sweeney be aggressive at the trade deadline as he was last year, but the Bruins have more needs than could realistically be addressed in just a few weeks without giving up a first-round pick. Somehow, he managed to hold onto his pick last year while making a big splash, but it would be a struggle to recreate that this year.
The Bruins need more quality prospects in their pipeline. The Bruins are an older team, and their metaphorical window is rapidly closing. If they were only one “prick” defenseman away from being a serious contender, then it would make sense to go all-in on a player like Chiarot. But they aren’t. Sweeney could give up a first-round pick for any of the players available and then exit in the second round of the playoffs as they did last year. They put together a great stretch in January, but this team simply does not look like a contender.
This season, the Bruins should see what they can get without offering their first-round pick, go as far as they can, and then regroup. If they want to get one more Stanley Cup for Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, bigger changes will need to be made.
I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Screenwriting at Boston University. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.