As presently constituted, the Boston Bruins have a plethora of needs.
To wit: at least one, if not two:
1. A "top-4' defensemen.
2. A scoring winger.
Some secondary needs would be difference makers on the third and fourth lines, defensive depth and backup goaltending, to name a few.
But if you're looking for any of those needs to be immediately filled by the Bruins this weekend during the NHL Entry Draft at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, then you have Black-and-Gold blinders on.
Yes, the Bruins have two first round picks (No. 14 and No. 29). Unfortunately, there isn't a Ray Bourque, Kyle McLaren or Dougie Hamilton projected to step right in and be a difference maker on defense during the 2016-17 NHL season. And aside from expected franchise player Auston Matthews and fellow elite talents Partrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, the same could be said of the draft-eligible forwards.
So what is an aging team that has been left out of the postseason dance two years running and figures to lose a 30-goal scorer to free agency do to give itself some sort of makeover?
They find a way to trade for a proven NHL defenseman at the draft.
The Bruins are not alone in this quest — the Avalanche, Oilers, Flyers, even the Stanley Cup champion Penguins are actively seeking top-4 help on the back line — but their urgency to do so might be the highest. An aging Zdeno Chara, a seemingly untradable Dennis Seidenberg, an overpaid Kevan Miller, a potentially soon-to-be traded Adam McQuaid ... it's a scenario that screams the need for help in its own end.
Kevin Shattenkirk, who put up 44 points for the St. Louis Blues last season, might be the answer to Boston's problems. (Ironic, isn't it, that Shattenkirk was drafted 14th overall by Colorado nine years ago).
He's 27 years old and under contract for another year at $4.25 million, has roots in Connecticut and played at Boston University. Rumored to be on the trade block, one would surmise it would make sense for St. Louis to ship him East rather than to a fellow Western Conference squad. The gamble is that the Bruins could then sign the unrestricted free agent to be prior to July 1, 2017.
Would the Bruins' second first round selectin and a young NHLer such as Ryan Spooner or Frank Vatrano be enough to land Shattenkirk? Maybe, but likely not. Boston might have to part ways with the No. 14 pick if it's serious about landing the one-time BU Terrier.
Other names have been bandied about, should a potential Shattenkirk deal come up empty: 22-year-old Jacob Trouba in Winnipeg; Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, both of the Anaheim Ducks; maybe even a trade for one of Minnesota's young defensemen (Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin or Marco Scandella), since the Wild could find themselves in a salary cap crunch.
If you recall, the Bruins tried to trade up in last year's draft for Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin, who wound up going fifth overall to the Carolina Hurricanes. Then they couldn't find a trade partner and, awkwardly, wound up using all three of their first round picks: defenseman Jakob Zboril at No. 13, followed by wingers Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn at Nos. 14 and 15, respectively.
Not that there aren't good players available when they'd be picking at No. 14 — in time, some no doubt will be. But for the Bruins to begin the road back to respectively and relevancy, their need for help is immediate. Here's hoping they can deal away one of those first round picks to land the NHL blueliner they so covet.
Phil Stacey is the Executive Sports Editor of The Salem News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN
TOP BRUINS' OPTIONS
Should the Boston Bruins hold onto the 14th overall pick in Friday's NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, it's likely they'll choose a defenseman or, barring that, the best available forward. Here's a look at five players they can choose in each category — with a 'reach' peak if anyone's draft stock somehow falls:
Charlie McAvoy, 6-foot, 208 lbs., Boston University (Hockey East): Strong freshman year for the Terriers (3 goals, 21 assists) with lots of upside. Young player (he won't be 19 until four days before Christmas) impressed at World Juniors for Team USA.
Jake Bean, 6-foot, 175 lbs., Calgary Hitmen (WHL): Offensive defenseman led all blueliners in Canadian Major Juniors with 24 goals for his hometown team last winter. Offensively ability balanced out by smallish stature.
Dante Fabbro, 6-foot, 183 lbs., Penticton Vees (BCJHL): Strong two-way player (67 points in 45 games) who some draftniks have sneaking into the top 10-12 picks. Headed to play for one of college hockey's great breeding grounds for future NHL defensemen, Boston University.
Logan Stanley, 6-foot-7, 220 lbs., Windsor Spitfiires (OHL): Massive left-shot rearguard showed lots of improvement this season and was member of Canada's World Under-18s team. A potential Zdeno Chara replacement down the road?
Lucas Johansen, 6-1, 176 lbs., Kelowna Rockets (WHL): Younger brother of highly skilled Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen makes smart passes and helps create offense. Better-than-average point shot.
* A reach * Jakob Chychrun, 6-2, 200 lbs., Sarina Sting (OHL): Shutdown defenseman and strong skater with physical tools (49 points) has both American and Canadian citizenship. Could be value-based steal of the first round.
Tyson Jost, 5-11, 194 lb. center, Penticton Vees (BCJHL): Strong all-around game (42 goals in 48 games) capped by solid showing at World Under 18s for Canada. North Dakota commit displays leadership qualities teams hunger for.
Michael McLeod, 6-1, 185 lb. center, Mississauga Steelhead (OHL). Two-way player (61 points, 71 PIMs) who's strong on skates, but some project him as more of a bottom six forward.
Clayton Keller, 5-9, 170 lb. center, U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL): Knows what to do when the puck is on his stick (107 points in 60 games). On-ice vision a huge plus for future BU Terrier.
Max Jones, 6-3, 205 lb. left wing, London Knights (OHL): Power wing with lots to work with in his toolbox, but raw. Cheap shot to the head in OHL playoffs led to 12-game suspension.
Kieffer Bellows, 6-foot, 190 lbs., left wing, U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL): Skated left wing on teammate Keller's line, hitting the 50-goal mark in just 60 games. Son of former North Star/Canadien/et. al. Brian Bellows.
* A reach * Logan Brown, 6-6, 220 lb. center/left wing, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): The next Milan Lucic? The son of former St. Louis Blues D-man Jeff Brown is still growing, both in size and on the ice.