A trade between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins? That automatically has to be met with some skepticism.
Of course, the Canucks infamously dealt Cam Neely to the Bruins back in 1986, before he went on to have a Hall of Fame-worthy career.
In fact, the last trade between Canucks and Bruins was when Vancouver dealt Jiri Slegr for future considerations back on January 17th, 2004.
So yeah, it’s been a while.
However, the Canucks are in a position to add to their protection list heading into the 2021 expansion draft next month. As of now, their list probably looks a little something like this.
- Elias Pettersson
- JT Miller
- Brock Boeser
- Bo Horvat
- Tyler Motte
- Tanner Pearson
- Matthew Highmore
- Nate Schmidt
- Tyler Myers
- Olli Juolevi
- Thatcher Demko
Realistically, only four forwards and one of those defencemen should absolutely be protected. You could make the argument that, if the Canucks began to acquire better forwards and wingers, all of Motte, Pearson, Highmore, Myers and Juolevi could go unprotected without too much of an uproar.
At the very least, there’s an opportunity for the Canucks to try and acquire at least one defenceman and one forward prior to the expansion draft on July 21st.
So, is there an opportunity to improve their depth through a deal with Boston?
The Bruins had another successful season before the New York Islanders defeated them in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They continue to be one of the better defensive teams in hockey, and their forward depth was improved with additions such a Craig Smith and Taylor Hall within the last 12 months.
While there’s not a huge expansion issue looming for Boston, there are some intriguing names that won’t fit on their protection list.
Here’s a look at Boston’s current projected protection list, courtesy of Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic.
- Brad Marchand
- David Pastrnak
- Patrice Bergeron
- Craig Smith
- Jake DeBrusk
- Charlie Coyle
- Trent Frederic
- Charlie McAvoy
- Matt Grzelcyk
- Brandon Carlo
- Dan Vladar (Tuukka Rask is a UFA)
With the Canucks in a position to add to their list of protected players — potentially for pennies on the dollar since these teams risk losing a player for nothing — we’ll spend some time over the next couple of weeks looking at NHL clubs who have intriguing pieces likely to be available in the expansion draft.
For the purpose of these lists, we’ll only be looking at projected unprotected players who are either RFA’s or under contract. Therefore, no UFAs will make the list. In Boston’s case, that means players such as defenceman Mike Reilly and of course, Taylor Hall, won’t be mentioned here.
With that out of the way, here are five Boston Bruins whom the Canucks could potentially target via trade prior to the expansion draft.
2020-21 Stats: 44 GP, 1-6-7
Contract Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $1 million cap hit (expires as UFA)
The 26-year-old Clifton is known as a smaller (5’11, 195 pounds) yet aggressive defensive defenceman. After being drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2013, the right-shot blueliner went unsigned before joining the Bruins as a free agent in 2018.
He worked his way into 19 regular-season games during his first season in Boston, before playing another 18 playoff games as the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Finals against St. Louis.
Since then, Clifton has been a reliable third-pairing defenceman who can move higher up in the line-up if needed. In an eerily similar mold to Troy Stecher, Clifton is very reliable defensively but provides next to no offence. That’s shown by his middling expected goals total of 49.6% in 2020-21. That number comes from a stellar 1.81 expected goals against per 60 minutes, and a mediocre 1.76 expected goals for per 60.
It should be noted though that Clifton had both a rotating cast of partners on defence, and he also played primarily with Boston’s bottom-six forwards at even-strength.
Connor Clifton with a big hit on Anthony Beauvillier:— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) June 9, 2021
Trade Value: Boston traded a third-round pick for Mike Reilly at the 2021 trade deadline. Reilly does hold more value than Clifton thanks to his superior offensive ability. If the Canucks were to trade for Clifton, a fourth-round pick would probably be about right. However, Clifton does have more value thanks to his extremely team-friendly contract.
The other question for the Canucks is, do they really want to give up assets for another bottom-pairing defenceman? Vancouver has only one true top-four right-shot defenceman in Schmidt (apologies to Myers). Does adding another third-pair right-shot defenceman really make sense, or should they set their sights on acquiring a right-shot blueliner who fits in the top-four?
2021-21 Stats: 41 GP, 1-7-8
Contract Status: Signed through 2021-22 at an $850,000 cap hit (expires as RFA)
The 24-year-old left-shot defenceman finished playing in his first full NHL season with moderate success.
The 2015 second-round pick brought most of his value on the penalty kill. He led all regular Boston defenders, averaging 2:56 in ice time per game shorthanded. Lauzon’s 3.48 goals-against per-60 shorthanded was also best among all Boston defenders.
At even-strength, Lauzon also posted strong possession numbers, although it’s fair to be skeptical of that since the majority of his even-strength ice time was played alongside Charlie McAvoy.
Trade Value: Like Clifton, Lauzon is a young-ish defenceman on a cheap contract who provides value. The cost of this player straight up is probably a third or fourth-round pick.
2020-21 Stats: 42 GP, 0-9-9
Contract Status: Signed through 2021-22 at a $725,000 cap hit (expires as RFA)
The first of Boston’s three regrettable first-round picks in the 2015 draft at least became an NHL regular this season. Zboril’s game can be described as having no great strength or glaring weakness.
Zboril also earned some time playing alongside McAvoy after Lauzon was injured, where he didn’t look out of place. Come to think of it, how bad do you have to be to look out of place beside McAvoy?
Although still young at 23 years old, it was telling that Zboril was a healthy scratch throughout all of the playoffs.
Trade Value: Honestly, it’s hard to imagine the Canucks trading for Zboril. He’s basically a slightly more established version of Olli Juolevi. Again, a mid-round pick might do it IF Boston sees him more as a depth piece, and not a future top-four defenceman.
2020-21 Stats: 56 GP, 15-11-26
Contract Status: RFA ($1.5 million cap hit in 2020-21, $2 million to qualify)
One of the biggest surprises among Boston’s expected protection list was the inclusion of centre Trent Frederic (42 GP, 4-1-5) and the exclusion of Ritchie.
The 10th overall pick from 2014 was a valuable depth contributor during his first season with the Bruins. He posted 1.45 points-per-60 at even-strength, which was best among their bottom-six forwards, and a solid third-line scoring rate. Ritchie also got a boost playing on Boston’s top power play unit (primarily in the first half of the season), where he scored five goals and posted nine points.
At even-strength, Ritchie had a respectable Game Score Value Added (an analytics model that takes into account a player’s expected goals and scoring rates over the last three years) of 1.22. By comparison, Nils Hoglander, who by all accounts had a fantastic season for the Canucks, had a GSVA of 1.02. In fact, the only Canucks forwards who had a better GSVA than Ritchie were Pettersson, Miller, Boeser and Horvat.
As a superior replacement for Jake Virtanen, Ritchie would immediately be a better bottom-six forward than almost everyone else currently on the Canucks roster. He could also provide a boost to a second power play unit that struggled mightily in 2020-21.
Trade Value: Could you see the Bruins targeting Jonah Gadjovich in a trade? He’s the type of physical, hard-nosed player Boston always seems to chase. Perhaps a mid-round pick and Gadjovich could pry Ritchie away from Boston if he goes unprotected.
2020-21 Stats: 3 GP, 0-0-0
Contract Status: RFA ($2.6 million cap hit in 2021)
In an eerily similar situation to Sven Baertschi, concussions have seemingly derailed the promising career arc of Ondrej Kase. The 25-year-old winger was one of the most underrated even-strength point producers in hockey from 2017-20, with most of that production coming with the Anaheim Ducks.
It hasn’t worked out for Kase in Boston because of multiple injuries, and the Bruins will likely look to move on from this player. There’s a good chance that Kase’s inclusion on this list is a technicality since there’s a strong chance he goes unqualified and becomes an unrestricted free agent.
That seems like the most likely scenario considering Kase’s qualifying offer would have to be $2.6 million. Since that hasn’t come to fruition yet, I thought I’d include Kase here. Regardless of whether it’s a low-cost trade or a UFA signing, Kase might be worth a look on this Canucks team that seriously lacks forward depth.
Which Bruins skater would you like to see the Canucks target this offseason?
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Never make a deal with the Bruins...