It’s been assumed for weeks now that the Boston Bruins were in the market for a winger before the NHL trade deadline.
On Friday, they made it happen. It just wasn’t the winger most people were expecting.
The Bruins acquired forward Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for David Backes, the Bruins’ 2020 first-round draft pick, and defense prospect Axel Andersson.
The Bruins had previously been connected to wingers like New York’s Chris Kreider and New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri.
Kase obviously takes them in a very different direction.
He is still only 24 years old, signed through next season at a salary cap hit of just $2.4 million, and will still only be a restricted free agent once that contract expires. In other words, he is not a rental, and is instead a player that could be a significant part of the Bruins’ lineup for the foreseeable future.
Now the question shifts to what he can provide them. The big question mark with Kase has always been health. Injuries have severely limited him throughout the first four years of his career (including this season) as he has managed to play in just 198 games (out of a potential 306) since the start of the 2016-17 season.
When he is healthy, though, he has shown the ability to be a top-six winger with 20-25 goal ability while also being an excellent possession driver. He has done all of that while playing on one of the most inept offensive teams in the league. He seems like the type of young player that could be on the verge of a breakout if you put him on a good team with good players around him. That opportunity will be there for him in Boston.
The other key to the deal for Boston is shedding the rest of Backes’ contract. He still has one more year remaining on a deal that pays him $6 million per season. The Bruins are retaining 25 percent of that salary. That also creates some additional salary cap space this season for another potential trade before Monday. The Bruins already have the league’s best record with 88 points as of Friday, holding a three-point lead over the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.
Whether or not Backes has any real long-term role in Anaheim remains to be seen. They could do what Carolina did with Patrick Marleau over the summer and buy him out, while netting a first-round pick and a prospect. It is still a risky trade from the Ducks’ perspective because they did not need to trade Kase, while he still has the potential to blossom into the player they originally thought he could be. If that happens in Boston, they are going to have to hope they hit on that first-round pick and that Andersson is an NHL player to make it worth it.
Andersson was selected by the Bruins in the second-round (No. 57 overall) of the 2018 NHL draft. He is currently playing for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL where he has two goals and 20 assists in 41 games played this season.