Bruins trade deadline targets: Hertl above all others; Buy or sell?

Bruins trade deadline targets: Hertl above all else; Buy or sell?
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The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. With that time approaching, PHT will break down how contending teams and hopeful contenders should approach this challenging and exciting time. Sometimes, it won’t be totally clear if a team should even buy or sell at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. We continue today with the Boston Bruins.

Want to get the lowdown on individual players? PHT’s Trade Deadline Primer series profiles prominent potential players on the move, too.

Should Bruins buy or sell at 2022 NHL Trade Deadline?

Truly, you could tie yourself in knots debating whether the Bruins should be trade deadline buyers or sellers.

And, with Jake DeBrusk wanting a trade out, it’s plausible that the Bruins could do some selling even if their focus ends up being on selling.

So many points and counterpoints for buying vs. selling

  • They’re getting older, which means you never know how many shots you have left with the likes of Patrice Bergeron (36) and Brad Marchand (33). Especially since those two are playing at a stunningly high level. Bergeron, at his age, being a clear Selke frontrunner almost feels like an affront to science.
  • Or does that age wave a red flag? After all, the Bruins have been trade deadline sellers often enough to leave their farm system dilapidated.
  • Don’t let their wild-card status fool you. The Bruins are a top-10 (if not top-five) team in the sort of Natural Stat Trick categories that hint at a sleeping giant. Their 24-percent power play success rate ranks seventh, and their 81.8% PK percentage sits at 10th. This is a really good team, if not an elite one.
  • Yet, they face the same conundrum as other East teams, especially in the Atlantic Division. They’re just about certain to face a powerhouse team in the first round. Buying at the trade deadline seems shaky if a deep playoff run is unlikely.

Messy, right?

[PHT’s Power Rankings]

For the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on the Bruins being trade deadline sellers. In that case, they’ll likely push hardest to address their biggest concern: a second-line center. (Adding another defenseman would be nice, but seemingly less pressing.)

When you consider the Bruins’ recent history and fuzzy future, one name stands above all of the rest: Tomas Hertl. Here’s why.

If Bruins are buyers, it’s all about clearing the Hertl hurdle

Tomas Hertl’s situation isn’t simple. Short-sighted or not, the Sharks might not even be willing to trade him.

If Hertl is available, then he’s far and away the most logical trade deadline target for the Bruins. It goes beyond Hertl being one of the best players (theoretically) available now, as he could potentially answer questions about the Bruins’ future.

In late February, The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa detailed how the Bruins emphasize term when they buy at trade deadlines, rather than aiming for “rentals.” That’s spot-on, as big additions like Taylor Hall went from rentals to fixtures.

Hertl, 28, would technically be a rental since he’s on an expiring contract. For the Bruins, and perhaps any Hertl trade partner, it’s probably pivotal that they either hash out an extension, or feel confident one can happen.

Truly, it’s difficult to imagine another trade target checking as many boxes as Hertl potentially could for the Bruins.

  • Hertl would fill that No. 2 center chasm left behind by David Krejci. Frankly, Hertl would be a great No. 1 option for plenty of NHL teams.
  • With Bergeron’s future uncertain, Hertl provides about as strong an insurance policy as you can ask for.

[More on the impact Hertl can make on Bruins, or someone else]

Simply put, centers as well-rounded as Hertl rarely become available through trades or free agency. On paper, Hertl even meshes well with the Bruins’ track record of landing strong two-way forwards. Ponder his player card from Evolving Hockey:

via Evolving Hockey

As a potential rental, Tomas Hertl would bring a lot to the table. Yet, for the Bruins, a possible contract extension would create a huge gulf between Tomas Hertl and any other realistic forward option at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Granted, there’s a catch even if Hertl gets dangled at the trade deadline. Do the Bruins really have the assets to land him or another big fish?

Other forwards Bruins may target at trade deadline

What if the Bruins ease up about that aversion to trade deadline rentals, though?

  • Claude Giroux: If Giroux is flexible (rather than homing in on the Avalanche), then he’s the sort of versatile, high-quality player who could help the Bruins spread the wealth.
  • Joe Pavelski: Like an older Hertl, it’s not clear if Joe Pavelski will be available in a trade. If Pavelski is, he’s another versatile veteran who could make a dominant defensive team that much stouter.
  • J.T. Miller: Consider J.T. Miller more of a library-style longer rental than the late-fee-magnet era of Blockbuster Video’s heyday. You’d get Miller through next season at a solid $5.25M clip. He also echoes Giroux and Pavelski in being a player you could plug into a variety of spots in the lineup. Unfortunately for the Bruins, demand for Miller might push the price beyond their means.
  • Rickard Rakell: Theoretically, Rakell could be a rental-turned-extension, being that he’s also merely 28. Rakell also has some dual position potential like others in this section. He lacks enough “oomph” as an overall player to be worth a big price, though, and may honestly be a wiser bet as a mid-price rental.

(Also, the Bruins have some bad memories of trading for right-handed Ducks forwards after the Ondrej Kase experiment never really got off the ground.)

Perhaps the Bruins should target a defenseman instead?

Look, just about every NHL team wants more quality defensemen. That, plus a fixation on toughness, likely explains why the price seems to skyrocket for seemingly middling options.

Let’s run through a few names that make some sense (sorry, Ben Chiarot). Note that Jakob Chychrun is excluded because it’s especially difficult to fathom the Bruins winning that hypothetical bidding war.

  • John Klingberg: For all of Charlie McAvoy‘s underrated strengths. Klingberg might be a better option as power play QB. The Bruins would be wise to only consider Klingberg a rental, though.
  • Jeff Petry: On the bright side, the 34-year-old would be no rental ($6.25M cap hit through 2024-25). On the grimmer side, his play has slipped enough for there to be some risk involved in trading for him.
  • Mark Giordano: Useful veteran rental help. Would the price be too rich for Boston?

If nothing else, plenty of options for the Bruins

When the smoke clears, the Bruins could do very little at the trade deadline. Such a route might even make the most sense. They may not even get enough of an offer to justify trading Jake DeBrusk at the deadline.

If the Bruins believe they still have a window to contend — unclear, but not unreasonable — and refuse even a gesture at a rebuild, then Tomas Hertl makes an overwhelming amount of sense. You know, if he’s not just sticking with the Sharks.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    MVP Matthew Tkachuk lifts Atlantic to NHL All-Star Game win

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    SUNRISE, Fla. – Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk was right at home at the NHL All-Star Game.

    Again.

    Detroit’s Dylan Larkin had a hat trick, Toronto’s Mitch Marner had three assists and the Atlantic Division topped the Central Division 7-5 in the All-Star Game final on Saturday.

    All-Star Game MVP Matthew Tkachuk – playing alongside his brother Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators – had seven points on the day, after a five-point outburst in a semifinal win over the Metropolitan Division. Larkin had five goals in the Atlantic’s two games.

    “We wanted to get a win for the home crowd, the fans,” Montreal’s Nick Suzuki said. “They did a good job of cheering on the Atlantic Division. We just wanted to put on a good show for them.”

    And for the MVP, winning in front of Panthers fans meant more than just winning.

    “It’s been an honor to play in front of them this whole year and it’s great that the other players in the league can see what a great place this is to play,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “I’m as happy as can be here.”

    Arizona’s Clayton Keller, Dallas’ Jason Robertson, Colorado teammates Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen all had goals for the Central in the final. Makar also had two assists.

    It was the first time the Atlantic won the All-Star Game, after six previous tries in the divisional format. The 11 players – nine skaters and two goalies – on the Atlantic roster split $1 million for the win.

    “It was so much fun,” said Larkin, who had five goals in the two games. “I’m proud of how we won it. What a great group of guys … it was just a great weekend.”

    Matthew Tkachuk has now been on the winning team in both of his All-Star appearances, and both times, he enjoyed the comforts of home. He helped the Pacific win the 2020 All-Star title in St. Louis, his hometown and one of the many spots that his father – Keith Tkachuk, who was in the crowd Saturday – played during his career.

    “I’ve been very fortunate, the two that I’ve been in that I know the ins and the outs of everything that goes on away from the rink,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “It just made it so much more comfortable for me and extra special.”

    And this one truly had home-ice advantage. Matthew Tkachuk – the former Calgary standout who picked Florida this past offseason, despite much speculation that he would be going to St. Louis – had three goals and two assists in the Atlantic’s 10-6 win over the Metropolitan in the second semifinal.

    It was 3-0 Atlantic after the first half of the 20-minute final; all games under this All-Star format are 3-on-3, 20 minutes in length with a brief break after 10 minutes. The lead got to 4-0 early in the second half of the final, giving the Atlantic 10 consecutive goals; it trailed 6-4 in the semifinal before closing on a 6-0 run.

    Larkin scored with 1:06 left to make it 6-2, the first of five goals in a frantic finish.

    “It’s been a blast,” said Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who scored for the Atlantic with 36 seconds left to make it 7-3. “I met a lot of great people.”

    NOTES: The NHL gets right back to play on Monday with six games, including a home game for Florida – meaning it’ll be a quick turnaround for the arena. … The Central Division is now the only one yet to win an All-Star Game in this format. The Pacific has three wins, the Metropolitan has three wins and now the Atlantic has one. … Florida was supposed to host this game in 2021, only to have it canceled by the pandemic. The Panthers hosted All-Star weekend in 2023. … Attendance was a sellout, 19,250.

    SEMIFINAL 1: CENTRAL 6, PACIFIC 4

    Keller had two goals and an assist, MacKinnon scored twice and the Central moved into the title matchup. St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and three assists for the Central. Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson had two goals, while San Jose’s Erik Karlsson and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid also scored for the Pacific.

    SEMIFINAL 2: ATLANTIC 10, METROPOLITAN 6

    The teams combined for a record-tying – in the 3-on-3 era, anyway – 16 goals. Matthew Tkachuk had three goals and two assists, tying a single-game record for the format. Larkin scored twice and Brady Tkachuk had a goal and three assists for the Atlantic. Columbus’ Johnny Gaudreau had three goals for the Metropolitan. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby had two goals and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin had the other.

    UP NEXT

    The next NHL All-Star weekend is Feb. 2-3, 2024 in Toronto.

    Panthers offer Sarah Nurse deal to lead girls hockey program

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are trying to sign a high-scoring forward who has an Olympic gold medal and two world championships, with hopes of getting the deal done in the coming days.

    If it happens, she won’t be playing for the Panthers.

    Sarah Nurse, the Canadian forward who had a highlight-reel goal against the New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin during the NHL’s All-Star Skills Competition, has the chance to run the Panthers’ new program designed to get more girls playing hockey.

    Florida president Matthew Caldwell offered the job to Nurse publicly – very publicly, at a lectern, with a microphone, before a crowd of onlookers. And he was serious.

    “I’m going to embarrass you, but we’re going to offer you a job today,” Caldwell told Nurse, who was seated in the crowd. “We want you to be the face of our girls program at the War Memorial. So, are you in? On the spot? We don’t deal with agents, OK. I’m a tough negotiator.”

    The idea to hire Nurse was first floated to Caldwell by Melissa Fitzgerald. She’s the general manager for the War Memorial, which is the two-rink facility being refurbished by the team and will become its practice headquarters.

    “We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks,” Caldwell told The Associated Press. “Our youth hockey team kind of brought it up as a joke to me, but I said, `Let’s think big. We’re building this huge facility. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.”‘

    The only part Caldwell was less than serious about with Nurse was how the Panthers don’t deal with agents. He spoke with Nurse’s representative, Thomas Houlton, after the event.

    Houlton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He and Caldwell spoke for about 15 minutes after the event, which was attended by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Panthers stars Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk, and dozens of kids who got to play ball hockey afterward.

    Nurse played for Canada’s world-champion teams in 2021 and 2022, along with Canada’s Olympic gold winners at the Beijing Games last year.

    She was one of five women’s players from USA Hockey and Team Canada – the two most dominant women’s national teams in the world – who were part of the skills events. She wore custom skates highlighting Black History month and the Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit focused on getting more Black girls and women into the sport.

    She used a move made famous by Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg when he helped Sweden win gold at the 1994 Olympics against Shesterkin, a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie.

    U.S. star Hilary Knight didn’t think Nurse’s goal should have surprised anyone, saying, “she’s a top scorer.”

    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    “I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

    “It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.