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Sunday hockey notes

Jake DeBrusk remains a Bruin, but the question is why?

Heading into the weekend, Jake DeBrusk’s name was not prominent in trade buzz around the NHL.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

As of Saturday morning, Jake DeBrusk was right where he’s been for months, his name still on the Bruins roster, his head and heart still eager to play elsewhere in the Original 32.

Yep, it’s a big league, with some 400 job slots available elsewhere for forwards to seek employment, which would seem to indicate that GM Don Sweeney should have little trouble finding DeBrusk a new employer before the league’s 3 p.m. Monday trade deadline.

By Saturday nightfall, DeBrusk remained a Bruin, but Sweeney had addressed his club’s biggest need, acquiring a top-four blueliner in Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm — immediately making the 6-foot-4-inch Swede, 28, the answer to ride with Charlie McAvoy on the No. 1 pairing.


Lindholm, on track to be a free agent this summer, is on an expiring six-year deal that carries a $5.2 million cap hit. A left stick with some offensive pop (222 points in 582 games), he collected three assists against the Bruins in the Ducks’ 5-3 win at the Garden Jan. 24.

Sweeney turned over two defensemen, ex-first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen and spare John Moore, along with a number of draft picks, including his first-rounder this June. It’s the third time over the last five deadlines that Sweeney has swapped out his first-round pick.

The Bruins also sent the Ducks their Round 2 picks for 2023 and 2024. To even out the money, the Ducks retained 50 percent of what remains on Lindholm’s cap hit.

The weight of what Sweeney yielded heavily suggests he is convinced he can sign Lindholm to a contract extension, or perhaps has an agreement in place. Lindholm’s résumé and prior compensation projects that his next deal will be worth upward of $8 million a year, a cut below McAvoy’s $9.5 million.

As for DeBrusk, be it right or wrong, a red flag typically goes up when a player asks out, especially in the case of a young player (25) making solid money ($4.85 million this year), working for the team that made him a first-round pick, in this case an Original Six club that has made it to the postseason every year since his NHL rookie season (2017-18).


“Something doesn’t add up there,” mused one longtime NHL GM. “Good, solid team … steady management and excellent coach. And everything I hear, he’s a good kid. What am I missing?”

That’s for DeBrusk to answer, of course, but he once again last week declined a Globe reporter’s request to discuss his situation as the deadline approached. Nothing to benefit from talking about it, he said.

Into the weekend, DeBrusk’s name was not prominent in trade buzz around the league. Take that for what it’s worth. Four trade deadlines ago (Feb. 2018), the Bruins weren’t rumored to be on the inside track to acquire Rick Nash, but Sweeney landed the then-Ranger on Feb. 25, slightly more than 24 hours prior to the deadline. Sweeney struck this time with 48 hours left on the clock.

The protracted process with DeBrusk, though not ideal, and in fact risky because of the potential for him to be injured, at least allowed the Bruins to gain a full understanding of what they need to be a bona fide Cup contender this spring. Just as Nash was the perceived remedy for lack of secondary scoring, it became clear in March 2022 that Sweeney had to shore up the backline.


As impressive as they’ve been the last five weeks (12-3-2), they’ve had a couple of obvious soft spots.

First and foremost, Sweeney needed someone with more game than Mike Reilly to play that left side high up in the order. That need has been accentuated because the other current top four regular, the undersized Matt Grzelcyk, is challenged to deliver in the postseason when opposing forecheckers make it a top priority to drive him west of Palookaville.

With Lindholm presumably riding with McAvoy, Grzelcyk can settle even more comfortably into the No. 2 pairing with Brandon Carlo. Reilly will get some reps there, too.

Two other defensemen, Josh Manson (to Colorado) and Ben Chiarot (to Florida), were moved last week, and both would have been solid adds here. Chiarot, who had been in Montreal, has the broader game of the two, but Manson, the ex-Northeastern backliner, has some size (6 foot 3, 215 pounds) and snarl. He landed 10 smacks in his Avalanche debut.

Meanwhile, Lindholm was among four other high-profile defensemen, along with right-shot John Klingberg (Dallas), left-shot Jakob Chychrun (Arizona), and left-shot Mark Giordano, on the board as the weekend approached.

Lindholm has less offensive pop than Klingberg, but he will fit in seamlessly here on the left side. McAvoy has plenty of pop, and should show more with Lindholm at his side. The same would have been true with Chychrun, who has three more seasons on his deal at $4.6 million cap hit, and Giordano, the ex-Flame claimed a year ago in the Kraken’s expansion draft.


Since taking over in 2015, Sweeney twice before surrendered first-round picks at the deadline. The Nash deal in 2018 sent a first-rounder to the Blueshirts and Sweeney followed in 2020 by sending a first-rounder to Anaheim for Ondrej Kase. The ‘20 swap also included the Ducks taking David Backes (the Bruins retaining 25 percent of his pay).

What happened to Nash and Kase was bad luck, both hindered by concussions, but ultimately Sweeney was left with nothing to show for surrendering the coveted picks. He can’t have that happen again. He needs to get Lindholm under contract.

The other need, not as obvious, is toughness. It became an issue last year when Zdeno Chara packed up for the Capitals. It became more glaring this year in the wake of Kevan Miller’s retirement in the offseason.

Absent anyone else eager to throw, Trent Frederic has taken to the role at times this season, including Wednesday night in St. Paul when he traded shots in an old-fashioned chuckfest with Brandon Duhaime.

The deadline’s final hours are upon us. Lindholm is aboard, DeBrusk remains a Bruin. It would be better for both sides for him to move on, ending a narrative that has lingered far too long.


McAvoy studying work of other top defensemen

Charlie McAvoy has looked to improve his game with a little film study.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Let’s go to the tape.

Charlie McAvoy, the latest in the Bruins’ line of august franchise defensemen, hasn’t gone back to look at video of Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque in their Boston glory years for his career studies.


But he has made a point of studying the work of Los Angeles’s Drew Doughty and Dallas’s John Klingberg.

“It’s a big opportunity to grow, through watching other people, absolutely,” said McAvoy, noting the value of watching how others have mastered the position, particularly on the power play. “You know, Doughty … and when we were in Dallas, Klingberg on that one unit, it’s really good the way he moves — a lot of deception. There’s tons of guys you can watch and learn stuff from, and it’s something I’ve talked to a couple of the coaches about, grabbing clips of guys and using that as a tool.”

Bruce Cassidy, considered a prime puck-moving defenseman out of junior hockey (OHL Ottawa), grew up admiring Doug Wilson’s work on the back line. Wilson, eight years older, played for the same 67s junior team and, like Cassidy, was a Blackhawks first-round pick.

“So Wilson was my guy,” said Cassidy. ‘It was tough to get tape back then. He was great at the [offensive zone] blue line. And it was different then, too, on the power play, usually with one at each point and it was dot-to-dot [passing].”

Like McAvoy, noted Cassidy, Doughty and Klingberg are both right sticks, both very adept at working with the puck when the power play is set up in the offensive zone, usually the lone defenseman with four forwards.

One of McAvoy’s great strengths is working the puck off the rush — ”playing downhill” in Cassidy’s terms — while his ability to move laterally along the blue line, looking for options to pass or shoot, is still something he’s developing now nearly five years after making his NHL debut.

“Hip movement is more important for him, as a righty up top, going back to [Brad] Marchand [on the right half-wall],” said Cassidy, explaining how a left stick, like Bourque, would have had an easier time dishing that pass. “I think that’s why [Torey] Krug and [Matt] Grzelcyk had an easier time getting it over there. So those are some things he probably looks at, when [Doughty and Klingberg] are making that play … laterally he is still a work in progress. He’s used to traveling toward the net, making his plays, but laterally is a little bit different animal and I think that’s probably where he’s picking some stuff up.”

With a quarter of the season to go, McAvoy in 2021-22 already has set career highs for goals (8), assists (32), and points (40). He has 162 points in 294 games, a .551 scoring rate that is inching toward the 30-year-old Krug’s .639 pace.


Leafs may have found their next goalie — again

Maple Leafs goaltender Erik Kallgren has been solid as he was pressed into action following an injury to Jack Campbell.Frank Gunn/Associated Press

Looks like the Maple Leafs have found their answer in net. Again. At least for now.

Welcome to the 24-square-foot Blue-and-White jungle, Erik Kallgren.

Kallgren, 25, was promoted from the AHL Marlies and won a couple of games last week, including a 35-save shutout vs. Dallas. He was pressed into duty when No. 1 Jack Campbell was sidelined with a rib injury. But Campbell’s game deteriorated even before the injury, which already had Kallgren tagged as the “next man up " in the Leafs’ order.

Searching for their first Cup title since 1967 (sigh here, Sox fans), the Leafs also have used three other tenders this season — Petr Mrazek, Michael Hutchinson, and former Boston College Eagle Joseph Wall. It’s a process. One the Leafs have learned all too well in recent years. They used four last season, including Campbell and Hutchinson.

Campbell, based on initial prognosis, won’t be back until the end of the week at the earliest. Maybe he’ll be the guy again. Or maybe it’s Kallgren’s job the rest of the way. Or perhaps GM Kyle Dubas will try to conjure up yet another answer prior to Monday’s trade deadline.

The trade buzz had the Blues in recent days dangling Jordan Binnington, who walked away from Game 7 at the Garden with the Cup three years ago this June. His game, too, has taken a slide this season, amid the emergence of Ville Husso as the better option.

Binnington, 28, is in year No. 1 of a six-year/$36 million pact and the Leafs are already more than $3 million over the cap — the books balanced by Jake Muzzin’s $5.625 million assigned to long term injured reserve. Even if Binnington were the right fit, hard to envision the Leafs balancing out the $6 million cap hit.

So for the moment, it looks as if Kallgren, who played all last season back home in Sweden (Vaxjo), will be the guy. Originally an Arizona draftee (No. 183/2015), he came to the Leafs last May as a UFA for an $800,000 guarantee over two years. His Marlies dough this season ($350k) was bumped to the NHL minimum $750k.


Vatrano could cash in on this line

A fourth-liner in Florida, ex-Bruin Frank Vatrano was swapped to the Rangers last week and made his Blueshirt debut on a trio with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome, hoping, in his words, “to be an energy source every single night.”

He’s likely to stay on that line until the injured Kaapo Kakko makes it back to the lineup.

Vatrano, a.k.a. the Springfield Rifle, became a back-bencher among that deep group of Panthers forwards. His contract is expiring, and now he’s playing on a line that includes the magical Panarin.

A deep Ranger playoff run and some decent numbers could refill Vatrano’s pockets as a UFA this summer. After Sweeney dealt him to Florida for a third-rounder in 2018, he soon signed a three-year $7.6 million deal. Only 28, he could get that again if his stick gets hot in the postseason.

Loose pucks

Alex Ovechkin continues to move up in the record books.Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

Alexander Ovechkin pumped in his 767th goal Tuesday at Washington vs. the Islanders, leapfrogging Jaromir Jagr (766) for the No. 3 spot on the NHL all-time list. Up ahead: Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894). Fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up the primary assist. The night closed with 104 NHLers with their names attached to the 1,304 assists on those Ovechkin goals. The top three helpers: Nicklas Backstrom (274), John Carlson (133) and Kuznetsov (87) … Jagr, now 50, and owner-player in Kladno, Czechia, posted a video congratulating Ovechkin as the NHL’s top European goal scorer. Keep it up, said Jags, “because there’s a chance I might come back and start chasing you.” ... Two of the biggest surprises of this season: Evander Kane’s production (22 games: 10-8—18) in his duck-and-cover stop with the Oilers, and the job Martin St. Louis has done (8-6-2 into weekend play) with the laughingstock Habs in his very first coaching gig. Kane spends most of his time on a trio with Connor McDavid and Kailer Yamamoto so he should produce. MSL has guaranteed an extension with the Habs, who are sure to flake off more roster parts before Monday’s trade deadline. His best work: renewing the confidence and joie de vivre inside Cole Caufield, the speed demon right winger. Caufield entered the weekend with an 11-10—21 line in his 16 games under MSL’s watch, after going a meager 1-7—8 across his first 30 games … Another astute pick up by the Flames, acquiring center/right winger Calle Jarnkrok from Seattle for a pocketful of draft picks (Rounds 2, 3, 7). He joins fellow Swedes and best pals Elias Lindholm (also his cousin) and Jacob Markstrom. “When you’re tired and old,” kidded Markstrom in a Calgary Sun story, “you can buy a low-division team in Sweden and get all your friends together. But we just figured we’d do it here instead.” Jarnkork, 30, landed in Seattle via the expansion draft after a solid run with the Predators. He won’t put up big numbers, but he’ll make the Flames better in all three zones and on the penalty kill … Similar to the reconstruction he oversaw with the Rangers, new Habs boss Jeff Gorton and GM Kent Hughes already have picked up two first-round picks, one in the Tyler Toffoli swap to Calgary and the other in the Chiarot deal with the Panthers. And they received two solid young prospects: right winger Emil Heineman from the Flames and Quinnipiac center Ty Smilanic from the Panthers. Heineman also was originally a Panthers pick, but was shipped to the Flames a year ago for Sam Bennett.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.