Don Sweeney made his move behind the bench by replacing Claude Julien with Bruce Cassidy.
His next move may be with his roster.
For most of Sunday’s 18-minute second intermission, the Bruins general manager spoke to Colorado counterpart Joe Sakic in Section N24 of TD Garden’s press box. It’s unlikely they were comparing powder conditions between Boston and Denver.
Colorado’s season is over. On Sunday, while Sakic was in Boston, his team was in Brooklyn, losing to the Islanders by a 5-1 score. The Avalanche have mastered losing, just like ex-coach Patrick Roy had foreseen when he stepped away and said no thanks to flogging himself behind the Colorado bench in 2016-17.
Sakic, credentialed to be at the Garden alongside assistant GM Chris MacFarland and amateur scout Neil Shea, is the steward of the worst team in the league. The Avalanche have 32 points, putting them 28 out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
So as much heat as Sweeney is feeling, Sakic could be under even more pressure to initiate an overhaul in Denver.
Every player — save for Nathan MacKinnon —
So while Sakic would love to score assets for Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque, Fedor Tyutin, and John Mitchell, all on expiring contracts, this is not where Sweeney is sniffing. The Bruins prefer help that will extend beyond this year.
“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer term,” Sweeney said last Tuesday after firing Julien. “Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt, in the same regard, that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate. Are there players and do we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate, and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”
If the Bruins want to play big-name ball, it will cost them the standard package of young player, prospect, and pick. Players such as Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano, Peter Cehlarik, and Colin Miller are not likely to raise Sakic’s eyebrows when it comes to a significant deal.
Brandon Carlo, however, is a different story.
The Avalanche have some blue-line pieces in Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Francois Beauchemin, and Nikita Zadorov. But part of the reason they’ve allowed a league-high 3.4 goals per game is because the defense remains under construction. Of all the areas they’d like to rebuild, the blue line is the Avalanche’s priority. Carlo would be squarely in their crosshairs.
Carlo is from Colorado Springs. But making a push for a hometown player is not the primary motivation behind Colorado’s interest.
Carlo hits a whole lot of checkmarks for any team: 20 years old, 6 foot 5 inches with a long reach and excellent stick skills, right-shot defenseman, earning entry-level dough through 2019, a free-and-easy skating style, and a ceiling that makes coaches dreamy. Every GM is seeking such a package. Considering his assets, Carlo is pretty much untouchable, especially for a Black-and-Gold roster that has defensive shortcomings as well.
Under normal circumstances, the Bruins would tell Carlo-hungry teams like the Avalanche to pound sand. But this is an unusual time for the Bruins. They have fired the winningest coach in team history. They are fighting not just to make the playoffs but to reshape the roster for years to come. They require more presence at left wing behind Brad Marchand. This may be where they take a run at Landeskog.
The Bruins have liked the hard-nosed forward for a while. Landeskog hit his high-water mark in 2013-14, when he scored 26 goals and 39 assists in 81 games while logging 71 penalty minutes. Like most of his teammates, Landeskog, 24, is having a down season. He has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games. He is in the third season of a seven-year, $39 million contract. Whether Landeskog’s dip is indicative of future struggles is unknown.
The Bruins have options on the right side. Charlie McAvoy, their 2016 first-round pick, appears ready to be a full-time NHLer this fall. They also have Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid, although they are likely to lose one of the right-shot defensemen to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.
They may also be developing a long-term conclusion on Carlo. He can skate, close off plays with his stick, and rush the puck. But Carlo does not project to be a puck-moving, offensive-minded, pace-pushing defenseman like McAvoy. The way he played under Julien, Carlo’s future looked to be as a shutdown defenseman, which is an easier profile to fill.
The trade deadline is March 1. A big-time hockey trade may be hard to execute before then. The Avalanche are in no rush to deal before the deadline when more teams will be in play at the draft in June.
The trade market is currently frozen. The Bruins and Avalanche could get it flowing.