Could the Bruins get Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in a trade involving Torey Krug?
OTTAWA — Tossing a few snowballs from Canada’s chilly capital, which is dusted in white but has yet to ice over.
■ So, who had Don Sweeney’s eye Sunday, when the Bruins general manager was spotted in Edmonton’s Rogers Place for the Oilers-Flames clash?
Warning: Some speculation ahead.
As promising as David Krejci has looked centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak of late, the Bruins are in need of pop. Patrice Bergeron’s return, whenever that comes, will help. But this forward group, while not lacking effort and grit, has a few too many plumbers and greenhorns.
The Bruins, trying to keep pace with Toronto and Tampa Bay, could use an experienced, highly skilled attacker. Edmonton needs playmaking help, particularly on the back end. In their last dozen games, the Oilers (30 goals) and Bruins (25) are among the league’s most feeble at scoring. Through 30 games, they rank 26th and 27th, respectively, in goals per game.
If Sweeney and old pal Peter Chiarelli want to go blockbuster, why not explore a deal involving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Torey Krug? Sure, NHL GMs rarely trade high-profile players with term. But as noted above, these rosters have issues. In making a swap, they could address them and maximize return on two sizable assets.
Krug was of interest to the Oilers last summer. He might look more appealing now. After a pair of goals and three assists over the weekend, he climbed to T-19 in defenseman scoring (2-15—17). Krug, just 19 games (five weeks) into his season, seems to have shaken any rust from his offseason (and preseason) ankle injuries.
The 5-foot-9-inch Krug is one of the game’s better puck-movers. That quality is lacking in Edmonton, where only Oscar Klefbom has shown flashes. The Oilers are also different from other teams who could use offensive-minded D-men — such as Detroit and St. Louis — in the sense that they’re not dreaming of lottery prize Jack Hughes.
A team with Connor McDavid should be thinking playoffs, not ping-pong balls. Chiarelli, who already replaced his coach, could be shown the door if Edmonton doesn’t make it to the postseason. The Oil awoke Monday morning a point out, at 16-12-2, and were 7-2-1 under the defensive-minded Ken Hitchcock.
All forwards would get a lift with an elite distributor like Krug, 27, who is due $5.25 million against the cap the next two years. Say he maintains his current production (40-plus points) until that deal runs out. Are the Bruins adding $2 million-plus to his wallet, with Charlie McAvoy on his second contract?
His trade value might be highest now. Similar for Nugent-Hopkins, 25, who carries a slightly larger hit ($6 million the next three).
Nugent-Hopkins, drafted No. 1 overall in 2011, plays center and wing. His anticipation and playmaking are elite, his defensive game is sound, his skating is above-average. Production-wise, the 2012 Calder Trophy finalist didn’t skyrocket after his 18-34—52 debut, setting career bests of 24 goals and 56 points in the six years since. This season, he has 8 goals and 18 assists in 30 games, the best points-per-game mark of his career. His stock is high.
He would be a hefty piece to surrender, and the Oilers would need a replacement in the top six. The Bruins could sweeten things with a forward prospect. Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork have two years on their entry-level deals. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Donato, and Danton Heinen go RFA after this season.
The top choice would likely be DeBrusk, with 10 goals so far. The Edmonton native would look great flying around with McDavid. The Bruins wouldn’t part with him easily. He is one of their hardest-working forwards, has plenty of jump and jam, and they have him for two more years at short money.
Krug has a modified no-trade clause, but maybe he’d want the chance to tee it up for one of the game’s greats, and thus keep the Oilers off an eight-team list he would submit if the Bruins wanted to move him.
A few more ifs to consider:
If they remove Krug’s minutes and production from their lineup, the Bruins would trust McAvoy is healthy, ready to be a go-to offensive D, and willing to sign long-term. It would mean more on Matt Grzelcyk’s plate, as well as Jeremy Lauzon’s (until Zdeno Chara returns, possibly sometime in the next few weeks).
If Bergeron’s rib/sternoclavicular injury, slated for evaluation around the Christmas break, requires surgery, Nugent-Hopkins would be much-needed insurance in the top six.
If Edmonton wants native son DeBrusk, it’ll have to be confident he’s healthy. Conked in the head recently by friendly fire, he could miss a third consecutive game Tuesday when the Bruins host the Coyotes.
Major moves in-season are rare. Ones before the trade deadline are exceedingly so. But Chiarelli, who once dealt both Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall, has no reason to be gun-shy. Sweeney, if willing to take a shot, could add a piece that extends his Cup window.
■ Krejci earned a ton of praise, rightfully so, after his assist on Krug’s goal Saturday against Toronto put him in 10th place on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list (593 points).
“His offensive abilities are ridiculous,” David Backes said after the game. “His vision, his shiftiness, his ability to control the puck and see the ice and then make the saucer pass that flies all the way to where it needs to be and land where it needs to land . . . a very special player.”
He could have repeated himself Sunday, after Krejci conjured the OT winner in Ottawa. His pass from the goal line, saucered through a maze of pads and sticks to Krug’s tape, was a beauty.
■ Coach Bruce Cassidy said he will keep the Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak line together, at least until DeBrusk returns. “They were flying,” he said Sunday. Marchand felt the unit “could have had four or five goals.”
■ The Bruins put winger Martin Bakos on unconditional waivers, Sportsnet reported Monday. In 16 games for AHL Providence, Bakos posted a 3-1–4 line.
■ The Coyotes, bobbing along at 13-13-2, come to TD Garden for a 7 p.m. Tuesday tilt. They have by far the league’s best penalty kill (90.2 percent) and are tied for fourth in goals against (2.71 per game). The Bruins survived, 2-1, in Glendale, Ariz., on Nov. 17, their first full night without Bergeron.
Ideally, he’s back by the Winter Classic. If not . . . bring on the Nuge.