CALGARY — The Anaheim Ducks’ annual visit to Boston used to be an occasion for David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase to break bread.
“We’d go out to dinner every time,” Pastrnak said of his former Czech national teammate. “He’s a similar guy like me. He wants to have fun and play hockey.”
The Bruins hope they’ll soon toast to a championship.
The Bruins solved their most pressing need Friday, adding Kase, an offense-minded right wing, and sending a 2020 first-round pick, three-quarters of David Backes’s salary and a prospect, defenseman Axel Andersson, to Anaheim.
Kase’s combination of age (24), speed, skill and cost ($2.6 million this year and next) convinced general manager Don Sweeney to surrender his first-rounder, which he did in 2018 for Rick Nash, and Andersson, a 2018 second-round pick playing for Moncton of the Quebec Junior League.
“We’re excited,” said Sweeney. “He has a lot of offensive upside and talent overall. But we think with the speed of the game and the speed that he plays at, his shooting ability, that he can continue to grow and integrate into our group and add another dimension to our hockey club.
“I was looking at players that hopefully would fall into that category — that would continue to grow, complement our group. Because we’re in it to win. There’s no question we’re in it to win.”
The Bruins were in the mix for Tyler Toffoli (traded to the Canucks), Blake Coleman (Lightning), the Rangers’ Chris Kreider, the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri, and the Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson. Sweeney said he will continue to look for improvements to the club. It appears, for now, David Krejci has found a right winger.
“We don’t see him often, but he’s skilled, likes to shoot the puck and can play up or down the lineup,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Easiest thing is to say we’ll try him with Krejci, and we probably will, and go from there.”
When healthy and on his game, Kase (6 feet, 182 pounds) has been a finisher and playmaker in Anaheim’s top six and a stabilizing force when skating with less experienced linemates. Health has been his major concern.
He set career highs with 20 goals and 66 games two years ago, but subsequent shoulder surgery and a concussion limited him to 30 games last season (11-9—20). He has played in 49 this season (7-16—23).
Kase has not played since Feb. 7 after taking a heavy hit from Toronto’s Jake Muzzin. Kase returned to practice Thursday, but he will not play Friday against the Flames or Saturday against the Canucks. He is expected to join the club for its Monday practice in Brighton. He could make his Bruins debut Tuesday at TD Garden against Calgary.
“We’re just going to make sure he feels good and ready to go,” Sweeney said. “We’ll just make sure he’s 100 hundred percent. That’s the benefit of having our current team where they are right now.”
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The Bruins, healthy and in first place overall (88 points), were strapping up for their morning skate at Scotiabank Saddledome when they learned of the deal.
“He’s a great kid,” said Chris Wagner, his Ducks teammate for parts of three AHL and NHL seasons. “He’s funny. We called him the Energizer Bunny because on the ice, his motor’s incredible. He competes really hard. And off the ice, he’s a happy-go-lucky kid. Everybody loved him in Anaheim.”
According to NHL broadcasters’ pronunciation guide, his name is pronounced “AWN-dray kah-SHEH.” Wagner said the North Americans in the Ducks locker room called him a variety of nicknames, some hardening the unfamiliar “J” at the end of his first name: “Dredge, Reds, Reggie, Kashi, Chaser . . . ”
In Boston, he’ll be expected to cash his share of feeds from Krejci, who has had rookie Karson Kuhlman (1-4—5 in 21 games) on the right side of late.
“He’s a good player,” Krejci said. “The last couple years he’s shown he can score in this league. He has great skills and good speed. He needs to learn the system quickly and get on the same page. Everything’s going to be new to him, not just whatever line he’s on.”
Second-line left wing Jake DeBrusk didn’t know much about Kase — “I’ve been told he has speed and skill” — but was eager to add more octane to the offense before another Stanley Cup playoff run.
“We’re first in the league right now,” he said. “It says the team has confidence in us to make another push and change the outcome of last year.”
Kase, who has two goals in 13 career playoff games (2017, ’18) was a seventh-round pick (205th overall) of Anaheim in 2014. He was taken six rounds after the Bruins scored Pastrnak at No. 25. Kase is from Kadan, Czechia, a northwest city near the German border.
He has played four of his five career games against the Bruins at TD Garden (1-1—2). He was a bright spot in Anaheim’s 4-2 loss in October, nearly scoring on a breakaway in a matinee remembered for Pastrnak’s four-goal game.
“High-end skill,” defenseman Torey Krug said of Kase. “Fast player. I think he’ll complement our lineup. Like every other Czech guy, he’s got some creativity. You’ve got to be careful defending him. I think we got a good one.”
The Bruins also parted ways with Backes, who signed a five-year, $30 million deal in 2016 and delivered 39 goals and 94 points in 217 games, though just one goal and two assists in 16 games this season. The team will carry $1.5 million on their cap through 2021.
Getting out Backes’s deal gives the Bruins some $4.5 million extra to spend before Monday’s trade deadline, or save for offseason negotiations with Krug (unrestricted free agent), DeBrusk (restricted free agent), and Matt Grzelcyk (RFA).
Sweeney, Cassidy and several players expressed their sadness over seeing Backes leave the organization.
“He’s grinded so hard in this league,” Wagner said. “Hopefully he gets a chance in Anaheim.”
Backes, 35, was waived Jan. 17 and per mutual agreement with the Bruins, did not report to AHL Providence. He last played on Jan. 9. Sweeney said Backes, who had in his contract a choice of eight teams to which he would accept a trade, agreed to add Anaheim to that list.
“He sounds very eager,” Ducks GM Bob Murray told reporters. “He’s been a leader all his life . . . He wants to show everybody that he still can play.”