Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci announcing their retirements, it is clear that the Boston Bruins need to address their depth at center. Although they have a rising prospect in Matthew Poitras and two solid centers in Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha, expecting them to replace Bergeron and Krejci is a tall ask. As a result, we should expect to see the Bruins target centers, whether it is at the deadline or during the next offseason.

The Bruins were dealt tough news with expected target Mark Scheifele signing an extension with the Winnipeg Jets earlier this month, but they still have some high-impact centers they can look at through trade or next summer during free agency. Let’s discuss a few of them now.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been a name in the rumor mill for quite some time, and things heightened during this offseason with a reported trade request. Although a trade did not go down, one has to wonder if Kuznetsov could generate more trade buzz during the season. This is especially so if the Capitals have another poor season in 2023-24.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Kuznetsov is an excellent playmaker when playing at his best. For example, in 2021-22, he posted 24 goals and 78 points in 79 games. Yet, he also is coming off a down season, posting 12 goals and 55 points in 82 games. Thus, for the Bruins to truly consider him, he will need to have a bounce-back season.

Kuznetsov carries a $7.8 million cap hit until the end of next season, so the Bruins would need Washington to retain some salary and take players back in a potential swap in a potential in-season trade. However, if Kuznetsov heats back up, it may be an avenue worth exploring, whether it is during this season or during the offseason when they will have much more cap space to work with.

Logan Couture/Tomas Hertl

The San Jose Sharks have embraced a full-on rebuild in recent years, parting ways with former core players like Erik Karlsson, Timo Meier, and Brent Burns. With the Sharks likely not going to compete for quite some time, could veterans Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl eventually be shopped? It seems quite possible.

Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sharks general manager (GM) Mike Grier recently told Curtis Pashelka that he would consider exploring trading Couture and/or Hertl if they ever wanted to be moved. Couture has a three-team trade list, while Hertl has a full no-movement clause (NMC), so they have control over if they will be eventually moved.

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If either Couture or Hertl expresses interest in a move, the Bruins would likely be in the mix. Similar to Kuznetsov, a trade during the season would have obstacles to overcome because of their higher salaries, but it would be quite more doable during the summer. That is, if they are open to a trade to Boston, of course.

Elias Lindholm

Elias Lindholm was viewed as a prime trade target during the offseason. It is understandable, as the Bruins lost Bergeron this offseason, and Lindholm has become an excellent two-way forward in recent years. With that, he is entering the final season of his contract, so he would be a reasonable trade target for the Bruins this season if the Calgary Flames shop him at the deadline. If not then, he would surely be on Boston’s radar if he becomes a free agent in July 2024.

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Lindholm would give the Bruins a legitimate first-line center to work with. Thus, expect the Bruins to be connected to him until he either signs an extension with the Flames, gets traded or signs with a different team, or officially comes to Boston. On paper, he seems like a wonderful fit for the Bruins, but time will tell if he ends up in Boston.

Steven Stamkos

Steven Stamkos is an intriguing player to pay attention to. The superstar center expressed disappointment due to the lack of extension talks between him and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile, Lightning general manager (GM) Julien BriseBois has confirmed that he is going to wait until after the season to make a decision about Stamkos’ future with the club.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2021 Stanley Cup (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

A trade for Stamkos seems a bit unrealistic, at least at this juncture. Even with Andrei Vasilevskiy out for the start of the season, their goal is to be a playoff team, and trading their captain to a division rival will not happen if they remain competitive. With that, Stamkos has a full NMC, so he would need to approve any potential trade. That only heightens the difficulty of an in-season move, both for the Bruins and any other team. Yet, if the Lighting fall off this season and shop Stamkos, it would not be surprising if the Bruins at least call about Stamkos.

If the Lightning keep him for the season but decide that Stamkos is not a part of their future and he hits the free-agent market next summer, he surely should be on Boston’s radar. Per Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now, an NHL executive told him that the Bruins were “pushed hard for Stamkos” previously, so they clearly like the player. I mean, how could they not? He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion and a consistent point-per-game player.

Nevertheless, the Bruins have some centers to keep an eye on both this season and during the offseason. Their limited cap space makes things more challenging for an in-season trade, but next summer offers plenty of room for opportunity when they have several contracts off the books.

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