It’s no secret that the Bruins are looking for a left shot defenseman that can ideally play top-4 minutes and could be paired with Charlie McAvoy. If Trader Don can successfully participate in the market the Bruins could have a top six that looks something like this:
Chara – Carlo
????? – McAvoy
Krug – Miller
If the Bruins pick up that left shot defenseman either by trade or free agency I am assuming Adam McQuaid would be moved out. That way it would allow the Bruins a guy like Rob O’Gara be the 7th defenseman. When O’Gara broke camp with the Bruins last season, and when he made his NHL debut, he played the right side. He has the ability to play both on the right side and left side with 7th man spot starts.
So far this off season Don Sweeney has not been able to pull off a trade for a top 4 left shot defenseman. I don’t think we’re suprised by that. And with free agency starting up this Saturday (July 1st) maybe the Bruins dip their toe, or cannonball, into it for the solution.
The biggest catch for a left shot defenseman this season would be Karl Alzner but he is going to cost big money and term in order to sign. With all the left shot defenseman prospects that the Bruins have I just do not see them doing this.
The smart play would be to look at some of the lower (cost) risk, high reward type of opportunities. And there are some of those available.
The first player I am thinking of that would fit the low risk, high reward would be Dmitry Kulikov. Kulikov had a terrible season in Buffalo, but the team was equally as terrible and he was fighting some injuries. This is low risk as Kulikov might be willing to take a one year deal for not a lot of money to rebuild his value.
During the 2016 draft the Bruins were rumored to be trying to trade for Kulikov so the interest has been there. Kulikov has the pedigree of being a first round pick, being selected 14th overall by Florida in the 2009. And Kulikov primarily played for bad teams in Florida. His best season came in 2015-2016 season when Florida won the Atlantic Division. In 74 games he was a plus-8 while picking up 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists). However last season he only played 47 games, yet managed average 21:54 in ice time. Over the last 6 season Kulikov has averaged 21:21 of ice time per game.
Essentially, playing top 4 minutes over the past 6 season could be a good option for the Bruins on a short term deal. It could be a win-win for both the B’s and the player.
Another option of a left shot defenseman that the Bruins could sign that would be low risk, high reward is Simon Despres. Despres has only played in 33 games in the past two seasons due to concussions but he must be healthy again because the Ducks bought out his contract. Teams are not allowed to buy out contracts of injured players.
Despres is big at 6’4” and 218 pounds, skates well, and has a little bit of offensive upside. He was also a 2009 first round pick (30th overall) like Kulikov. Despres best season came in 2014-2015 season when his season was split between Pittsburgh and his new trade deadline home, Anaheim. He played in 75 games and had 23 points (3 goals and 20 assists) while being a plus-11. Despres played in 32 games in 2015-2016 season, averagering 19:38 of ice time, and only played in one game this past season. He logged 16:08 minutes in that game.
Despres might have the bigger upside than Kulikov, but Kulikov has proven to be able to consistently handle top 4 minutes. Yet Despres is bigger and might bring more offensively than Kulikov. They are both 26 years old so they should still be improving as they both enter their prime.
Due to Despres concussion issues I would side more with signing Kulikov and hope that his terrible season last year was just a fact of playing for an atrocious team in Buffalo while being injured. Either way, these are just a couple under the radar options the Bruins should look over when shopping on Saturday.
Who’s another low risk, high reward you’d want to see the Bruins pursue?
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