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Looking at the Lindholm trade from a B's price view

February 1, 2024, 9:59 PM ET [13 Comments]
Ty Anderson
Boston Bruins Blogger •Bruins Feature Columnist • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The long-speculated dream of Elias Lindholm donning a Bruins jersey is dead.

For now, anyway.

Frequently mentioned as a fit for the Bruins in the post-Bergeron era, the Flames officially moved on from the 29-year-old pending unrestricted free agent and sent him to Vancouver on Wednesday. And for a return that's best described as an absolute haul.

Looking at this trade from a Boston scope, the first question one has is, could the Bruins have matched that kind of package? And if so, what would it have looked like? Well, good thing there's absolutely nothing else to do during a preposterously long break.

The lone NHL piece Vancouver sent to Calgary was Russian winger Andrei Kuzmenko.

A 27-year-old who can play both left and right wing, Kuzmenko waived his no-trade clause to facilitate the trade, and is in the midst of a season that’s included eight goals and 21 points through 43 games. It almost goes without saying that it’s a steeeeeeep drop from the 39-goal, 74-point season Kuzmenko put together for the Canucks a year ago. Kuzmenko had spent part of his season in the Rick Tocchet doghouse — and man, did it feel like he was deep in there — and another issue for Kuzmenko was that he simply wasn’t the same scoring threat when not skating with Canucks superstar Elias Pettersson.

Kuzmenko, who spent his entire career in the KHL prior to jumping over last year, also has this year and next at a $5.5 million cap hit before hitting unrestricted free agency in 2026.

And it's not hard to see who that sounds a bit like from a Boston view: Jake DeBrusk.

Now, DeBrusk hasn’t been in Jim Montgomery’s doghouse the way he was in the Winchester, Mass. one owned by Bruce Cassidy, and that’s remained the case this year, even with DeBrusk’s scoring struggles in the first half of the year. And even when DeBrusk was late to a team meeting and earned a healthy scratch, Montgomery didn’t go scorched earth on him to the media, and instead stressed the standards of the organization.

But similar to Kuzmenko and his issues at scoring without Pettersson, DeBrusk has learned that life without Patrice Bergeron is a lot harder than you’d think as a scoring threat, as DeBrusk has struggled to match last year’s scoring pace (27 goals in 64 games) through the first leg of the year, with 12 goals in 47 games.

Kuzmenko does have one more year of team control compared to DeBrusk, who is a pending free agent this summer, but the salaries are relatively close, with DeBrusk at $4 million. (But, of course, that could mean everything to the Flames, who have hard a difficult time retaining talent in recent years for a number of reasons.)

If it's control the Flames wanted, however, Trent Frederic would've been an option as well. Frederic, in the midst of a career year, is paced for 23 goals and 50 points this year, and is signed through 2024-25 at $2.3 million.

But here’s where things get interesting for the Bruins: I’m honestly not sure that this team has a super close, slam dunk kind of comp for defenseman Hunter Brzustewicz, who was moved from the Vancouver pipeline to the Calgary pipeline in Wednesday’s trade.

A third-round pick in 2023, the 19-year-old Brzustewicz has recorded eight goals and 69 points in 47 games for OHL Kitchener this season. His 69 points are the third-most among all OHL skaters. Not just among defensemen. But all OHL skaters. As a defenseman! (A defenseman!)

The B’s don’t have anybody posting those kind of numbers, but especially not from the backend, in their system. Hell, they don’t have any defenders doing anything close to that at the pro level. But is anybody close?

If we want to keep this simple and boil it down to ‘best D in the system’, then first-year pro Mason Lohrei is the guy going to Calgary in a Lindholm-to-Boston trade.

Already ahead of schedule from where many thought he would be after leaving Ohio State University after two seasons (eight goals and 61 points in 71 total games for the Buckeyes), Lohrei has made 27 appearances for Boston this season, with three goals and six points over that NHL run. In Providence, the 6-foot-4 Lohrei has put up one goal and 10 points in 13 games for Ryan Mougenel’s squad.

But if you’re looking for a direct comparison to Brzustewicz in terms of age and OHL success, Matt Poitras would have been the guy for the Flames in talks with Boston.

While Poitras is in his first NHL season, it was just a year ago that Poitras tore up the OHL as a top-line threat for Guelph, with 16 goals and 95 points in 63 games for the Storm. The 5-foot-10 Poitras’ 79 assists were the second-most among all OHL skaters, while his 95 points were tied for the fifth-most. That’s similar production to Brzustewicz, albeit from a different position, but also as a non-first round pick (Poitras was selected with a second-round selection, No. 54 overall, in the 2022 NHL Draft).

And similar to Lohrei, Poitras is cost-controlled and team-controlled for the foreseeable future.

But, again, weighing this as Poitras vs. Lohrei, it’s certainly worth noting that the Flames currently have five pending unrestricted free agents on their NHL blue line. The Flames’ prospect pool isn’t exactly loaded on the backend, either, which would set Lohrei up as a definite want for the club. Looking at it from that scope, it feels like the Flames would’ve preferred Lohrei over Poitras.

Another big move that would’ve been required from the Bruins here would’ve been the parting of yet another first-round pick from Don Sweeney’s already-barren cupboard.

Now, the Bruins are already without their 2024 first-round pick. They moved that to Detroit in last year’s deadline move for Tyler Bertuzzi (and the Red Wings have since sent that to Ottawa). It’s worth noting that that was a top-10 protected pick, and with the Bruins sitting atop the NHL standings, barring something downright catastrophic, that’s a pick that is making its way to the Senators this summer.

So, let’s say that it would’ve been a 2025 first-round pick sent to Calgary.

To recap, that would’ve meant that the Bruins traded first-round picks in 2018 (Rick Nash trade), 2020 (Ondrej Kase deal), 2022 (Hampus Lindholm trade), 2023 (Dmitry Orlov trade), 2024, and 2025. SHEESH. It also would’ve meant that the only first-round picks made by the Bruins over an eight-draft stretch would’ve been Johnny Beecher (2019) and Fabian Lysell (2021). DOUBLE SHEESH.

On a lesser note — at least from a capital out the door standpoint — the Canucks also parted with defensive prospect Joni Jurmo in the deal for Lindholm.

A 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds, Jurmo pops off the page as a pure athlete. But that hasn’t exactly translated to top-tier prospect status (most rankings had him listed outside Vancouver’s top 10. And he’s almost four years removed from his draft year selection (the Canucks took him with the 82nd overall pick in 2020), and he’s still playing overseas. Now, part of that may be his own decision, as well as a decision made by management, but after a while, you naturally wonder if a) he’s ever going to come over and b) if he’s good enough to come over.

On the low end of the scale for the Bruins, the comp there would likely be Jonathan Myrenberg. A fifth-round pick in 2021, Myrenberg is currently playing in Sweden’s top league. On the higher end of the spectrum, perhaps Frederic Brunet would be a ‘better’ pick for the Flames. A fifth-round pick in 2022, Brunet was one of the highest-scoring defenders in the Q during his time there, and is currently playing in Providence as a 20-year-old, with one goal and eight points in 25 games for the Baby B’s this season.

Piecing it all together — and in what is a true waste of time considering that Lindholm is already gone and we have no clue if the Bruins were actually in on Lindholm prior to the trade — the Bruins’ package to Calgary would’ve likely required Jake DeBrusk, Mason Lohrei, a future first, and a lower-tiered prospect.

That’s an awful lot for a Bruins team that, to be honest, has gotten by with Charlie Coyle, Pavel Zacha, and strong contributions from the bottom six at the center position. It could always be better, and the Bruins themselves would be the first to tell you that, but the center play has not been so poor that it would warrant a true ‘balls to the wall’ kind of trade like that to address the center position.

But if you were called at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and told that this is what it would’ve taken to bring Lindholm to Boston, where an extension would surely await him based on how Sweeney operates, would you have done it?

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has been covering the Bruins since 2010, and has been a member of the Boston chapter of the PHWA since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, HockeyBuzz.com or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter/X: @_TyAnderson.
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