It's no secret the misfires in the 2015 first round set the Bruins back a lot. With two of those three picks hardly seeing NHL ice, and players taken just a few spots later turning into stars. The only member of the trio to pan out so far is Jake Debrusk. With him in need of a new contract, he might be shipped out in a move to get back into this year's first-round.
This year's draft has the potential to be the deepest in recent history. Bruins GM Don Sweeney has not hidden the fact he wants to get back into the first round somehow. Could trading his only successful pick from the 2015 first-round be his ticket back? Debrusk Will be a restricted free agent this offseason. His demands will be a big factor in whether he stays or is moved in a trade for a first-round pick.
In his three seasons Debrusk has scored 43, 42, and 35 pointsm adding 16, 27, and 19 goals respective. While he has shown flashes of being a dominant goal-scoring force, inconsistency has been holding him back from taking his game to the next level. It's that inconsistency that is causing these rumors to start making their rounds. If Debrusk was showing consistent improvement over his first three years he would be thought of as a core player for years to come. However, the up and down nature of his game is causing some to wonder if his full potential will be reached, and if it's best to cash in on that potential ceiling while it's still an unknown.
The first comparable contract belongs to Jakub Vrana. The 13th pick in the 2014 draft has progressed in each of his NHL seasons. Scoring just six points in 21 games during his first season, to 27 points in 73 games and then 47 points in 82 games last year. Over the summer Vrana signed a bridge deal with a cap hit of $3.35 Million each of the next two seasons.
The next contract belongs to Alex Tuch, the 18th pick in the 2014 draft. Finally getting some ice time over the last two years with the Golden knights Tuch scored 37 points in 78 games, and then 52 points in 74 games last season. During that summer Tuch signed a seven-year deal with a $4.75 Million cap hit per year. While it may be an overpay in the short term, continued development from Tuch could make this contract a steal in a few years.
Now we move on to a cornerstone of Detroit's future with Anthony Mantha. The 20th pick in the 2013 draft is in the final year of a $3.3 Million bridge deal he signed after the 2017-18 season. During his first full-time NHL season Mantha played in 60 games, scoring 36 points. He followed that up with 48 points in 82 games the next season. Coming up on free agency yet again, Mantha is set to cash in this offseason, potentially showing the upside of signing a young player to a longer-term deal.
The next contract belongs to Tomas Hertl who was the 17th pick in the 2012 draft. Hertl is already on his third contract after completing his entry-level deal and a two-year bridge deal. After his rookie season was cut short Hertl was able to play the majority of games in three of the next four seasons. He had 31 points in 82 games, 46 points in 81 games, 22 points in 49 games and 46 points in 79 games during the 2017-18 season. During that summer Hertl signed a 4-year deal carrying an annual cap hit of $5.625 Million.
All of these players were first-round picks with similar numbers to Debrusk. I chose all of them to show a range of possible deals Debrusk could ask for in the coming offseason. If Debrusk is willing to take a short term cheaper bridge deal I don't see him being moved. However, if Debrusk is after a more expensive long-term deal the Bruins might have to trade him for a pick, with the salary cap likely to drop heading into next season.
Potential Trade Partners
If Debrusk’s asking price is too high there is going to be a long list of interested teams. The first potential trade partner is the New Jersey Devils. With three pucks in the first round the Devils could still draft some great prospects for the future, while also adding a proven NHL talent. With plenty of cap space and a need for some goal scoring, the Devils could move either the Arizona first-round pick, currently 10th, or Vancouver's pick at 17. The draft lottery and the completion of the regular season could change those picks spots, but for now either could be a potential target for the Bruins in a trade.
Next, we move on to the Minnesota Wild. The Wild currently own two first-round picks, their own and the Penguins’. With Koivu possibly retiring, and a likely pay cut for Galchenyuk if he stays with the team, the Wild would have space to trade for and sign Debrusk. While the Pittsburgh’s pick currently sits at 24th, the Wild’s is at number 11. If Minnesota were to make a trade for Debrusk their 11th pick would be the centerpiece of the Bruins return.
The final team who could potentially trade for Debrusk is the Florida Panthers. Currently outside the playoffs after making some big offseason moves, the Panthers are desperate for a playoff berth. With both,Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov potentially leaving in free agency, Debrusk would make for a solid replacement for one of them. Florida currently sits with the 14th pick in the first round, which would be a good return for the Bruins.
With the Bruins moving on from Debrusk in this situation the player they drafted with the returning pick would be a replacement. All of the previously mentioned teams have picks in the 10-15 range, which would give the Bruins a chance to draft a very talented prospect.
The first prospect the Bruins could look to draft is right-winger Jack Quinn. Quinn is on the older sid,e turning 19 on September 19th, and has used his age to his advantage. After a decent OHL season last year, Quinn has found his game and become one of the best players available in this year's draft. Jumping from 32 points to 89 points with 52 goals this season, Jack Quinn might have the best shot of any player in this year's draft. Quinn was ranked 19th in Bob McKenzie’s midseason rankings back in January, and has probably risen even higher with his impressive play. If he is available when the Bruins make their pick I don't see them passing on the opportunity to add him.
The next prospect the Bruins could target is forward Noel Gunler. At 6 foot 2, and with the ability to play either wing position, Gunler’s size and versatility would make him a great addition to Boston. In 45 SHL games Gunler has scored 13 points and has a plus 12 plus-minus. Both are impressive stats for an 18 year old playing against seasoned professionals in Sweden’s top league. Gunler’s production also has him on pace with higher-ranked forwards Holtz and Raymond. While he might not be as highly ranked as his fellow countrymen, his elite scoring talent could make him a staple in the Bruins top six for years to come. While he would likely need to start the year in the AHL to adjust to North American rinks, I wouldn't be surprised if he was at the NHL level before the end of the season.
Now we move on to a player who could be the steal of the draft if he fell to the Bruins outside the top 10 in Seth Jarvis. Jarvis has seen his game grow leaps and bounds over the year, putting up 98 points in 58 games. That point total has him ranked second in the entire WHL ,even outscoring last year's 7th overall pick Dylan Cozens, all while still being just 17 years old. Jarvis is an effortless skater, using his superior speed and great hands to create scoring chances all over the offensive zone. Quickly rising up many draft boards, Seth was ranked 24th by Bob McKenzie back in January, but many mock drafts have him in their top 15 now. If the Bruins have a shot to pick him they would be wise not to pass up the opportunity.
The final prospect on this list is Russian winger Rodin Amirov. The left-wing could benefit from bulking up a bit, currently listed at just 168 pounds. Despite that he was still able to play in 21 KHL games. The KHL is the top professional league in Russia, and is considered by many to be the next best league behind the NHL. While he was only able to score two points, Amirov did score 22 points in 17 games in the MHL (the Russian junior league). According to scouts Rodin has all the tools needed to score as a pro in the NHL. Being a natural left wing also makes him a good option to replace Debrusk. Amirov would need to start his career in the AHL to adjust to the different rink size, but I don't see him staying there for long. A big factor in Amirov coming over from Russia would be the promise of playing in the NHL, something he could very well do in his first professional season.
While Debrusk has shown some flashes of impressive play ,the current season pause and uncertain future could cause some cap issues. Especially if Debrusk sees himself earning Tuch and Hertl like deals over the cheaper short term bridge deal. His inconsistent play might also give the Bruins pause when it comes to locking him up long term. If the two parties can come to an agreement around $3-4 Million for a short term deal I dot't see a trade happening. However, his RFA status and high potential ceiling make Jake one of Boston’s best trade chips. Thank you for making it to the end. I know this article was a bit longer than most. As always keep checking back for any news and updates on all your favorite Boston teams.
Featured image courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.