Do the Bruins make sense as a Dustin Byfuglien trade suitor?

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Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports

Until the moment his autograph is drying on a lengthy new contract extension, you’re going to hear the name of Winnipeg Jets forward defenseman Dustin Byfuglien – a pending unrestricted free agent – pop up constantly in trade rumours.

Over the past 10 days we’ve seen the first comer in what’s sure to be an endless series of rival NHL clubs with some reported or rumoured interest in Byfuglien emerge: the suddenly defense-needy Boston Bruins.

The rub in discussing rumours or reports of Byfuglien generating trade market interest, of course, is that the Jets – an internal budget team that is modelled after a Nashville Predators organization famous for shedding talent in free agency while still competing for the postseason annually – may legitimately opt not to extend the big, talented swingman at all. With Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba poised to competently hold down the right side of Winnipeg’s blue line for the next half decade, it could well be a sensible approach. 

Unlike with any Andrew Ladd rumours you may read then, there would seem to be a genuine possibility that the Jets will allow Byfuglien to walk in free agency (or else deal him ahead of the 2016 NHL trade deadline). Eventually the Byfuglien reports/and or rumours that surface won’t just be noise. 

So how real is Boston’s interest? 

Well in the wake of injuries to both Dennis Seidenberg (lost for a couple of months) and Zdeno Chara, they’re definitely interested in a defenseman of some stature. 

“We all know (Dennis) Seidenberg is out, Chara is injured – they’re saying its not that serious – but they are looking for D,” reported Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on Saturday night during a Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “I know there are a lot of rumours about Dustin Byfuglien, but there’s also a chance that maybe the Bruins go for something more cost effective in looking to make a defensive move.”

So the Bruins are in the market for defensemen for sure, but maybe not for a defenseman of Byfuglien’s stature and probable cost (both in cap terms, and in terms of the assets required to pry him out of the ‘Peg).

In discussing whether Dustin Byfuglien makes sense for the Bruins, CSNEE beat writer Joe Haggerty recently suggested that the fit isn’t there if the American-born defender is simply a rental.

“It doesn’t make sense for the Bruins to send all kinds of first-round picks and future assets to get Byfuglien just to fill in for a few months for Dennis Seidenberg,” Haggerty said recently. “Maybe if they think they can keep him it makes sense.”

Haggerty also broached the subject of a likely Byfuglien asking price in a recent piece addressing Seidenberg’s expected lengthy absence, and gauged Winnipeg’s likely return as being sky high:

Dustin Byfuglien will be the biggest name in any trade rumors with the Bruins, and had been even before Seidenberg went down. But the price will be high for the All-Star defenseman: it starts with a package similar to the first round pick, roster player (Martin Jones) and top prospect (Colin Miller) that the Bruins received for Milan Lucic, and is probably higher now given that the B’s are perceived to be in desperate straits.

Fellow Boston-based hockey writer Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe, meanwhile, suggested that the two teams might not make for the most natural trading partners, in part because of Winnipeg’s impressive stable of young goaltenders and also because of the identity of one of the Bruins’ top prospects.

The Bruins have a good trade chip in Malcolm Subban. The third-year pro projects to be an ace, as Tuukka Rask’s successor or elsewhere. But Subban won’t be in the mix if the Bruins are talking trade with Winnipeg regarding Dustin Byfuglien. The Bruins need help on defense with Dennis Seidenberg out for two months following back surgery. Byfuglien, the dynamic right-shot rover, would help. But the Jets are set in goal long term with Eric Comrie and ex-UMass Lowell puckstopper Connor Hellebuyck in the minors under Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. The Jets would want one of the Bruins’ two 2016 first-rounders and help off the roster. Winnipeg has to budget cash for Andrew Ladd (unrestricted), Jacob Trouba (restricted), and Mark Scheifele (restricted), whose deals will expire after this season. As unique as Byfuglien is, the UFA-to-be is 30 and is seeking what could be his final big contract. Byfuglien would be a good addition for the Bruins as well as any other club, but one that would come at a cost.

In breaking down what’s out there on the public record in respectable, trustworthy media forums on the Byfuglien-to-Boston rumour front, it would seem as if there’s little of any fire to this smoke. Some dry ice perhaps, but this particular hot stove is showing limited evidence of actual heat for now.

What’s apparent is that Byfuglien would fill a major need for the Bruins, both as a short-term stopgap while Seidenberg and Chara convalesce, and as a medium-term replacement for some of the blue-line offense the club lost when they dealt Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for magic beans. 

If there’s a deal to be made though it surely won’t be made for the purpose of ‘replacing Seidenberg’ in the short-term. Instead any potential deal between the Jets and the Bruins would indicate that the Bruins are thinking long-term about how they replace (or even perhaps help out) Zdeno Chara as a bona fide top-of-the-roster defenseman. 

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    A Boston trade for Buff would really have to be premised on the idea that the Bruins are going to make one last run at the Cup with Bergeron/Chara on the roster. It seems to me that it would make a lot more sense for them to wait and accumulate cap space over the season (particularly if Chara will be out for a bit) and make a deal closer to the deadline once they are assured that some random misfortune doesn’t put them out of the playoff picture early.

    That said, who knows what Sweeny will do next?