In Friday’s Daily, Jake DeBrusk had his name come up with a scout offering up that teams are watching the situation in Boston closely. DeBrusk heads into the final year of his contract playing very well not only last year, but in the year prior, too. In what will be a series here at Chicago Hockey Now, as the Chicago Blackhawks begin to build their way back to contention, would DeBrusk be a potential target that could help down the road?
A look at Jake DeBrusk and his time in Boston
He’s a clutch scorer who can be streaky at times, according to Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy, who has written extensively about DeBrusk. Nearly five months ago as the trade deadline neared, the Bruins made DeBrusk untouchable, as they were in on the Jakob Chychrun talks but refused DeBrusk as one of the pieces.
This all comes after DeBrusk appeared to be a sure goner during 2021, the speculation and certainly that he would be on another NHL roster. Instead, the Bruins re-signed him to a two-year deal worth $8M. But the next deal will likely cost more.
His last two seasons have been better than his previous three, and he’s now scored 25 and 27 goals respectively in those seasons. With 50 points in 64 games, he saw a point-per-game increase from .54 to .781. From a projections standpoint, even if the increase isn’t as much, he could be flirting with a point-per-game pace and potentially a 35 goal scorer–if he plays a full season.
If he indeed hits free agency, there will certainly be bidding wars. But if Boston can’t re-sign him and want to peddle him, it’s likely DeBrusk earns a decent return–even with the loss of value.
So with that in mind, we’ll use the recent Alex DeBrincat trade as a comparable.
Would the Blackhawks Benefit?
DeBrincat cost an NHL veteran (Dominik Kubalik), a first-round pick (lesser of two), a prospect (Donovan Sebrango). He was on an expiring contract, however, he was a restricted free agent who had filed for arbitration. Even with some control, the Red Wings return wasn’t a lot gone. DeBrincat signed a four-year deal with a cap hit of $7.875M.
DeBrincat has been more productive in his career and last season he potted 27 goals and 66 points. Using this as a comparable, and knowing that DeBrusk historically hasn’t had the same output, could he garner a similar return?
DeBrusk walks away for nothing if he doesn’t re-sign, so already, the team trading for him has more leverage. Boston is also without a first-round pick next season so acquiring one back would likely be a priority should the winger decide he wants to move on. But where Boston has more power is the freedom without a no move clause. They can wait it out for the best deal–if they decide to trade him.
Chicago has the draft capital if they wanted to make a trade, and from a timeline perspective, having a clutch scorer who has 28 points (16-12) in 61 playoff games could be just what the doctor ordered for a team readying to re-enter the playoff hunt in a few seasons.
Being ranked as the fourth best prospect pool by the NHL Network, they also would have prospects to send over should that be a route they go. But similar to the DeBrincat deal, it wouldn’t cost as much since there won’t be any team control beyond this season. Unlike the DeBrincat deal, there could be a host of suitors waiting if Boston can’t come to an agreement. That’s where a bidding war in the way of picks and prospects could come into play.
Is it Realistic?
This is obvoiusly the outlier. Based on what happened in the past, the Bruins ignored what looked like a sure trade and instead, re-signed him. It paid off for both sides, and perhaps they both believe it to be the correct course of action.
The major problem they have is that they’re squeezed financially. From Murphy:
The Boston Bruins are currently in salary cap hell, with $5.4 million to still sign both goalie Jeremy Swayman and forward Trent Frederic. That is very likely the priority for general manager Don Sweeney right now.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have all the cap space in the world with even more money coming off the books in the next two seasons. Chicago General Manager Kyle Davidson has been very judicious with his work on the cap and that’s unlikely to change even he pursues players via trade. A four or five-year deal seems likelier, especially knowing that a lot of the top end picks Chicago selected in the draft could very well be on their final year of entry-level contracts.
It’s a fascinating angle to look at but it seems like Boston would likely take care of their other contracts first before focusing elsewhere. Beyond that, Murphy believes that Boston will wait until the trade deadline to decide whether there’s a future with DeBrusk at a price that works for both sides.
Regardless, when a scout claims that “everyone will be watching Jake DeBrusk” around the league, it’s certainly something to take notice of.