Jake DeBrusk’s trade request creates even more uncertainty for Bruins

WEEI Sports Radio
WEEI Sports Radio

The relationship between Jake DeBrusk and the Bruins -- specifically coach Bruce Cassidy -- has finally reached its tipping point.

Cassidy was so unsatisfied with DeBrusk’s play that he felt the need to make him a healthy scratch on Sunday, returning to a tactic he used three times last year, including in the second round of the playoffs. He had to have known there was a chance the move would push DeBrusk further away, not motivate him.

DeBrusk, in turn, has requested a trade . His agent confirmed that to multiple media outlets, and Bruins president Cam Neely also confirmed it to The Athletic . It is clear that DeBrusk and Cassidy do not see eye-to-eye, and haven’t for a long time.

So now everything is out in the open. No more keeping all of this behind closed doors. The Bruins will reportedly work to accommodate DeBrusk’s trade request, but it’s unclear how long that might take, who will be interested, or what Boston might be able to get in return. It’s also unclear if DeBrusk will continue to play for the Bruins until it happens.

Those are just some of the questions that this whole situation creates for a team that already had more than enough question marks.

There are those who will say the Bruins should be happy to dump DeBrusk and his $3.675 million cap hit on any team that will take him, regardless of what they get back.

That may very well be what the Bruins end up needing to do, but it is not what they want to do. Getting next to nothing in return for a first-round pick who just two years ago would’ve commanded real value on the trade market would be a tough pill to swallow.

It would also do nothing to address the Bruins’ secondary scoring. Whatever you think of DeBrusk, there’s no denying that he was at least a more talented offensive player than pretty much everyone else the Bruins have used on their third and fourth lines this season. His six points this season, while far from impressive, are still the sixth-most among Bruins forwards.

If Erik Haula, signed this summer to anchor the third line, were playing well, the Bruins could feel good about that line sans DeBrusk. But he’s not. Haula has just three points in 17 games and was also a healthy scratch on Sunday.

If Jack Studnicka had taken an NHL job and run with it, that would help too. But that hasn’t happened yet. It’s been a mixed bag for Studnicka at the NHL level, and he isn’t exactly lighting it up in Providence right now either (six points in 11 games).

The Bruins could look to flip DeBrusk for another team’s underachieving forward and hope Boston is the change of scenery that player needs. Chicago’s Dylan Strome is already a popular name. DeBrusk’s hometown Oilers have popped up in rumors before; if they’re interested now, perhaps the Bruins could target Zack Kassian or Kailer Yamamoto.

Otherwise, the Bruins are looking at either packaging DeBrusk with other assets to get a better player (and let’s be clear: with DeBrusk’s value so low, he is not going to be the centerpiece of any such package) or trading him for whatever draft pick they can get (the guess here is it won’t be any better than a third-rounder).

The latter does little to help the Bruins win now -- and despite their lukewarm start, they are, in theory, still in win-now mode. They would immediately find themselves in the market for a middle-six upgrade, a market they may have to be in regardless of what happens with DeBrusk anyways. Perhaps a mid-round pick and freed-up cap space would help them get it.

There are no easy answers here. The Bruins genuinely hoped that the divide between DeBrusk and Cassidy could be bridged, and that the clean slate that a new season brought would get DeBrusk back on track.

That preseason optimism has quickly vanished, though, and now the situation looks unsalvageable. DeBrusk’s time with the Bruins is almost certainly coming to an end. When that happens, what it looks like, and what the Bruins do next remains to be seen.

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