Back in November, Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk was a healthy scratch in a game at the TD Garden against the Vancouver Canucks. Following the game, it was revealed that DeBrusk had requested a trade from the Black and Gold through his agent to general manager (GM) Don Sweeney. At the time, Sweeney acknowledged the request, but said he would take his time in finding the right deal that would help the Bruins.
As the trade deadline on March 21 grew closer and closer, DeBrusk was playing some of his best hockey over the last three months and the thought was it was time for Sweeney to sell high on him and make a move. In the end, the Bruins held onto DeBrusk, who was one of the best forwards on the team over the final three months of the regular season. Monday, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reported that DeBrusk’s agent Rick Valette had contacted Sweeney last week to inform the GM that DeBrusk had rescinded his trade and wanted to stay in Boston. Sweeney confirmed the report with reporters Wednesday in Montreal ahead of the 2002 Entry Draft.
Once the biggest trade chip that Boston had, now wants to remain with the team that drafted him 14th overall in the 2015 Entry Draft. Just because a player rescinds his request doesn’t mean that he still won’t be traded. In this case, here are three reasons why the Bruins should hold onto him heading into the 2022-23 season.
DeBrusk Could Thrive Under Jim Montgomery
When the Bruins fired former head coach Bruce Cassidy on June 6, it took nearly three and a half weeks for Sweeney to name his replacement when he hired Jim Montgomery. The new Boston coach comes to town with a history of working with younger players and helping them thrive early in their careers.
No need to look further than the 2021-22 edition of the St. Louis Blues. Young stars Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou took their game to another level under Montgomery who was an assistant coach in charge of the Blues’ power play and young forwards. Thomas finished the season with 20 goals and 57 assists, good enough to finish second in terms of points behind Vladimir Tarasenko’s 82. Kyrou had 27 goals and 48 assists this season under Montgomery’s watch and the 23-year-old participated in the 2022 All-Star Game.
Montgomery has had success in the USHL and he also won an NCAA championship with the University of Denver. Success with younger players is all over his resume and he could be the perfect coach to get DeBrusk back on track.
DeBrusk’s Scoring Potential
There should be no question as to whether or not DeBrusk has the talent to be a consistent goal-scorer and a top-six forward. He scored a career-high 27 goals in 2018-19 and was one shy of his second consecutive 20-goal season in 2019-20 when the season was paused after 70 games in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, things have not been good for the Edmonton, Alberta native.
He struggled in the Toronto playoff bubble, then his struggles continued in the 56-game shortened 2020-21 season when he had five goals and 14 points. He was a healthy scratch multiple times and also missed time due to COVID-19. He struggled in the playoffs and found himself as a healthy scratch in Game 5 of a second-round series against the New York Islanders.
After sputtering through the first half of this past season, things turned around for DeBrusk in late February after being moved to the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. He had seven goals and 15 points through January, but he finished the season with 25 goals and 17 assists. He had two goals and four points in the seven-game First Round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Following the season, Sweeney offered his thoughts on DeBrusk’s future.
“I don’t think things have changed, other than he’s happier. Because his life improved an awful lot. And he deserves a lot of credit for that. He went out and did perform. Maybe it’s a clearer head space that he defined. Not really thinking about things. Now he might take some time re-evaluate and realize that, I peeked over the neighbor’s yard and the grass is not necessarily greener. My lawn is looking pretty damn good, too. Players have their own right. I’ve said all along, I think I know what Jake DeBrusk is capable of. Everybody would like to hold all of our guys to that standard, and to his credit, he went out and performed and played well.”Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney
DeBrusk obviously re-evaluated things when he returned home to Edmonton and had a change of heart. Or maybe a coaching change did the trick. Either way, there is the potential to be a 20, 30, and even maybe a 40-goal scorer down the line. It’s worth holding onto him and seeing how he plays with a new voice in his ear.
DeBrusk Playing on a Team-Friendly Contract
Five hours before the 2022 trade deadline on March 21, the Bruins announced that they agreed to a two-year contract extension with DeBrusk for $8 million. At the time, it was thought that extending him would make it easier to facilitate a trade with another club. If he was dealt without an extension, he was owed a $4.40 million qualifying offer on whichever roster he was on as a restricted free agent (RFA) following the season.
Sweeney did not find a deal to his liking and kept DeBrusk. The results following the trade deadline spoke for themselves and now he is under contract for two more seasons with a team-friendly yearly cap hit of $4 million. If he can produce consistently for 82 games as he did in the final two months of the 2021-22 regular season, then the Bruins have something in their favor on a good contract.
It was rumored Monday by Nick Alberga that the Bruins were looking to make a trade to get into the first round of the Entry Draft. In order to get there, they would have to impress a team with the right package and DeBrusk could have been dangled to help make that deal. He still may, but now that DeBrusk seems like he wants to remain with the Black and Gold, Boston should do everything to keep him right now.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.