Home Sports Linus Ullmark trade: Analyzing pros and cons of Bruins’ return

Linus Ullmark trade: Analyzing pros and cons of Bruins’ return

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Linus Ullmark trade: Analyzing pros and cons of Bruins' return

Many experts consider the 2024 draft to be weaker than normal. However, the Bruins’ prospect pool is one of the worst in the league, especially after Matthew Poitras and Mason Lohrei made the jump to the NHL level last season. Boston’s system could really use an infusion of young talent, and if the Bruins keep the pick, they can add a talented player to the mix.

The Bruins could also use this pick as part of a trade to acquire a veteran who can help the team win in the short term. The first round of the 2024 draft is Friday, with rounds two through seven on Saturday afternoon, so Sweeney and his staff have some time to figure out what the Bruins will do with this pick.

Disadvantage: Joonas Korpisalo’s contract

Korpisalo was one of the worst goaltenders in the league last season.

He had a 21-26-4 record with a mediocre .890 save percentage and a 3.27 GAA. He ranked 97th out of 98 goalkeepers in goals saved above expected (minus-16.7), by MoneyPuck. Jeremy Swayman (4th) and Ullmark (7th) were in the top 10 in goals saved above expected.

To be fair, the Senators didn’t play very well against him, but they also ranked 15th in shots allowed and 22nd in scoring chances allowed at 5-on-5. It’s not like they were being dominated every night, and yet, Korpisalo was still struggling to produce. In fact, the B’s weren’t much better in those metrics. They ranked 18th in shots allowed and 17th in scoring opportunities allowed at 5-on-5, by natural statistics trick.

His contract is not favorable to the team and does not expire soon. Korpisalo is signed for four more seasons (through 2027-28) with a cap hit of $3 million. A $3 million cap hit for an average or worse veteran goalie isn’t a big deal.

The Bruins have a few ways to deal with Korpisalo’s contract if they don’t want him to be their backup next season. Boston could bury him in the minors, which would open up $1.15 million in salary cap relief and will result in a cap hit of $1.85 million. They might as well buy it. Doing that, according to CapFriendlywould leave the Bruins with a salary cap hit of $250,000 next season, $625,000 in 2025-26, $1.375 million in 2026-27, $1.75 million in 2027-28 and then $1 million each year from 2028-29 through 2031-32.

The B’s could also trade Korpisalo and attach an asset (like a draft pick) to entice a team to sign him. Trading it and keeping your salary is another option.

Perhaps the Bruins can help Korpisalo rediscover the form he showed in 2022-23 with the Columbus Blue Jackets when he posted a .913 save percentage in 28 games. Bob Essensa is the best goaltending coach in the league and has brought out the best in almost every goalie who has played for the Bruins in the last 10-15 years. But unless Korpisalo shows massive improvement, this trade will put enormous pressure on Jeremy Swayman to not only play a ton of games but also produce at a very high level.

The Bruins’ best-case scenario with Korpisalo is to make him a solid player in 2024-25 and then trade him for an asset (or just cap relief) next offseason.

Advantage: Mark Kastelic could surprise

Don’t be surprised if Mark Kastelic gains the support of Bruins fans pretty quickly. He plays the type of physical, tough game appreciated in Boston. He is 6-foot-4, 226 pounds and isn’t afraid to go to the hard areas of the ice to win puck battles. Kastelic also has good speed, something the Bruins needed to add this offseason. He can fight too.

He will likely play a bottom-six role. He is versatile enough to play center or right wing, giving head coach Jim Montgomery some options. Kastelic isn’t going to light up the stat sheet offensively, but he could still provide decent scoring depth. The 25-year-old forward scored 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 63 games with Ottawa this season.

Kastelic is also very good in faceoffs, which will really help the Bruins after they went from No. 2 in faceoff winning percentage in 2022-23 to No. 21 this season without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Last season he participated in 349 matches and won 54.4 percent of them. Pavel Zacha led the B’s with a faceoff percentage of 54.8.

The Bruins are not committed long-term to Kastelic. He is signed for one more season at a small cap hit of $835,000 and will be a restricted free agent next summer. He has the potential to be a useful low-cost player for Boston.

Downside: The Bruins did not receive any premium assets from the Senators

The Bruins gave up a goaltender who won the Vezina Trophy in 2023 and were unable to land a young forward or defenseman who can play a significant role on next year’s team.

Shane Pinto is a 23-year-old center and restricted free agent for the Senators. He has far more offensive upside than Kastelic and would have been a better addition. Boston was also unable to land Jakob Chychrun, who is a legitimate top-four defenseman and has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks.

The Bruins also couldn’t get the best of the Senators’ two first-round picks. The Senators owned the No. 7 and 25 overall picks in this year’s draft. Boston acquired the latter.

If Ullmark had an extension with the Senators at the time of this trade, perhaps the Bruins would get a better return.

Con: Bruins barely freed up cap space

Salary cap space is very valuable in a strict salary cap league like the NHL. That said, the fact that the Bruins moved Ullmark and his $5 million cap hit and only ended up creating $1.165 million more cap space as a result of this trade is pretty disappointing.

One of the main reasons trading Ullmark made sense was to create additional cap space so the Bruins could pursue impact players in free agency or the commercial market. The Bruins need a top-six center and a proven scorer on the wing. Those types of players are expensive to acquire. They also need to re-sign Jeremy Swayman, who is due a big raise after a stellar playoff run.

But the Bruins traded Ullmark for a very small increase in cap space and took on Korpisalo’s bad contract that lasts three more years. It’s not ideal.

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