What could a Linus Ullmark deal get the Bruins at the NHL trade deadline?

TORONTO — Linus Ullmark won the Vezina Trophy last year. He is under contract at $5 million annually through 2025. He is an exemplary teammate, as his hugs with Jeremy Swayman prove after every win.

So if the Boston Bruins trade Ullmark before the March 8 deadline, they should get back quality immediate help, right?

Think again.

“Futures,” one NHL general manager, granted anonymity to discuss a player not under contract with his team, wrote in a text of Ullmark’s likely return. “Unless there are players with limited long-term value.”

The Bruins, in other words, would be dealing the 30-year-old primarily to clear his $5 million AAV. General manager Don Sweeney would then have to execute at least two other transactions. 

He would trade for a defenseman or forward — Noah Hanifin and his $4.95 million AAV, for example — and use Ullmark’s savings to be cap-compliant. Sweeney would also acquire an experienced goalie to back up Swayman for the stretch run and playoffs. To do both, it might take more than the picks and/or prospects Ullmark would return.

Not only that but Ullmark has a 16-team no-trade list, according to CapFriendly. 

You can see, then, why another NHL executive classified moving Ullmark at the deadline as a move that’d be “really (gutsy).” The Bruins would be diminishing their No. 1 position of strength in pursuit of a salary dump.

There are several reasons Ullmark’s trade value is relatively depressed. First: the limited number of teams desperate for an instant goaltending upgrade. The GM identified the New Jersey Devils as the lone club with hands held high. The Devils, meanwhile, seem to have their sights set on Jacob Markstrom as their No. 1 target. Even if the Carolina Hurricanes want to improve upon Pyotr Kochetkov, the Bruins would be wary of helping a possible Eastern Conference Final opponent.  

“Outside of New Jersey,” the GM wrote, “they would not have much of a market.”

Second: no rush for non-playoff teams. The down-and-out Ottawa Senators, for example, need goaltending. But they may wait until the offseason when they have more cap space and more options.

Third: Ullmark’s $5 million AAV is a significant sum to convince another team to assume now instead of the summer.

The deadline market for goalies has traditionally leaned toward futures. Last season, Joonas Korpisalo, 28 years old at the time, was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets along with Vladislav Gavrikov to the Los Angeles Kings. Columbus received a 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 third-rounder.

Prior to the 2022 deadline, the Chicago Blackhawks traded 37-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury to the Minnesota Wild. The return: a 2022 second-round pick.

Two goalies moved before the 2020 deadline. The Blackhawks received ex-Bruin Malcolm Subban, a 2020 second-rounder and Stanislav Demin from the Vegas Golden Knights for Robin Lehner, 28. The Kings acquired Trevor Moore, a 2020 third-rounder and a 2021 third-round pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs for 28-year-old Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford.

Perhaps Ullmark’s Vezina and .910 save percentage would add to his value. Even if so, the return would not, in all likelihood, reinforce the Bruins roster for the playoffs. The Bruins are especially short-handed on the left side of their defense. 

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Linus Ullmark won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie for the 2022-23 season. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Hampus Lindholm missed his seventh straight game Monday because of a lower-body injury. Matt Grzelcyk returned against Toronto after missing Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders because of an undisclosed injury. Derek Forbort was a healthy scratch Monday, although the stay-at-homer has been slowed this season because of a groin injury.

The Bruins entered Monday’s game with a 4-4-5 record in their past 13 games. Only Chicago (one), the San Jose Sharks (one), Arizona Coyotes (two) and Montreal Canadiens (three) had won fewer games since the All-Star break. Those four teams are not projected to make the playoffs.

It may be just a matter of time before the Bruins move Ullmark. Swayman’s one-year, $3.475 million arbitration award is expiring. The 25-year-old All-Star is deserving of his pending raise. He is the Bruins’ current and future No. 1 goalie. Brandon Bussi, Swayman’s likely next partner, is restricted after this season. Bussi will require waivers to be assigned to the AHL.

So as desperate as Sweeney may be to repair the roster, it would be difficult for him to do it by trading Ullmark alone. It would be the cap-clearing table-setter for deals to come. The Bruins would then be a Swayman injury away from a goaltending nightmare in the playoffs.

Thus the risk. Which may not make the deal worth it.

(Top photo: Bob DeChiara / USA Today)

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