Friday, July 19, 2024

Pinto or a second-round pick? An Ullmark extension changes his trade value

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Linus Ullmark is entering the final season of his four-year, $20 million contract. The fear of acquiring Ullmark, No. 2 on The Athletic’s trade big board, only to see him walk after one year is depressing the Boston Bruins’ trade demands. One NHL general manager, granted anonymity to discuss another team’s player, said he does not believe the Bruins can land a 2024 first-round pick for Ullmark because of the one-and-done possibility.

Consider that two seasons of Jacob Markstrom, including 31.25 percent annual salary retention by the Calgary Flames, only cost the New Jersey Devils a 2025 first-round pick and defensive defenseman Kevin Bahl. Markstrom is 34. Ullmark is 30 with a 2022-23 Vezina Trophy on his mantel.

If the Bruins, however, gave Ullmark permission to negotiate an extension ahead of the trade, the return would be more to their liking.

Shane Pinto, perhaps.

The anonymous GM identified the Ottawa Senators center as the type of player the Bruins would target if Ullmark is allowed to negotiate and secure a pre-trade extension. Pinto, 23, scored nine goals and 27 points in 41 games in 2023-24 while averaging 18:06 of ice time per appearance. The NHL suspended Pinto for 41 games because of activities related to sports wagering.

Whether Ottawa is on Ullmark’s no-trade list is unknown. Ullmark was reluctant to waive his protection at the March 8 trade deadline because of relocating his family late in the season. 

It is also unknown whether the Bruins have given Ullmark the green light to discuss a new contract with any interested parties. Joakim Persson, Ullmark’s agent, declined to comment on it. General manager Don Sweeney did not respond to an inquiry. Ullmark cannot sign a new deal until July 1.

The right-shot Pinto would address the Bruins’ needs at center. He would complement Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha. The latter could play left wing if Matt Poitras recovers well from shoulder surgery.

Pinto went 32nd in the 2019 NHL Draft, two slots after the Bruins picked Johnny Beecher. Pinto is behind Tim Stützle and Josh Norris on Ottawa’s center depth chart.

Pinto is coming off a one-year, $775,000 contract. He will be a restricted free agent on July 1. Pinto was hoping to have signed an extension with the Senators by now. The fact that he hasn’t may speak to his availability via trade.

Acquiring a center like Pinto fits Sweeney’s playbook. Zacha was 25 and restricted when the GM traded Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils for the left-shot center/wing. Morgan Geekie was 24 when the Bruins signed him as an unrestricted free agent after the Seattle Kraken declined to qualify the right-shot center/wing. Trading for Pinto would be the next step in Sweeney’s replenishment at center following the retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.

Sweeney could then target a wing or a left-shot defenseman in free agency. Jake DeBrusk is unlikely to return.

The Senators, meanwhile, are desperate for goaltending. They allowed 281 goals this past season, fifth-most in the NHL. Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg both posted .890 save percentages. Ullmark was at .915. Korpisalo is signed through 2028 at $4 million annually, per CapFriendly. Forsberg has one year left at $2.75 million.

Ullmark has fewer suitors now than earlier in the offseason. Both the Devils and Los Angeles Kings (Darcy Kuemper for Pierre-Luc Dubois) secured their goaltending upgrades. 

The heat is on for the Bruins if they want 2024 futures capital ahead of this weekend’s draft. There is no rush if their target is an NHL player like Pinto.

Trading Ullmark is the Bruins’ most likely outcome. It would allow them to declare Jeremy Swayman their clear-cut ace. Swayman will become restricted on July 1. Brandon Bussi, who will reach RFA status on the same day, would be Swayman’s backup. The Bruins would add an inexpensive veteran goalie in free agency, in all likelihood.

Allowing Persson to negotiate a pre-transaction contract for his client complicates a trade. Ullmark’s next contract will be, in all likelihood, his final opportunity at a long-term, big-bucks score. Connor Hellebuyck, 31, is starting a seven-year, $59.5 million contract in 2024-25. Ullmark could make the case for an $8 million average annual value.

The cost of Ullmark’s next contract does not concern the Bruins. All they would want is an agreement if it facilitates a trade.

(Photo: Rich Gagnon / Getty Images)

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