The Boston Bruins have struggled throughout the month of February, losing multiple games in overtime when they held leads in the third period. As a result, after leading the Eastern Conference in points for a majority of the season, they have fallen to second place in the Atlantic Division behind the Florida Panthers.

While they have not had their best month, the Bruins are considered one of the NHL's legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. At this time last year, they were dominating the regular season and most observers considered them heavy favorites to win their first Stanley Cup since the 2011 season.

Instead, they suffered a heartbreaking loss in the first round of the playoffs to the Panthers. That team has become their primary tormentors, and the memory of that playoff loss has hung over the team throughout the current season.

Most observers expected a downturn from the team this year as veteran centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retired during the offseason. That seemed to be a logical conclusion because Bergeron and Krejci was their two best centers.

Nevertheless, the Bruins have played solid hockey throughout the season. They are in a position to possibly strengthen the team at the trade deadline if they can acquire a winger or center who can improve their ability to put the puck in the net. They could also use a big-bodied defenseman who can help the team establish a more physical presence in the postseason.

Limited resources to trade for the Bruins

The Bruins have been very active at or near the trade deadline in recent seasons. Last year, when they were setting records in the regular season for points and wins, they still made a number of moves to strengthen the team for their playoff run.

They added defenseman Dimitry Orlov and forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Garnet Hathaway. Those moves appeared to give the Bruins a roster that would dominate in the postseason. All three made eye-opening contributions after the trade deadline, but the team obviously fell short in the first round of the playoffs.

As a result of recent trade deadline  moves, the Bruins do not have a first-round pick until 2025. They are also lacking a second-round pick until 2026.

Additionally, the Bruins have a young player in Mason Lohrei who has played a key role as a rookie blue liner this season. He has made an impression this season with his offensive skill. The Bruins also have a number of other rookies including Parker Wotherspoon and Justin Brazeau in addition to names like Johnny Beecher and Fabian Lysell playing with their top minor-league team in Providence.

It is important that the Bruins hold onto most of these resources and not trade them away with the hope that they will bring a player that helps them win the Stanley Cup.

Future is vital and the Bruins' nightmare scenario is trading best prospects

Many of the “experts” that rate NHL talent in each team's pipeline list the Bruins as being in the bottom half of the league or possibly among the five worst teams.

General manager Don Sweeney could come to the conclusion that if that pipeline is not in a good position, he could make a few prospect trades because there is not much to lose. However, it's doubtful that Sweeney believes that assessment.

Few of those experts were talking about Brazeau or Wotherspoon, and most thought Lohrei was a year or two away from making a contribution. Additionally, there may be other less publicized players who the Bruins feel good about even though they haven't been touted as future contributors or potential stars.

The Bruins need to hold on to a majority of their prospects and cannot trade any more of their top future draft picks. They want to win now, but they don't want to sacrifice the future.

Bruins potential players to trade

Jake DeBrusk will be a free agent at the end of the season, and the team has not indicated that it wants to extend his contract at this point. DeBrusk is one of the Bruins fastest players, and he had back-to-back seasons of 25 and 27 goals the past two years. However, he has just 13 goals and 14 assists in 51 games this season.

DeBrusk could bring about a decent depth defenseman or forward in a trade. Veteran forward Danton Heinen and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk could also be viewed as attractive trade candidates around the league.

Trading one or two of those players but keeping their prospects and future draft choices must be the way that Sweeney proceeds or it could be a true nightmare for the Bruins.