NHL: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes

BRUINS COACH BRUCE CASSIDY

The Boston Bruins are tied with Montreal for third place in the Atlantic Division, a point behind second-place Toronto and five points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Despite a solid January, they’ve lost three of their past four games and sit in the middle of the pack with 143 goals, though there has been improvement since the beginning of the season.

There are obvious team needs, like a third-line center or a top-six winger, but given the trials they’ve dealt with injury-wise, the Bruins aren’t in a bad spot.

As coach Bruce Cassidy said, it might be impossible to catch the Tampa Bay Lightning atop the division, but most people agree a move must be made to help keep pace with Toronto and other contenders.

There’s no desire to trade for the sake of making a trade or mortgaging the future, but there are several realistic and appealing options:

Wayne Simmonds

The Flyers winger has been whispered in Bruins trade talks before, and it’s easy to imagine him sliding into the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

This would be a true rental, like Rick Nash last season. The 30-year-old will be a free agent in July.

He has the ability to play both wings, like DeBrusk, though as a right-handed shot he would give some consistency to that line. The big question is cost.

The Bruins have plenty of prospects, and given the Flyers’ sketchy defensive season, Urho Vaakanainen would likely be in play. A first-round pick likely would be involved as well. A lot to consider.

Brayden Schenn

Schenn is having an off-year by his standards, but the Blues center could be available and would be a better option than what the Bruins have. He’s versatile and tallied 70 points just a season ago.

Schenn would be on the books for one more season at $5.125 million and likely would demand a first-rounder and a prospect, potentially Trent Frederic, a St. Louis native close to NHL-ready.

Schenn has been connected to the Bruins early in the trade season, but it all depends on their willingness to give up a pick.

Micheal Ferland

The Hurricanes winger has plenty of interest, but the Bruins find themselves thrust into the conversation. Ferland had a career season with Calgary a year ago and has been on the ‘Canes’ top line and power-play unit with 25 points.

He’d be a cheaper option than Simmonds to play on the second line, as a left winger. The demand is a first-round pick and a prospect as well, and that top pick is going to be tough for Don Sweeney to part with after Nash last season.

The 26-year-old will be a free agent this summer, and according to reports is looking for a $5.17 AAV, a steep price.

Mark Stone

Ottawa is a mess. A pending free agent, Stone is a player the Senators want to keep on board. The 26-year-old already has 22 goals and 28 assists in a career season, and the cost for him would be lower than his teammate, Matt Duchene.

Jesse Puljujarvi

The 20-year-old has struggled this season, but like the Sens, the Oilers are struggling.

The right winger is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. He has just seven points this season, but his value is the lowest it might ever be, and a fresh start could do him some good.

Kevin Hayes

It’s doubtful too many Bruins fans would be thrilled about another Hayes, but he’s one of the players most likely to be moved, and the B’s have a trade history with the Rangers.

At 27, he will be a free agent after this season. There’s almost no chance he stays with the Rangers, but again it’s the price; it’s going to take a pick or two and a prospect. He’s on pace to shatter his career-high 44 points.

Charlie Coyle

The former Boston University forward has been connected with the Bruins in the past. With 22 goals this season, he has one more year on his deal at an affordable $3.2 million. The Weymouth, Mass., native does have just one point in his past eight games.