The Boston Bruins are playing their best hockey of the 2016-17 season, putting them in the middle of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race heading into the trade deadline. Even with the exciting action on the ice and in the standings, the Bruins should elect to be boring at the deadline.
Being boring does not mean GM Don Sweeney should not be making any deals, it simply means he should steer clear of the rental market and only be looking at trades to help the organization in the future. Acquiring a rental player may push the Bruins into the playoffs, but there is no magical move to push them into the ranks of a serious contender for the Stanley Cup.
The bottom line is the Bruins should be sellers at the deadline, not buyers.
Learning from Mistakes
At the deadline last season, Sweeney elected to trade for John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak in an attempt to get the Bruins over the playoff hump. The trades backfired as the Bruins missed the playoffs and forfeited four draft picks in the process. With the future looking bright, Sweeney cannot afford to make the same mistakes this time around, even if the team is playing well.
Bruins acquire John-Michael Liles & Lee Stempniak for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th round pick + Anthony Camara at the trade deadline.
— Weekend at Bergy's (@weekendatbergys) February 29, 2016
With prices being high, Sweeney should look at cashing in on some of the expiring contracts on the Bruins’ roster. He should not sell the farm, but there are some players he should consider moving for the purpose of building for the future.
Liles, who lost his spot on the Bruins’ blue line this season to the younger Colin Miller, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will most likely not be re-signed. The 36-year-old could draw attention from contending teams looking to add veteran depth to their defense. Before Liles departs for the free agent market, Sweeney should try to trade him for at least a fifth or sixth-round draft pick.
The former first-round draft pick has only seen game action 17 times this season and 65 times over three seasons with the Bruins. Morrow will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, and the Bruins could elect to sign him, but prospects Charlie McAvoy, Jeremey Lauzon and Jakub Zboril appear ready to keep Morrow out of the picture moving forward. The 24-year-old has NHL potential and could fetch a high price for a team looking for youth on their blue line.
Schaller has recorded 14 points in 53 contests this season and will also be a restricted free agent this summer. He has performed well enough for the Bruins to consider signing him as a depth piece, but after this season his role at the NHL level is in jeopardy as he should not factor into the offense when prospects hit camp next season. It is highly unlikely a team will be looking for his services, but it never hurts to toss the idea out there.
The 36-year-old veteran center has performed well above expectations this season, even if he does not have the points to prove it, he has been valuable to the Bruins’ fourth line and penalty kill. Trading Moore would leave a large hole in the Bruins’ lineup for the rest of the season, but if the price is high enough, Sweeney should pull the trigger on a deal.
There are a few players with term left on their contracts that the Bruins may have to consider moving at some point down the road. Now may not be the right time to move them, but if Sweeney’s phone rings with a GM looking for them, he should listen.
Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller
As previously stated, the Bruins have a plethora of defensive prospects trying to make their way up the NHL ladder, and it appears the Bruins will have to move on from either McQuaid or Miller, if not both, sometime in the next few seasons. Considering McQuaid is 30 years old, and Miller is 29, this could be a good time to open the door on a deal.Both defenders play a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners style, which is always appreciated by fans and coaches. Moving one of them at this deadline would hurt the Bruins’ run for the playoffs, but if a good deal pops up, Sweeney might have a hard time turning it down.
Signing Beleskey came with a fair amount of promise, but even when healthy he has been in and out of the lineup this season. Lately, he has been playing like someone who has one foot out of the door and has only posted 7 points in 35 games. He has a modified no-trade clause in his contract, but a change of scenery could be good for him as there might be a few teams looking for a grinder in their lineup. If, and it is a big if, a team calls about Beleskey, Sweeney could seriously consider negotiating a trade.
The majority of trades made at the deadline include rental players for Stanley Cup contenders and teams looking to rebuild. The Bruins do not definitively fall into either of these categories, so Sweeney may elect to take a page from Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics’ book and not do anything. That would not be a bad thing considering the chances of adding a solid player with term to the roster before the offseason is extremely low.
It is difficult to tell what Sweeney will do, but as long as the Bruins do not sabotage the future of the organization for the chance to earn a playoff birth this season, fans should be happy.
Anthony Pagliarulo is a Boston Bruins contributor for The Hockey Writers. He is a Massachusetts native and a Worcester State University alumni. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @APags87.