The NHL trade deadline is on Feb. 24, just over a month away. Contenders for the Stanley Cup will try to upgrade their rosters in an attempt to dethrone the defending champion, St. Louis Blues.
One team that needs an addition or two is the 2019 Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins. They need a forward, specifically, a second line right winger. However, with their recent play, an upgrade on defense is not out of the question. With that said, it’s time to look back at two trades that general manager Don Sweeney pulled off last year that aided a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
1. Charlie Coyle for Ryan Donato, Draft Pick
The first trade that Sweeney made was getting Boston native Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick. At the time, the trade didn’t seem like it would shift the balance of power in the Atlantic Division or the conference.
Coyle did not get off to a great start with the Bruins. In 21 regular season games, he scored just two goals and four assists with a minus-two rating. In the midwest, Donato had a better 22 games with the Wild, scoring four goals and 12 assists. It appeared at the end of the regular season that Boston had lost that trade.
If the Bruins were going to make a run in the playoffs, they needed a lot of lucky breaks. Three of those breaks happened during the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The playoff favorite Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins were swept by the New York Islanders. The Washington Capitals were also ousted in six games by the Carolina Hurricanes, and things were set up nicely for the Bruins.
Playing on the third line, Coyle took his game to another level in the playoffs. He scored nine goals, including three in the Stanley Cup Final. His biggest two goals of the postseason were in the conference semifinals against the Blue Jackets. Trailing 2-1 late in the third period, Coyle tied the game 2-2 with 4:35 left. Then he scored the game-winning goal at 5:15 of overtime to give Boston a 1-0 series lead.
Coyle is a crucial part of the 2019-20 Bruins playing on the second line with David Krejci and Anders Bjork. He has nine goals and 17 assists in 50 games.
2. Marcus Johansson for Two Draft Picks
In a move that was considered minor at the time, Johansson was acquired from the New Jersey Devils for a pair of draft picks. Like Coyle, Johansson was a disappointing regular-season player with just one goal and two assists in 10 games with the Bruins.
Things turned around in the playoffs. He scored four goals and seven assists in 22 games with a plus-11. He was consistent with goals in each of the four series. His biggest goal was scored in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. He scored late in the first period to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. The goal turned out to be the game-winner in a 5-1 victory.
Playing on the third line with Coyle and Karson Kuhlman, Johansson was worth the two draft picks given up in the deal. In July, Johansson signed a two-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres.
The Two Trades Were Worth It
At the time, both trades were considered depth moves for two third or fourth line players who were added to a top-heavy roster. In the regular season, they looked like minor additions, but in the playoffs, they became major acquisitions for a team that reached Stanley Cup Final.
Sweeney will need to do something this year to improve his roster before the playoffs. Any move, even it seems minor at the time, could pay big dividends in what the Bruins hope will be another long playoff run in 2020.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.