Since Jan. 1, the Boston Bruins are one of the top teams in the NHL, going 25-9-3 and they have created separation from the bottom of the Eastern Conference and currently sit in the first of two wild card spots in the East. They are closing in on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, as they are tied with the Maple Leafs for third place and one point behind the Lightning for second place.
With his team playing some of the best hockey in the league, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney needed to be active at the trade deadline to strengthen his roster for the remainder of the 2021-22 regular season and playoffs. A left-shot defenseman, a second-line center, and a top-six right wing would be a welcoming sight for coach Bruce Cassidy. In the end, Sweeney swung at the trade deadline and made his team better as they begin the final stretch of the season.
Bruins Land Prize Defenseman
As the trade deadline approached, there were two young defensemen that were being chased by teams looking for help on the blue line. Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes and Hampus Lindholm of the Anaheim Ducks were at the top of team’s lists. Chychrun, who ended up staying in Arizona, has three years remaining on his contract, and Lindholm, was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, each would require a huge haul in return and Sweeney decided to bit.
Saturday night, the Bruins acquired Lindholm (and veteran defenseman Kodie Curran) from the Ducks for prospect Urho Vaakanainen, John Moore, Boston’s 2022 first-round pick, and two second-round picks in 2023 and 2024. At the time the deal was announced, it appeared to be a big overpayment, but less than 24 hours after the deal, Sweeney announced that the Bruins and Lindholm agreed to an eight-year contract extension with an annual cap hit of $6.5 million per year.
After announcing the deal, this is a clear win for the Bruins. Yes, parting ways with Vaakanainen is tough to do as the youngster was beginning to turn himself into an NHL defenseman before suffering a concussion on Feb. 1 against the Seattle Kraken, but getting Lindholm as a top-four blueliner and locked up for the future is a move that had to be made. Three picks in the first two rounds for the next three drafts is a lot, but Anaheim is rebuilding and the Black and Gold are trying to win now.
The trade leaves the Bruins with a top-four on the defense of Lindholm, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk in front of young goalie Jeremy Swayman, for the foreseeable future. Getting a left-shot defenseman that fits in the top-four and is locked up for the future was a must for Sweeney and he swung big and succeeded.
Sweeney Added Defensive Depth in Minor Deal
In a minor deal ahead of the 3 o’clock deadline Monday, Sweeney swung a deal for the second consecutive season with the Ottawa Senators when he acquired Josh Brown for depth on the right side. He will be fighting Mike Reilly, who the Bruins acquired at the 2021 trade deadline from the Senators, Connor Clifton, and Derek Forbort for bottom-pairing minutes.
Bruins Competition Got Better
If Sweeney didn’t do much at the trade deadline, then his team would have been behind everyone else in the Eastern Conference. Just within the Atlantic Division, the teams ahead of them in the standings all got better too.
The Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Ilya Zyubushkin and forward Ryan Dzingel from the Coyotes in February, then got defenseman Mark Giordano and forward Colin Blackwell from the Kraken on Sunday. The Florida Panthers got defenseman Ben Chiarot from the Montreal Canadiens and center Claude Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers, while the Lightning got forwards Brandon Hagel from the Chicago Blackhawks and Nick Paul from the Senators.
Playoff teams in the Metropolitan Division each got better as well. The New York Rangers added Justin Braun on defense from the Flyers and forwards Andrew Copp from the Winnipeg Jets, Tyler Motte from the Vancouver Canucks, and Nick Merkley from the San Jose Sharks. The Washington Capitals added former Bruin Marcus Johansson from the Kraken, the Pittsburgh Penguins added Rickard Rakell from the Ducks and the Carolina Hurricanes landed center Max Domi from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Bruins were linked to Copp, Rakell, and Domi, but were not able to land any of them.
Bruins’ Trade Deadline Could Have Been a Bit Better
Sweeney addressed the left-shot defensive need with Lindholm and made the deal even more worth it by locking him up for the next eight seasons. Brown is defensive toughness and depth on the right side. After that, two other big needs were not addressed.
A second line center and just center depth, in general, was not addressed and a top-six right wing was not addressed either. Jake DeBrusk was signed to a two-year contract extension five hours before the deadline in hopes that a team would be willing to trade for the 25-year-old and not worry about his $4.41 million qualifying offer and having him locked up for two more seasons. Instead, he is still in Boston for the rest of the season and the Bruins certainly hope that he stays motivated the rest of the season, and then decisions can be made in the summer.
Overall, yes one need was addressed, but seeing what teams in the Atlantic Division did and the playoff teams from the Metropolitan Division did and with Sweeney not addressing the center or wing need, it’s hard to feel that the Bruins are a much better team after the trade deadline than they were going into it.
Bruins Trade Deadline Grade: B
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.