The Boston Bruins are making a push to once again become Stanley Cup contenders.
At the start of the season, it was fairly clear that the Bruins were still in need of help up front given their woeful offensive tendencies. Outside of their top line, scoring has been considered a luxury; a concept that isn’t even exclusive to the 2020-21 season for the Bruins.
The addition of Craig Smith was a good one, but it was never going to be enough to fix the teams scoring problems altogether. This is why it was surprising that given the age of the core in Boston, general manager Don Sweeney didn’t do more to address this need.
Related: 2021 NHL Trade Deadline Deal Tracker
As the season has progressed and the issues have become more and more glaring, it became a matter of if and not when Sweeney was going to have to make some moves. Given his track record of moves at the Trade Deadline, though, many were skeptical about what type of deals would transpire.
It was a realistic concern, but one that Sweeney put to rest Sunday night when he made two separate trades that netted the Bruins defender Mike Reilly and forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar. Reilly would cost the team a 2022 third-round pick while Hall and Lazar would fetch the Sabres a return of a 2021 second-round pick and Anders Bjork. The icing on the cake was also the fact that in the second deal involving Hall and Lazar, the Bruins cleared up some cap space in Bjork’s deal while the Sabres also retained half of Hall’s remaining salary for the season.
While the importance of acquiring players like Reilly and Lazar shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle, the initial focus has been on Hall and rightfully so.
Sweeney Finally Makes a Major Trade
In the past, Sweeney has proven capable of acquiring players like Reilly and Lazar who can play complementary roles on the squad. The ability to make a trade at the Deadline was never the issue. With the exception of the Rick Nash trade which ultimately proved to be a disappointing one due to circumstances out of his control, though, Sweeney hadn’t appeared capable of making the legitimate major splash necessary to take his team over the hump prior to this trade.
This year, however, Sweeney not only made the major splash, but he also did so in what can only be considered a steal of a deal within a market that appeared to be a seller’s paradise.
With Hall in the fold, the Bruins now have a legitimate top-six forward to pair alongside David Krejci for at least the remainder of the season. Though Hall’s numbers may not be what they once were, the hope is that he can once again return to form and make an impact with some regained confidence.
An important part of this deal that should also be considered is the fact that Hall very clearly wanted to be a member of the Bruins. There was a lot of mutual interest in the offseason and though both sides couldn’t come to an agreement financially, the connection was established. As the Deadline rolled around, Hall’s no-movement clause helped him find his way to Boston in the end.
The desire to play in Boston isn’t just a short-term thing for Hall either. When speaking to media Monday, Hall made sure to mention that he’d “love to be a Bruin for a few years.”
Hall Should Help Goal-Scoring, Even if He Doesn’t Score Them Himself
Admittedly, Hall doesn’t immediately fix the Bruins need for a goal-scoring winger. A playmaker first and foremost, Hall’s goal-scoring totals since his Hart Trophy-winning 2017-18 season has been just 11 goals in 33 games in 2018-19, 16 goals in 75 games in 2019-20 and two goals in 37 games so far this season.
That doesn’t mean Hall can’t score goals, though. As mentioned, Hall has eclipsed the 20-goal mark six times in his career and could have reached the mark in the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons if it weren’t for the lockout shortened-year and injuries respectively.
Though Hall won’t necessarily be counted on to score a plethora of goals in Boston, his addition could ideally help open things up for others on the team to score more.
Should Hall lineup next to Krejci, the likely spot for him at least to start the season, the Bruins could have two star playmakers playing alongside either David Pastrnak or Craig Smith with the other winger skating on the top line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
A team featuring that kind of firepower in their top-six seems undoubtedly capable of scoring more than the Bruins have thus far. This is especially true when the third line would then likely feature players like Charlie Coyle, Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk – a line that features three players who have been used in top-six roles to varying degrees this season.
If the Bruins are reluctant to move Ritchie from Krejci’s wing, then it’s also possible that Smith returns to the team’s third line to more comfortably divvy up the scoring ability across the team’s top three lines.
No matter what lines head coach Bruce Cassidy settles on, though, the ability to shorten his bench and move players around in-game to create a spark is always a possibility. It’s also something Cassidy has shown a willingness to do in the past.
In the end, having Hall in the mix gives the Bruins an added element they simply didn’t have prior to the Trade Deadline.