At 2:58 pm on Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline, Bruins Twitter was rioting about Boston’s passivity. By 3:30 pm, Bruins Twitter was upset about the moves that Boston had made. So what happened?
In the final minutes before Monday’s 3:00 pm deadline, the Bruins made two controversial moves, in both cases giving up draft picks for a veteran player, in an effort to add depth to an uncertain team.
Here’s a breakdown of Boston’s two moves, as well as their non-trade of Loui Eriksson.
The Good: With Liles, the Bruins are adding a depth defenseman who is capable of handling 20 minutes per night. He’s been a durable piece for the Carolina Hurricanes this season, appearing in all 64 of their match-ups, scoring six goals while tallying nine assists in those appearances. The 35-year-old has a -3 rating this season, however, that should be taken with a grain of salt, as he’s played alongside a lackluster Carolina team.
Liles’ HERO chart shows that he’s a capable lower-pairing defenseman who will add a bit of depth to Boston’s blue-line.
The Bad: Depth. That’s what John-Michael Liles adds to the Bruins. Unfortunately, that’s not what the Bruins need.
It’s important to look at the large-scale context of the trade when considering whether or not this was a bad move for the Bruins. While Boston didn’t give up an outrageous amount in the trade (3rd rounder, 5th rounder, and prospect Anthony Camara), they didn’t make a move that would save their flawed blue-line. Instead, they added depth that won’t solve any long-term issues.
Liles is in the final year of a 4-year, $15.5 million deal. He carries a $3.875 million cap hit that Boston will have to eat.
In context, this move is a bit unnecessary for Boston. The way things look right now, the Bruins aren’t a serious contender to make a run at Lord Stanley. So, giving up a top-90 pick for a player who’s going to provide somewhat unnecessary depth (on a long-term scale) is a bit underwhelming. It’s one thing if the Washington Capitals made this deal to add depth while their “championship-window” is open. However, Boston’s window is not wide-open, which means that this move will hit many Bruins fans the wrong way.
The Good: From a production perspective, Lee Stempniak adds more to the Bruins than John-Michael Liles. The 33-year-old winger is New Jersey’s leading scorer this season, with 41 points in 63 games. He’s on pace to have a career year, and will add even more offensive power to an already strong offensive Bruins team. While producing top-six numbers, Stempniak could fit in on Boston’s middle lines.
2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th round picks + Anthony Camara for John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak. Woof.
— Weekend at Bergy's (@weekendatbergys) February 29, 2016
The Bad: At a first glance, Monday’s Lee Stempniak deal seems like a pretty decent move for the Bruins. However, a more in-depth analysis will bring out a bit of cynicism from the Bruins.
First things first, Lee Stempniak was without a contract at the start of this season, and went on to become New Jersey’s leading scorer after signing a try-out contract. This means that Boston could have picked up Stempniak last fall for next to nothing. To make matters even worse, Stempniak literally skated with the Bruins before signing his try-out contract with the Devils, meaning that Boston had a look at the winger and decided not to move forward with him.
Now, months later, Boston has overpaid for him. While Stempniak is a good player, the fact that the Bruins gave up a second round pick (2017) and a 4th round pick (2016) is undoubtedly tough to swallow.
In this case, the Bruins spent quite a bit to patch up a piece of their team that did not need healing.
After all of the speculation regarding Loui Eriksson’s future in Boston (or elsewhere), the Bruins ultimately decided to hang onto the Swedish point-getter. With Boston facing some tough decisions to make in the near future regarding some other important assets (Torey Krug, Collin Miller, and Brad Marchand), the chances of extending Loui Eriksson’s time in Boston look pretty slim.
Report: Monk Sweeney still attempting to negotiate a contract extension with Loui Eriksson’s camp pic.twitter.com/8tvc0XxZiD
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 29, 2016
While some people have called Boston’s sticky fingers when it comes to Loui Eriksson a “self-rental”, the fact of the matter is that the Bruins will probably have to part ways with the right-winger at the end of this season. Of course, if this becomes reality, Bruins fans will be angry that the team let him walk in the summer instead of getting something in return during the spring.
Boston’s action on trade-deadline day were peculiar. After the dust clears, it looks as though Don Sweeney is going to see how far this team can run into the postseason.
Bruins get Lee Stempniak and John Micheal Liles and hold onto Loui Eriksson. They're making a run with this group,for better or worse
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) February 29, 2016
Ultimately, today’s moves don’t really fit with Boston’s position. Their “self-rental” of Loui Eriksson, and added depth sounds like a team at the top of the standings who is looking to make a run at postseason glory.
However, in reality, Boston’s inconsistency this season doesn’t look like it’s going to lead to a deep dive into summer hockey. Here’s hoping that the new GM’s decisions on his first deadline day don’t come back to bite him too hard in the future. Boston’s trade deadline day was, well, underwhelming.
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Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!