On March 25, 2006, the Boston Bruins fired general manager Mike O’Connell and promoted then-assistant GM Jeff Gorton to the interim position for the remainder of the season.
With the promotion, Gorton was given the keys to the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and his job was to help fix a Bruins team that finished last in the Northeast Division standings with just 74 points. When Gorton and other members of the Bruins front office arrived at General Motors Place in Vancouver for the draft, two minor trades at the time by Gorton helped turn the Bruins fortunes, the effects of which are still being felt to this day.
Raycroft Traded for Rights to Rask
In the 2005-06 season, Andrew Raycroft had the worst of his five seasons for the Bruins. One year after winning 29 games, he went 8-19-2 and gave up 100 goals in just 30 games played. He finished with an .879 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.72 goals against average (GAA).
Gorton traded Raycroft to the Toronto Maple Leafs on draft day for the rights to a goalie named Tuukka Rask. Rask was drafted by the Maple Leafs 21st overall in the first round of the 2005 Draft. Toronto management chose Justin Pogge as the goalie they felt more comfortable moving forward with and moved on from Rask without him playing a single game in a Maple Leafs uniform.
Toronto giving up on Rask has changed the Bruins organization for decades. After bouncing back and forth from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League to Boston for two years, he was named full-time backup to Tim Thomas at the beginning of the 2009-10 season. That season, Rask appeared in 45 games and went 22-12-5. He ended up going 7-6 in the playoffs that spring, but will be remembered for being in net as the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead in the Conference Semifinals to the Philadelphia Flyers and lost in seven games.
One year later, Rask played in 27 games in the regular season, before Thomas took over for good in the Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to a championship and a Conn Smythe Trophy.
Boston traded Thomas to the New York Islanders on Feb. 7, 2013, and that’s when the Bruins turned things over to Rask full-time. For his career in Boston, Rask has a 306-163-66 record. He has helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 and 2019, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, respectively.
Rask, who is in the last season of an eight-year, $56 million contract, is a big reason why the Bruins are still a Stanley Cup contender. He was in the running for his second Vezina Trophy in 2020 and he holds the Bruins record for career games played in net with 560.
After the trade, Raycroft went 70-68-15 for four teams over six years. He spent two years in Toronto and two more for the Dallas Stars. He then played one year each for the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks.
Draft Picks Swap Gets Marchand
Gorton’s second trade on draft day is one that has helped solidify the Bruins top line in 2020. Boston traded a fourth-round and a fifth-round draft pick to the New York Islanders for the 71st selection in the third round of the 2006 draft. With that pick, the Bruins chose Brad Marchand.
After playing in 20 games in the 2009-10 season, Marchand burst onto the scene in 2010-11 with 21 goals and 20 assists in the regular season. He then played a big role in the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in that year – Marchand had 11 goals and 8 assists that year in the playoffs, including two goals in a 4-0 win over the Canucks in Game 7, ironically in the same city where the trade to acquire his draft pick was made.
Marchand has played in 804 career games for Boston – he has 319 goals and 396 assists in 12 seasons. He has all the talent in the world, but has had many run-ins with the NHL Department of Player Safety for questionable hits and has even served suspensions. He has cleaned up his act lately, though, and helped the Bruins top line with David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron become one the most dangerous in the league.
In the 2013 playoffs, he had just four goals and nine assists in 22 games that ended with a loss in six games to the Blackhawks. In the 2019 playoffs, he had 9 goals and 14 assists as the Bruins lost in seven games to the Blues. Overall in his playoff career of 128 games, he has 41 goals and 60 assists.
Two More Gorton Moves in 2006
Gorton also made a pair of key free-agent signings following the draft in 2006. He inked Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard to free-agent contracts to help the Bruins get back into contention again. Chara spent 14 seasons with Boston and was the captain and team leader. He played 1,023 games in a Bruins uniform and will go down as one of the organization’s best defensemen.
One year after pulling off the trades, Gorton, who was once again serving as an assistant to new GM Peter Chiarelli, was fired. Now, he is in his fifth year as the general manager of the New York Rangers.
Gorton pulled off what seemed, at the time, as minor trades, but both have turned out players that are currently playing big roles in the Bruins’ chase for a Stanley Cup championship. Marchand has played a major role in three Bruins’ trips to the Stanley Cup Final, while Rask has made three trips himself, but played in two. Both are hoping that another trip is in order this season, and that they’ll get a chance to get over the sour tastes of 2013 and 2019.
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.