Boston Bruins: Rating Don Sweeney’s Last 5 Trades

Don Sweeney, general manager of the Boston Bruins, has had his fair share of criticism throughout his near six-year tenure. There have been a lot of head-scratching transactions while he has been in office, such as the famous David Backes signing of $6 million AAV for five seasons.

Although questionable signings like that happen from time to time, and Sweeney has made up for that blunder by finding the Ducks as a suitor and dumping his contract on them after giving away a pick and a prospect. It’s time to check up on Sweeney and see how his last five trades have gone, and what they have done for the team. The list will start from the most recent onwards.

October 7th, 2020

Toronto Maple Leafs Acquire: 2020 7th round pick

Boston Bruins Acquire: 2021 7th round pick

This trade was no blockbuster as you can see. Trades like this rarely get coverage for how insignificant they seem. However, there is significance to this move. Most often small transactions like these are made just to set the foundation for a relationship between two GMs so they can get comfortable in talking business more frequently with each other. After all, before this trade, the Bruins and Maple Leafs hadn’t made a deal since 2011, when Peter Chiarelli acquired a piece that would help them win the Cup in Tomas Kaberle in exchange for Joe Colborne and a couple of high-end draft picks.

Bruins General manager Don Sweeney (Photo: Bill Sikes/Associated Press)

Sweeney seems to be turning the tide on the silence between the two original six rivals. Trades might be more open between the two teams, especially now that they no longer find themselves in the same division. Although the motives behind this trade are unknown, it is still good to see Sweeney opening up doors between him and another GM. This trade is likely to open up talks between both GMs involved and make it easier for them to do business going forward. Although it is hard to highly rate draft picks that haven’t been drafted yet, it is safe to say it is a good sign to see Sweeney opening up new doors for the Bruins.

Trade Rating: 5/10

February 24th, 2020

Anaheim Ducks Acquire: Danton Heinen

Boston Acquires: Nick Ritchie

Although it is still fairly recent, there is no doubt that Sweeney completely triumphed on this trade. The Bruins hadn’t traded with the Ducks for approximately nine years before the two moves that were made in February 2020. So, it definitely came as a surprise to many that the two would accomplish two trades with each other within a few days. The most recent of the trades was this one in particular where we saw Sweeney attempt to shed some cap space by trading forward Danton Heinen who, at the time, had one more season left at $2.8 million.

Sweeney found his suitor in Nick Ritchie who was a career bottom-six power-forward for the Ducks. The move made financial sense since Ritchie was on a cheaper $1.498 million contract for another year at the time. It was a financial success shedding over $1.3 million in cap space, but no one could’ve expected the return on investment the Bruins would get.

At his time of departure, Heinen posted 103 points in 220 regular-season games. Very solid offensively and defensively too, considering he always held a positive plus-minus at all times while on the Bruins. Although he was very good for the Bruins, he was showing signs of a slow decline after getting 47 points in his rookie season, then 34 the season after, and 22 in the next season in 58 games with the Bruins. Even if the decline didn’t make him a liability by any means on the ice, Sweeney saw an opportunity to shed cap space and a center, of which the Bruins are spoiled with options.

Nick Ritchie Boston Bruins
Nick Ritchie suprised many bruins’ fans this season with his superb play. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The deal would prove a win-win situation for the Bruins as they sent their declining center who has looked poor in Anaheim with six points in 19 games for Ritchie who has become a top-six winger with eight goals and 15 points in just 24 games. Ritchie is on pace to break his highest previous point total of 31. Ritchie has added a scoring touch to the Bruins and saves the Bruins an approximate extra $1.3 million in cap space. Sheer brilliance from the Bruins’ GM.

Trade Rating: 8.5/10

February 21st, 2020

Anaheim Acquires: David Backes, Axel Andersson, & 2020 1st round pick

Boston Acquires: Ondrej Kase

The first of the two trades that occurred between the Bruins and Ducks was one that had the same motive as the second, to seek some sort of salary shed. Sweeney was successful in that goal once again as he sent an aging center which he signed to a monstrous 5 year $6 million AAV contract years prior in Backes to the Ducks along with a couple of other pieces. The Bruins would receive a young 25-year-old winger in Kase who has proved that he can score 20 goals in a season. This one was a no-brainer for Sweeney, with him shedding $825,000 even after retaining $1.5 million of Backes contract. The two other pieces were prospect Axel Andersson and a late 2020 1st round pick who would turn out to be Jacob Perreault.

Ondrej Kase Boston Bruins
Still young at the age of 25 there is no doubt in Kase’s offensive abilities when healthy with him scoring 20 goals in his sophomore campaign. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although we haven’t seen much of both prospects that were sent to the Ducks, it is fair to say that fair the moment Sweeney came out of the trade a tad better, saving himself from fully paying another year of a $6 million contract, while also gaining a very capable young winger in Kase. He has been injured for most of this season only suiting up for two games, however, he has shown that he can put up points when healthy.

If Kase stars clear of injuries the there should be no problem in the young Czech winger outshining the 36-year-old Backes who is currently posting two measly goals in nine games. One or both of the prospects might come back to haunt Sweeney in his dreams if they develop well and become great players, however for now Sweeney seems to have won this trade.

Trade Rating: 7.5/10

February 25th, 2019

New Jersey Devils Acquire: 2019 2nd round pick, 2019 4th round pick

Boston Acquires: Marcus Johansson

This trade was the fourth and final trade of the Bruins’ famous 2018-19 season which saw them go to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Sweeney made this trade in a last-ditch attempt to acquire even just a bit more of a scoring touch. Johansson wasn’t great with the Bruins for the rest of the regular season, scoring a poor three points in 10 games. Although, Johansson proved to be a good addition after he scored four goals and 11 points in 22 playoff games for the Bruins. 40% of Johansson’s $2.75 million contract which was expiring in the 2019 offseason was retained, which definitely helps Sweeney’s case since he added playoff help at a discount.

Not a blockbuster addition by any means, but he did end up doing exactly what Sweeney acquired him for in the first place which was some additional point production. Sweeney had to give up a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2019 4th round pick. The 2nd rounder would turn out to be prospect Nikita Okhotyuk and the latter would turn out to be prospect Ethan Edwards. Both prospects still haven’t been able to show what they’re capable of yet, so there is no way in knowing if they will make Sweeney regret the trade. Johansson also didn’t return to the Bruins’ in the 2019 offseason, making his time on the Bruins a short-lived 32 games.

Alexander Steen,Marcus Johansson
Marcus Johansson would only play a combined 32 games for the Bruins in the regular season and playoffs before packing his bags in free agency to sign with Buffalo for 2 years at $9 million AAV.(THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer)

For now, it seems to be a decent business from Sweeney, seeing as he gave away two prospects which an aging Bruins’ team definitely can use but gained a short-term forward who did his part in helping to bring the Bruins to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. For some it doesn’t seem worth it to trade two picks for a player who put up 11 points in 22 playoff games, however, he did do his part for the team. For now, it seems Sweeney got a slightly better return on investment, regardless of how short the time he spent in Boston was.

Trade Rating: 7/10

February 20th, 2019

Minnesota Wild Acquire: Ryan Donato & 2019 conditional 5th round pick (turned into a 4th round pick)

Boston Acquires: Charlie Coyle

The last trade on this list is an interesting one. Once again this move was made in hopes of adding extra depth at the center position. The swap of the two centers was welcomed since Coyle is definitely the better of the two having a career-high of 56 points compared to Donato’s career-high of 26 points. In the 2018-19 season when he was traded, Donato compiled an unimpressive 39.3% faceoff percentage at the circle compared to Coyle’s 45.9% faceoff percentage the same season.

With Coyle being the better overall center by a good amount, it is no surprise that Sweeney made an attempt to acquire the Massachusetts-born center before that season’s deadline to add depth to a contending squad. Coyle delivered on Sweeney’s demands, by being a crucial part of the Bruins’ playoff team where he put up nine goals and 16 points in 24 playoff games.

Sweeney swapped centers with Minnesota visibly getting an upgrade at the position but traded away a conditional 5th round pick that turned into a 4th since the Bruins made it to the 2nd round of playoffs, and went on to make the Final as well. The 4th round pick would turn out to be traded to Carolina along with a 3rd round pick in exchange for a 2nd round pick. The 4th rounder that was given up in this trade and eventually dealt to Carolina turned out to be Cade Webber, a left-shot defenseman who has barely any news surrounding him.

Coyle would add strain on the cap space unlike the rest of these moves but he has proven to be a decent acquisition for this Bruins’ team considering he re-signed a 6 year $31.5 million contract with the Bruins in the 2019-20 season. He does his part, holding a 49.2% faceoff percentage, yet the Bruins seem to be rotating him. Sometimes he plays out of position as a right-winger on a line with Krejci and Ritchie. His ability to produce points seems to be hindered while he alternates between center and right wing. The team expects more from a player that is getting paid an AAV of $5.25 million.

Charlie Coyle Boston Bruins
Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Hopefully, he can pick it up and show fans that he is worth the money he is being paid. Originally, the deal is easily won by Sweeney due to Coyle’s impressive performance in the playoffs that season, however, his current underwhelming play could prove to put the team in a difficult position with him holding a high cap value. Sweeney definitely did a great job in getting a center which greatly helped the Bruins in their 2018-19 playoff run, however, there is no knowing if Coyle will return to his consistent point production which we’ve seen in his seasons past. At the moment, Sweeney did pretty well on this trade.

Trade Rating: 8.5/10

None of Sweeney’s trades got a near-perfect rating, but that’s fine. Everyone has different views on how these trades affected the Bruins, so its natural readers may have a different evaluation for each of these trades. Sweeney’s last five trades have seemed to do more good than bad to the Bruins, for now at least. Maybe this list shows the Bruins’ fans that he doesn’t deserve the amount of criticism he gets for his blunders in the past. This list provides a sense that Sweeney is becoming better at making decisions for the Bruins’ roster. Which of these five trades is the best in your opinion?

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