Another trade deadline has come and passed with all of the late-February drama that we’ve come to expect from the modern NHL. Despite rumors of a move for a definitive top-six forward, the Boston Bruins played it safer at the trade deadline, opting to free up some cap space while making two notable moves to secure the bottom-six forward group.
Related: The Trade That Shaped the Bruins
Heading down the stretch, the Bruins’ roster looks essentially the same as it has for most of the season. Swap in Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie for Danton Heinen (and David Backes, if you consider him a part of Boston’s roster from earlier in the season), and you’ve covered the bases on new faces.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney didn’t opt to make drastic changes to the roster. Why? Because this team has what it takes to make another trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
No Big Changes? No Big Deal
The Bruins, like many contending teams, had quite a few names connected to them through the rumor mill over the last month and change. Kyle Palmieri, Tyler Toffoli, Ilya Kovalchuk, Joe Thornton, etc.
Did the Bruins look into some of these moves? Certainly. But, as Sweeney pointed out, it’s not just about who you want to bring in. What you have to give up is just as important.
“We targeted some certain players and Nick [Ritchie] being one of them,” Sweeney said of the second deal with the Ducks, per MassLive. “Obviously we found a trade partner and it just happened to be with Anaheim again. Obviously, for a period of time, I’d had discussions with Bob and knew who would be available, but there were other players we certainly had looked at and tried to find deals with. But this is the one that made the most sense to us.”
Every time the trade deadline comes around, people overreact. But the truth of the matter is that big-name moves oftentimes aren’t the most effective.
Take a look at Boston’s moves last season as an example. When the Bruins brought in Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson at the deadline, it wasn’t the biggest splash in the pond. But in hindsight, they were the right moves to make. Coyle has become an essential piece of the bottom-six forward group, and Johansson’s postseason performance last season helped propel the Bruins to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
3 Reasons the Bruins Didn’t Make a Big Splash
Time will tell if this season’s acquisitions will be as effective. Personally, I wouldn’t expect them to have as large of an impact, but that doesn’t mean they were poor moves. Why?
As I already mentioned, most of the core that pushed the Bruins within a game (or a penalty call *cough cough* Noel Acciari trip) of the best trophy in sports remains intact. This team is atop the NHL standings for a reason.
Second, the Bruins have options in Providence that could help them down the stretch.
“There are guys in Providence that continue to make that step,” Sweeney said, per MassLive. “When they’re ready, it depends on when they go in and take advantage of the opportunities. I just think that our group feels like we have depth and that next-man-up mentality, we’ve taken that approach, and we’re in a better position as a result of it.
Will any player from down on the farm be as effective as Palmieri or Toffoli? Unlikely. But that brings up our third point: the future.
Yes, the team’s core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and even Tuukka Rask is aging. No, that doesn’t mean they should sell out on their future to risk it all this season.
Even with the core veterans this team has, the Bruins have quite a few promising young players who could keep this team in contention for a very long time. Look no further than David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, etc. Throwing away their potential teammates, be it through draft picks or prospects, for rentals — while tempting — might be more consequential in the long term than you’d think.
Additionally, the Bruins have to think about the upcoming offseason. Quite a few players will hit free agency in some form after this season. Torey Krug, Jaroslav Halak, Kevan Miller, Zdeno Chara, and Joakim Nordstrom will be unrestricted free agents. Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, and Karson Kuhlman will become restricted free agents. The cap space the Bruins cleared from Backes and Heinen — and kept open by avoiding a big-name trade — will help keep some of those players in black and gold beyond this season.
Ultimately, the Bruins are in a pretty unique position. They lead the NHL standings but haven’t mortgaged their future to do so. This is a team that is a contender this season and could be for years to come.
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!