Bruins’ Sweeney Will Have to Get Creative to Trade Smith or Reilly

Entering the 2022 offseason, the Boston Bruins were a cap team, which limited general manager (GM) Don Sweeney’s ability to make additions to the roster. He made one outside addition when he acquired Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Erik Haula in July. The other moves were getting David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron to return on very team-friendly deals, while signing some depth for the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Over the first two months of the season, the Bruins have been slowly getting healthy with Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk returning from offseason surgeries. Sweeney has been able to work his way around keeping his team cap compliant by moving pieces around to Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) with Derek Forbort and placing players on waivers for the purpose to assign them to Providence. Since the season began, Sweeney has been trying to trade two players, Mike Reilly and Craig Smith, with no success. Moving one or both of those players is going to be hard for the Bruins’ GM and he is going to have to get real creative to get a deal done.

Reilly and Smith Have Value…… to Other Teams

First, let’s start with Reilly. When he was acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline in April of 2021, he provided the Bruins with offensive production from the back end. In 15 regular season games, he had eight assists and helped the Bruins secure an East Division playoff spot. Last season, however, was not too kind to the left-shot blueliner.

Mike Reilly, Boston Bruins
Mike Reilly, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 70 games, he had four goals and 17 points, but it was his overall play that took a step back. He was turning the puck over more, making bad decisions in the offensive zone that led to odd-man rushes, and looked like a player that lost all of his confidence. He found himself on the outside looking in when the Bruins acquired Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks and only played when Lindholm suffered an injury.

The Bruins held onto him over the summer and he is in the second year of a three-year, $9 million contract that carries an average annual value (AAV) of $3 million. He was placed on waivers in October along with Chris Wagner and Nick Foligno, but went unclaimed. Reilly is currently with Providence after going on waivers again in early November and has fallen off of the depth chart in Boston. He is a piece that a team looking for offensive help on defense would be interested in, but if he went unclaimed through waivers, trading him is going to be very difficult.

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Smith is a middle-six forward that can supply a team with scoring depth. He was a 20-goal scorer in five of his nine seasons with the Nashville Predators, but he has yet to find his consistent scoring touch in Boston, failing to reach the 20-goal plateau in his first two seasons. This season has been a frustrating one for him as he has just one goal in 12 games and he has shown frustration with himself on the ice.

First-year coach Jim Montgomery has moved him around the lineup on all four lines with no success in getting the 98th overall pick of the Predators in the 2009 Entry Draft going offensively. He has proven that he has goal-scoring ability and during his two seasons in Boston, he’s been a streaky goal-scorer in bunches. This season, however, he has hit a wall and finds himself in the pressbox on most nights recently. His last game action was on Nov. 25 against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime victory. He is in the final year of his three-year, $9.3 million contract with a $3.1 million AAV he signed in October of 2020.

Both Reilly and Smith Will Be Hard to Move & Sweeney Will Have to Get Creative

On Nov. 28, Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now reported that Sweeney had been working the phones looking to trade either player with no luck. Murphy also mentioned that in order to get a possible deal done, Sweeney may have to add a “sweetener” to get a deal done. More than likely, the Bruins would have to eat some salary to move either or both players. Along with retaining salary, there may have to be a draft pick included or a low-level prospect. Top prospects Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei should be deemed off-limits by Sweeney.

Don Sweeney Boston Bruins
Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Teams know that Sweeney and Boston are reaching what could be considered a desperate stage in moving either Reilly or Smith and it is not going to be easy. Smith is on an expiring contract and as we have seen before, a player on an expiring contract switching teams is motivated and beneficial to the team they are going to as they look to lay the framework for their next deal. Reilly on the other hand, with another year remaining with a $3 million AAV would be tougher to move. Both can have an impact on a new team and provide them with value. In the end, one or both players most likely end up getting moved, but it’s not going to be easy for Sweeney to do it.


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