Entering the 2022 offseason following the Boston Bruins‘ elimination at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games of the Stanley Cup playoffs, there were so many questions facing the front office. There was very little cap space to be able to make free agent additions, their core was a year older, and nobody what the future held for captain Patrice Bergeron.
Despite having little cap space to work with, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney had some turnover with his roster, but three moves that he made are paying off big time in 2022-23. He made one other move behind the bench that was a stunning one to everyone, but it appears that he has found the perfect replacement. Here are four moves made by Sweeney that are paying big dividends through 25 games this season.
Sweeney Fires Cassidy & Hires Montgomery
The one stunning move this offseason was on June 6. The Bruins announced that they fired coach Bruce Cassidy, in a move that sent shockwaves through Boston and the NHL. Sweeney decided to move one from one of the most successful head coaches during his tenure with the club and was faced with the task of finding the right replacement. One month later, the Bruins announced the surprising hiring of Jim Montgomery.
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Montgomery had one NHL stop as a head coach with the Dallas Stars, but it lasted just 114 games as he was let go in 2019 for unprofessional conduct. Ten months after being let go, he spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach on Craig Berube’s staff and oversaw the breakout of young stars Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas. Sweeney was hoping he could some of the same out of some of the Bruins’ young players and so far he has. Montgomery’s system has been a huge success so far on the entire roster.
Sweeney Trades for Pavel Zacha
It’s been no secret that Pavel Zacha has been on Sweeney’s radar for some time. The Bruins’ GM has tried to land him at the past two trade deadlines with no success. In July, he was able to get the sixth overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft in a trade for Erik Haula. It has turned out to be a very good deal for the Black and Gold.
Zacha has settled in on the second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak and is on pace for a career season. He set his career high in points with 36 last season and he is currently playing at a pace for 55 points this season. He has three goals and 13 assists. He has been as good as the Bruins hoped he would be in all situations after never really breaking out in New Jersey. He signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract in August to avoid arbitration as a restricted free agent (RFA) and will be added to the 2023 off-season to-do list for Sweeney.
Sweeney Signs Patrice Bergeron & David Krejci
When the Bruins were eliminated by the Hurricanes, there were questions surrounding Bergeron and his future. Was he going to retire or play another season? Would he play that other season with another team? In June, Joe McDonald of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that he was going to return to Boston for a 19th season. On Aug. 8, that became reality when he agreed to a one-year contract with incentives. He is earning $1 million in incentives and a $1.5 million base salary.
Bergeron, who won his record fifth Selke Trophy last season, is not playing like a 37-year-old veteran. He’s still excelling in all situations and is tied with Brad Marchand for second on the team in points with 21. If he continues to play this way all season, he could very well add to his collection of Selke Trophies.
In the summer of 2021, Krejci became a free agent and decided to return to his home country of Czechia to continue his career rather than return to Boston. After a one-year hiatus, and like Bergeron, he signed a one-year contract to return. The Bruins were never able to fill the second-line center position behind Bergeron last season until the second half of the season when Haula filled it. Despite his strong second half of the season, it was clear the Black and Gold needed to upgrade there, and did.
Krejci is tied for fourth on the team in scoring with 20 points in 21 games after missing three with an upper-body injury at the end of October and early November. He has found a connection with Pastrnak and Zacha that has been a big part of the team’s success through 25 games this season. Like Bergeron, he is on a veteran contract and has a $1 million base salary and $2 million in performance-based incentives.
Sweeney’s ‘Quiet’ Offseason Turning Into Success
Being a cap team and having a quiet summer has not affected the 2022-23 Bruins. Their three additions of Zacha, Bergeron, and Krejci have been successful additions and Montgomery has his team thriving in his new system. With all the injuries they were facing to begin the season, it was hard to imagine how they were going to stay within striking distance in the Eastern Conference with minimal moves by Sweeney.
They have been one of the best teams in the NHL since the season started and a lot of credit has to go to Sweeney despite limited offseason moves. He has to be one of the leading candidates to win his second Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award that he won following the 2018-19 season. Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due.
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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.