During his tenure as general manager (GM) of the Boston Bruins, Don Sweeney has mostly been a buyer instead of a seller at the annual NHL trade deadlines. His teams have been to the postseason for seven straight seasons and barring an all-time epic collapse, they are well on their way to an eighth consecutive season playing for the Stanley Cup.
Boston currently holds the NHL’s best record at 38-6-4, good enough for 80 points. Despite the historic start, Sweeney has some work ahead of him by the March 3 trade deadline at 3 o’clock. While everything looks good from the outside, there are some additions needed ahead of the playoffs. What does the Bruins GM do? If history tells us anything, he’ll do something, whether it’s big or small.
Sweeney Needs to Pin-Point Bruins Needs
Despite playing at a record-setting pace, there are some needs that the Bruins have. A right-shot depth defenseman would be big insurance with the grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just because the Black and Gold have avoided big in-season injuries to this point in the season is remarkable. Yes, they have had some close calls, most recently with Brandon Carlo taking a shot off the foot against the New York Rangers on Jan. 19. The big physical defenseman left the game early in the second period and did not return, but played in the next game three nights later against the San Jose Sharks. Carlo also has a pretty extensive history of concussions and every time he takes a big hit, you have to hold your breath that he’s going to be ok. Charlie McAvoy hitting the boards hard against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 26 was another close call, but he returned later in the third period.
Last season, the Bruins acquired Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks and his tenure in Boston did not get off to a good start as he missed some games at the end of the regular season with injuries before being knocked out of the first-round playoff series against Carolina Hurricanes after taking a big hit. He did return later in the series, but with the physicality of the playoffs, a depth addition similar to Mike Reilly and Josh Brown the last two seasons is almost a must for a seventh blueliner.
A bottom-six right wing would also be an addition that could help Boston. Craig Smith, no matter where he’s placed in the lineup by first-year coach Jim Montgomery, has struggled. He’s been given a shot with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the first line in Jake DeBrusk’s absence, but wherever he’s placed, it has just not worked out for the former Nashville Predator. Can he turn it around before the playoffs? Yes, absolutely, however, there is nothing that proves that it can happen. Giving Montgomery another option in the bottom six, mainly on the right wing, is an addition that can only help in the spring.
Does Sweeney Make a Big Splash With a Blockbuster Trade?
You can never have too much depth, but with that said, Sweeney needs to see if making a blockbuster move to acquire Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks or Timo Meier from the Sharks pushes the Black and Gold over the rest of the field. In acquiring Horvat, he’s the cheaper of the two in terms of contract money but would require a haul of top prospects and draft picks headed to the Canucks, it addresses depth for this season and beyond. Making that move would only happen if you can sign him long-term, similar to Lindholm last season, and be the replacement for Bergeron when the captain decides to hang up the skates for good.
Related: 3 Reasons Bruins’ Should Go All-in for Bo Horvat
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Horvat is having a career season with 31 goals and 19 assists. Acquiring him would make the Bruins a deep three-line team to match up with in the playoffs. If Horvat isn’t an option, then making a move for defenseman Jakub Chychrun is an option. In the big picture, the case could be made that the Sweeney lacks the necessary pieces to pull off a big trade, but getting a player with Horvat’s skill and capabilities, getting him to sign long-term at the cost of Fabian Lysell is a tough decision to make.
Sweeney’s Biggest Trade Deadline as GM Awaits Him
There are plenty of questions and options facing Sweeney over the next five weeks. He could stand pat and hope that his current roster is good enough to survive four playoff rounds and get 16 wins, but he also has to consider that the competition is going to get better too. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, just within the Atlantic Division, are going to be aggressive to add, and getting by one of those two teams if the Bruins survive the first round is going to be very difficult. Toronto is primed and on the cusp of a long, deep postseason run.
To be the best, you have to keep up with the best. If there is one thing that the 2022-23 Boston Bruins season has told us, it is that this team has earned the right of the front office to go all-in. This is very likely the “last chance’’ for the current Black and Gold core to get one more title that has eluded them two times since winning their only championship in 2011.