During his tenure as Boston Bruins general manager (GM), Don Sweeney has overseen seven trade deadlines with a chance to improve the roster for a postseason run. Sweeney has added some veterans that were added for a run that season, while he has traded for players that are still part of the team’s core heading into the 2022-23 season.
While drafting has been an issue for Sweeney, making trades and signing players to team-friendly extensions could be considered his strength. With Sweeney agreeing to a multi-year contract extension on June 27, here are his five best trades to date as Boston’s GM.
5. Dougie Hamiltion to Calgary
In one of his very first moves ahead of the 2015 Entry Draft, Sweeney began shuffling pieces out of Boston to collect draft picks. Sweeney sent defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a 2015 first-round pick and a pair of second-round picks. The 15th pick in that 2015 Draft and the final of three consecutive picks in the opening round, Sweeney selected forward Zach Senyshyn. That trade did not work out as Senyshyn spent most of his time in the Bruins organization with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), but the second-round pick has turned into an impact player for the Black and Gold.
With the 37th overall pick, the Bruins selected defenseman Brandon Carlo, who is still a big part of the Boston top-four heading into the upcoming season. Carlo has played in 403 regular-season games over his first six seasons in Boston and is a valuable penalty killer and shutdown defenseman with his long reach at 6-foot-6. During his early years with the Black and Gold, he was paired with future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara creating one of the biggest defensive pairings the NHL has seen.
Heading into his seventh season, Carlo will be a big part of the Bruins’ defense early in the season with both Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk missing the first two months recovering from offseason surgeries.
Hamilton lasted just three seasons with Calgary before he was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes in June of 2018 for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.
4. 2019 Second Round & 2020 Fourth Round Pick to New Jersey
At the trade deadline, Sweeney pulled off two trades days apart to give the Bruins depth for a deep playoff run and both moves paid off. In a deal with the New Jersey Devils, Boston sent their 2019 second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in 2020 to the Devils for forward Marcus Johansson. Despite recording three points in 10 regular-season games, the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 2009 Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals, turned it up in the postseason and helped fuel a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.
Johansson solidified the third line for former coach Bruce Cassidy with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen to give the Bruins three solid lines needed for a deep postseason run. In 22 playoff games, Johansson had four goals and seven assists, which proved pivotal. Following the season, he left in free agency for the Buffalo Sabres, but without his postseason contributions, there is a good chance the Bruins don’t make the Stanley Cup Final.
3. Ryan Donato & 2019 5th Round Pick to Minnesota
The other deal pulled off by Sweeney in February of 2019 that played a huge role in the playoff run was when Ryan Donato and the Bruins’ 2019 fifth-round pick were sent to the Minnesota Wild for Coyle. Settling in as the third-line center behind Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Coyle, Johansson, and Heinen found chemistry.
In 24 postseason games in 2019 after struggling following the trade in the regular season with two goals and six points, Coyle had nine goals and seven assists, and the former Boston University and East Weymouth Massachusetts native quickly became a future center with the Bruins. In Novemeber of 2019, he signed a six-year, $31.5 million extension with an annual cap hit of $5.25 million and is still a key player up the middle hedging into next season.
Coyle solidified the Bruins’ third line this past season in February between Trent Frederic and Craig Smith after struggling the first half of the season as the No. 2 center in place of Krejci behind Bergeron. Erik Haula was able to solidify the second-line center spot, allowing Coyle to settle in more comfortably in his perfect spot as the third-line center. Depending on what offseason moves Sweeney makes this season, Coyle is looking at being the second or third-line center heading into 2022-23.
2. John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen & Three Draft Picks to Anaheim
At the trade deadline in March, the Bruins had several needs to improve their roster for a playoff run. One of the top needs was addressed when Sweeney sent defensemen Moore and Vaakanainen, along with the Black and Gold’s 2022 first-round pick, their 2023 second-round pick, and their 2024 second-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for left-shot defensemen Hampus Lindholm and forward Kodie Curran.
After acquiring Lindholm, Sweeney quickly locked up the impending free agent to an eight-year, $52 million contract with a very team-friendly annual cap hit of $6.5 million. Six months after locking up McAvoy on a eight-year, $76 million extension in October of 2021, the Bruins have their top-pairing on defense for the foreseeable future. Getting a team to take on Moore’s contract was a win in the deal itself.
1. Andres Bjork & 2021 Second Round Pick to Buffalo
Looking for a top-six forward at the 2021 trade deadline, Sweeney swung and landed one of the top available forwards when he acquired Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres for Anders Bjork and Boston’s 2021 second-round pick. Not only was Hall a much-needed addition, but Lazar turned out to be a key part of the deal as he added energy and a spark to the fourth line.
Hall settled in on the second line with Krejci and Smith, while providing a jolt and secondary scoring behind the top-line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Hall had eight goals and 14 points in 16 regular-season games following the trade with a plus/minus of plus-15 skating with Krejci and Smith. Last offseason, the Bruins re-signed Hall to a four-year, $24 million contract, which is a good deal and a moveable contract toward the end of it if Boston goes down the road of a rebuild, but he is going to be an important piece of the team in the 2022-23 season.
Lazar settled in on the fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner to provide some much-needed grinding shifts that sometimes shifted momentum in both regular-season and postseason games. In 2021-22, Lazar was the most valuable piece of the Bruins’ fourth line with a career-high eight goals and 16 points. An unrestricted free agent (UFA) this summer, it’s more likely that another team offers Lazar a deal that Sweeney won’t be willing to match.
It’s no secret that making trades, and signing players to extensions, both veterans and younger players is a strength of Sweeney’s, as compared to drafting and developing young talent. The run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019 would not have happened without the Johansson and Coyle trades, while acquiring a draft pick to select Carlo has added stability on defense for the last six seasons. Now entering the summer of 2022 with the need to shed some salary to open cap space, it’s time for Sweeney to go to work again to make some moves.
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.