Don Sweeney: The good, the bad and the ugly
The start of the Don Sweeney era has been a roller coaster ride.
From questionable trades to the signing of Matt Beleskey and acquiring Jimmy Hayes, there have been many ups and downs for the Boston Bruins so far this offseason. After a draft day that saw the Bruins ship out two of their better players only to follow that up with some draft selections that left people scratching their heads, fans and media alike were questioning the moves of Sweeney as his vision for the Bruins was certainly unclear.
A few days later Sweeney was able to redeem himself as the league kicked off free agency. With some signings and trades that helped the team get better, Sweeney’s vision is becoming clearer.
Sweeney and his staff knew things wouldn’t be smooth out of the gate and that they should be prepared to take some heat. Boy was he right about that one.
“I told the guys when I got the job, I told every one of our scouts and every one of our people, I said, ‘buckle up’ because I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride to get going,” Sweeney told the media via conference call Wednesday night. “I didn’t necessarily know how that would play out. I’m not claiming that I did by any stretch of the imagination, but I sit here today and I’m excited about the course going forward.”
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Sweeney’s summer moves.
Bruins trade Milan Lucic to the LA Kings in exchange for the 13th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Colin Miller and Martin Jones.
It’s no secret that Milan Lucic is one of the Bruins best players and arguably the most feared player in all of the National Hockey League. Power forwards like Lucic don’t come around too often. A big body who can throw the body around, score goals and intimidate opponents is something every NHL General Manager would die for. But at the end of the day, hockey is a business and that sometimes outweighs anything done on the ice. With Lucic currently making $6 million through the 2015-16 season and a lengthy but pricey contract on the horizon, the time to trade Lucic could not have been more perfect.
The return the Bruins got for Lucic was very beneficial to the club. Colin Miller is a big-framed powerful defenseman who should crack the Bruins lineup at some point this season. Martin Jones is a starting goalie on most teams in the league. This past season Jones appeared in 15 games for the Kings going 4-5-2 while boasting a solid 2.25 GAA and .906 save percentage, winning three of the four games by shutout with a 154:17 scoreless streak from Nov. 26-Dec. 12.
Bruins trade Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2016 first round draft pick.
Knowing Jones would be sitting behind Tuukka Rask and a handful of teams looking for goaltending, Sweeney sent Jones back to the Western Conference in exchange for the Sharks’ 2016 first round pick. As a team that is somewhat in rebuild mode, the Sharks first round pick next season could be a top-10 pick. After all was set and done, the trade of Lucic became two first round picks and a very solid prospect.
That’s a win for Sweeney and company.
Bruins sign Ryan Spooner to a two-year contract worth $950,000 annually.
As one of the Bruins restricted free agents and surely a part of their future plan, many expected Spooner to fetch over $1 million per season. In what is expected to be his bridge deal, Spooner gets just shy of $1 million annually in a deal that is very good for both sides.
For Spooner, he gets two seasons to prove his worth and show Bruins management he can be a consistent player at the NHL level. For the B’s, they keep Spooner in town at a very low cap hit and have two years to gauge how valuable Spooner really is at the NHL level.
Bruins trade Reilly Smith and Marc Savard to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jimmy Hayes.
Last season the Bruins were plagued with inconsistency. Too many players on the roster were under-performing. After scoring 20 times with the Bruins in the 2013-14 season, Smith struggled through the 2014-15 season and his lack of confidence showed. The lack of cap space combined with Smith’s struggles made the former Miami (Ohio) product the perfect candidate to be shipped out of town and that’s exactly what Sweeney did.
By trading Smith along with the contract of Marc Savard, the Bruins freed up almost $7.5 million. Hayes, a Dorchester native, is currently a restricted free agent and is coming off a season that saw him score 19 goals and chip in with 16 assists. His 19 goals was good enough for third on the Panthers. Hayes is expected to bring in a cap hit of about $1-2 million.
Bruins sign Matt Beleskey to a five-year contract worth $3.8 million annually.
As one of the most sought out forwards on the free agent market, Beleskey was expected to be looking for something in the $5-$6 million range. So to sign the former Duck to a deal that will pay him a shade under $4 million annually is a steal for the Sweeney and the Bruins.
Beleskey is coming off a season that saw him him score a career high 22 goals. In 16 postseason games with the Ducks, Beleskey scored eight times.
Much like Lucic, Beleskey is a big frame who can score and throw the body around when needed.
Bruins select Jakub Zboril 13th overall.
After losing Dougie Hamilton via trade, the Bruins no longer had a young, talented potential No. 1 defensemen. Making the first of three consecutive draft picks it came to no surprise that the Bruins selected the best available defenseman on the board. With the pick acquired in the Lucic deal, the Bruins selected Jakub Zboril.
Zboril compiled 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) in 44 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Junior Major Hockey League. Among rookie defenseman, Zboril was third in scoring.
Bruins sign Adam McQuaid to a four-year contract extension through the 2018-19 season.
With many Bruins fans fuming about the trade of Hamilton, Sweeney added fuel to the fire signing Adam McQuaid to a four-year extension paying McQuaid $2.75 million annually. Playing in his sixth season with the Bruins in 2015-16, McQuaid appeared in 63 games where he scored once and added six assists.
In his tenure as a Bruin McQuaid has had many ups and downs. Plagued by injuries and inconsistent play, another four years of McQuaid is certainly dicey. A bottom-three defenseman at best, McQuaid hopes to stay healthy and help lead what looks to be a young Bruins defensive core.
Bruins acquire Zac Rinaldo from the Flyers in exchange for a third round draft pick in 2017.
In a move that makes no sense, the Bruins sent a third round draft pick in 2017 to the Flyers in exchange for the pest known as Zac Rinaldo. The 25-year old Rinaldo is bruiser — a hard hitting grind it out type of guy. A perfect type of player for a team who likes to use their grit and toughness to win hockey games.
With the departure of guys like Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Lucic, the Bruins are clearly moving away from that style of play. All of that makes the Rinaldo move even more puzzling. You won’t find Rinaldo’s name on the score-sheet too often. The Bruins need more guys who do find their names on the score-sheet.
Bruins Acquire 15th, 45th, and 52nd Overall Picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft from the Calgary Flames in Exchange for Dougie Hamilton.
Now that we know Hamilton turned down a very similar offer to what he signed in Calgary, it’s pretty clear the ninth overall pick in the 2011 Draft did not want to remain in Boston. Knowing that helps understand why Hamilton was moved.
The part that irks Bruins fans is the return for Hamilton. Sure a first and two second rounds picks is nice, but the return on Hamilton should have and could have been more. According to multiple reports, more than a handful of General Managers had no idea Hamilton was even available. Had a few more teams entered the mix, a more intense bidding war could have taken place and the Bruins could have made out like bandits in the Hamilton deal.
Bruins select Zack Senyshyn 15th overall.
With the pick acquired in the Hamilton trade, the Bruins went off the board, a bit. Many mock drafts had Zack Senyshyn going in the middle of the second round. The Bruins, on the other hand, saw differently.
Senyshyn finished second in scoring among rookies in the Ontario Hockey League, tallying 26 goals and 45 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The potential is there for Senyshyn, no doubt. But passing on Matthew Barzal and Kyle Connor, who went at 16 and 17 respectively, may come back to haunt the Bruins down the road.