Sweeney in a rather precarious situation as NHL trade deadline looms
Eight days away from the NHL trade deadline and the Boston Bruins are in a rather interesting position since winning four straight under interim coach Bruce Cassidy.
Improvements still need to be made if the Black and Gold want to extend their 2016-17 season beyond April. Potential upgrades like Kevin Shattenkirk, Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog will come at a cost.
With the stagnant trade market, the chances of landing a big fish aren’t that good for Don Sweeney. How the second-year Bruins GM approaches this next week will come with a risk given the team’s current and future state.
How this team looks between now and 3 p.m. next Wednesday is anyone’s guess. Here’s a look at the different options Sweeney could look at from a team perspective.
Given the closeness in the playoff structure, the list of sellers right now is pretty thin outside of the Colorado Avalanche. Combine that with the expansion draft in a few months and you have a rather uncertain market for teams trying to chase a playoff spot or improve their chances of winning Stanley Cup.
From a Bruins perspective, adding one of the marquee names on the block like Shattenkirk, Duchene or Landeskog – while addressing their biggest needs of upgrading their top-four blue-liners and top-six forwards – will come at a cost. One would have to think that both Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy would have to be in play for the Bruins to acquire any of the aforementioned players.
Given Jeremy Jacobs’ comments prior to the start of the season, Sweeney may have his hands tied here. Though Landeskog comes at a decent cap hit of roughly $5.5 million over the next two years – in comparison to Duchene’s $6 million per season and a potential Shattenkirk contract extension north of $6 million if he were to be moved – is it really worth Carlo, McAvoy, draft picks or any of the other young talent in the pipeline? I don’t see it happening but that’s just my two cents.
For the second year in a row, this may be the route Sweeney has to go to improve his team in the short-term. At his first deadline last year, Sweeney added Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles. Though the two didn’t do too poorly initially, the Bruins didn’t get much of a boost from the two veterans as they fizzled out towards the last few weeks of another late regular season collapse.
One player who could have fit this role was Michael Stone, who was dealt to the Flames on Monday for a pair of draft picks. Without a third and fifth round pick in this June’s draft, the Bruins don’t have the same luxury as others to deal a mid-round selection for a short-term upgrade.
If Sweeney chooses to go that route, Brian Boyle and Patrick Eaves would add some depth to the bottom six. The two Boston College alums are having career years and both come with friendly cap hits of $2 million and $1 million respectively.
Adding a backup goalie would fall in this category, but aside from Jhonas Enroth, the options for a No. 2 behind Tuukka Rask is few and far between. Would Enroth be an upgrade over Anton Khudobin? Doubt it.
A few weeks ago, staying the course would have been a non-starter. Things can always change over the next week, but the way the Bruins are playing, Sweeney might consider staying the course with the roster he has.
With this option, Sweeney can have a complete look at whether or not some of the younger players and other potential assets are good fits moving forward. Of course, this also comes with a risk especially if the Bruins miss the postseason for a third straight season.
These decisions are never intended to be easy and for a team in a tough spot like the Bruins, that decision-making process is that much tougher for Sweeney – especially with the stagnant trade market. The clock is ticking on the trade deadline, and the Bruins’ present and future outlook.