Sweeney makes minor upgrade, keeps future intact
For the second straight year, Don Sweeney opted to make a minor upgrade to his club in hopes of returning to the postseason.
As first reported by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun moments after the NHL’s trade season officially came to a close, the Bruins announced that they acquired Drew Stafford, who is in the final year of his current contract with a $4.3 million cap hit, from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick (which could become a fifth rounder if the Bruins make the playoffs or a fourth round selection if Stafford plays in at least 50 percent of the remaining games in the regular season and postseason and the B’s win a first round series) in the 2018 NHL Draft.
The move itself isn’t anything to write home about. The 31-year-old power forward has battled the injury bug all season long playing in just 40 games and tallying 13 points (four goals, nine assists). He was a healthy scratch in three of his last four games of his Winnipeg-tenure.
Despite the injury-plagued 2016-17 campaign, the former Sabre does have a decent track record having tallied 20-goal season four times during his 12-year career. Early projections have him skating with Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano on the third line and his versatility could also earn him some power play time as well.
“We are fortunate that we are able to add Drew [Stafford] to our lineup,” Sweeney said about Stafford, who will arrive in Boston tomorrow after the Bruins’ morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “We’re excited about a player who has the ability to play up and down the lineup who has some scoring attributes and who also has some size and strength, and hopefully he can contribute to our group.”
Although they didn’t stand pat per se, the Bruins didn’t part with any significant assets compared to last year when they acquired Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles in exchange for selections in the 2016 (third and fourth rounds) and 2017 (second and fifth round) drafts.
Instead of opting to acquire the likes of a Kevin Shattenkirk, Gabriel Landeskog or Matt Duchene for a hefty return price, Sweeney opted to keep his team intact while preserving youngsters like Brandon Carlo and future Bruins like Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Forsbaca-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon.
Having jumped to third place in the Atlantic Division thanks to a 7-1-0 mark under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins opted to stay the course and hope that the success continues for the rest of the regular season.
“There’s always a balance in term of what the team needs, and how well they’re playing – and do you have enough depth – but it’s always been an eye and commitment about what we put in place and moving forward,” Sweeney told reporters during his pre-deadline press conference at TD Garden yesterday.
The deadline isn’t the last chance for Sweeney to make a notable transaction. They may even get some help when McAvoy’s season comes to a close at Boston University if the talented defenseman decides to go from Commonwealth Avenue to Causeway Street in the spring.
Other college prospects, like fellow BU teammate Forsbaca-Karlsson, Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork and signing other potential NCAA free agents may follow McAvoy sooner rather than later.
“We have college kids that may decide [to go pro] that may make that decision a little easier,” Sweeney said. “So that will be a case by case basis and situations that include a college free agent standpoint. That’s part of the process that we’re always involved in, but we do have some players that we need to make decisions on, and we have the flexibility to be able to do that.”
There’s also an option of removing the interim tag from Cassidy should the Bruins continue their winning ways.
“It could be before [the end of the season], but I don’t have a timeline on that,” Sweeney said about deciding on Cassidy’s future. “Like I said, we’ve had a good working relationship that continues to evolve at the NHL level.”
Sweeney may not have been a big winner during a rather uneventful trade deadline, but he didn’t have to tinker with his current roster, nor part with valuable products in the pipeline. Not bad for a team that was on the edge of collapsing after parting ways with Claude Julien a few weeks back.