Putting Don Sweeney’s trade deadline in perspective
Don Sweeney made his most notable trade deadline transaction to date 24 hours ago when he acquired Rick Nash from the New York Rangers. His other transactions were also noteworthy in a busy trade deadline period.
Sure, the Rick Nash haul cost them a talented defensive prospect in Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first round pick and 2019 seventh rounder. The Rangers also took on half of his cap hit for the remainder of the season and added veterans Ryan Spooner (who had two assists in his Blueshirts debut Sunday) and Matt Beleskey with the Bruins taking on 50 percent of Beleskey’s cap hit for the rest of this season and next season.
Twenty-four hours after the Nash trade and inking Brian Gionta to a one-year contract worth $700,000, Sweeney added another depth piece with Tommy Wingels in exchange for a conditional 2019 fifth round selection, which becomes a fourth-rounder if the Bruins advance to the second round or Wingels re-signs.
Add the previous Rangers trade involving Nick Holden for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third round pick, sending Frank Vatrano to the Panthers for their 2018 third-round selection, and placing Paul Postma on waivers and you have the following:
– Nash replacing Spooner on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk
– Gionta and Wingels replacing Vatrano as the extra forwards
– Holden replacing Postma as the eighth defenseman
Spooner has had a bounce-back year no doubt. Nash’s production has dropped since notching 42 goals in 2014-15. Spooner wasn’t in the long-term plans thus making him expendable, while Nash, despite being on the final year of his contract, still has a good pep in his step as evident by his Black and Gold debut Sunday in Buffalo.
Like Spooner, Vatrano wasn’t in the long-term plans and has a chance to get some playing time in Florida in hopes of proving that he belongs at the NHL level. Gionta — despite his age — or Wingels are better suited as bottom-six insurance policies at this point in their respective careers.
Holden has several more games under his belt over the last few seasons compared to Postma, who cleared waivers on Monday. The former Winnipeg blue-liner, who signed in the off-season to fill that extra defensive spot, will go down to Providence to get some much-needed action since his last appearance with Boston on Dec. 13.
As the Penguins (Derick Brassard), Lightning (Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller) and Maple Leafs (Tomas Plekanec) all improved, the last thing Sweeney could do was stand pat. That meant a close-knit Bruins group had to say goodbye to a veteran like Spooner, and to a lesser degree Beleskey. But it’s the cost of doing business, especially when it comes to improving their Stanley Cup chances.
“What they did or didn’t do, I’m aware of the marketplace and how we are trying to improve our team, how they try to improve the team, or who everybody,” Sweeney said during his trade deadline press conference on Monday. “As I said earlier, it’s a business. Everybody is jockeying, and there is a timeline, so we went in our direction, they went in theirs, and I’m sure they feel good about it as we do about ours.”
Sweeney should feel good about his trade deadline period. He didn’t have to go too deep into his pool of prospects to attempt a big splash and got an extra $1.9 million of salary cap space to work with next season by moving Beleskey. The third-year Bruins GM still has a talented prospect pool, including Ryan Donato, Jakub Zboril and Emil Johansson to name a few.
Steve Yzerman might have made a bigger splash at the deadline by adding McDonagh and Miller and to an uber-talented core — without giving up the likes of Braden Point or Mikhail Sergachev. They are undoubtedly the favorites to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Final, and likely the favorites to win it all in June.
Sweeney’s emphasis on drafting and developing is paying off. Their mix of the talented youth movement and veteran leadership sparked their impressive four-month run.
Sure adding a proven contributor like Nash comes with a risk as he plays out the last few months of the year. Striking out on a top-four defensive upgrade — albeit a more complicated scenario — and settling for more minor transactions might put them a step behind the Bolts. But they’re still in the thick of things, and their window isn’t closing anytime soon.
“We knew where the marketplace was for the players that moved today, and we had the intention to try and improve our team. I think we’ve done that. We’ve addressed some of the things,” Sweeney said. “Could we have done better? Well, that is to be determined.”
The Bruins springtime performance will provide the answer to that elusive question.