With question marks at the second-line center position and Jake DeBrusk’s outstanding trade request, the Bruins appeared ready for a busy day heading into the 3 p.m. deadline on Mar. 21.
“Certainly the calls have picked up in the last day or so,” Sweeney said in a media availability one day after acquiring Lindholm. “Certainly heading into today and tomorrow [it] will be a little bit more frantic.”
Sweeney’s latest deadline activity was four months in the making.
Word leaked out on DeBrusk’s trade request on Nov. 29 after a season and a half of inconsistent play. He had fallen on the depth chart and even became a healthy scratch on a few occasions, especially after the Bruins acquired Taylor Hall at last year’s deadline.
DeBrusk, who had already been named in numerous trade rumors over the past year, was once again thrust into trade speculation right up until the waning moments of the 2022 trade deadline.
“I don’t think Jake’s changed his opinion, but that doesn’t mean it happens,” Sweeney said of DeBrusk. “Jake’s helping our team, so I certainly would only do it in the fact of what’s going to help our team.”
Another intriguing development happened in the few months between DeBrusk’s trade request and the deadline. DeBrusk found himself in a top-line role with the potent duo of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
DeBrusk has rediscovered his game since his promotion. With 14 of his 21 goals coming in the last 22 games, DeBrusk has returned to form from his first two seasons in Boston.
“I just see that his overall engagement has been terrific recently in every area of the game, defensively, on the penalty kill when we use him and obviously 5-on-5 he’s been scoring,” said Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy.
DeBrusk signed a two-year extension worth $8 million on deadline day, further fueling speculation that he would be part of a rare ‘sign-and-trade’ in the NHL. Despite the extension and the frantic deadline, DeBrusk remained a member of the Bruins.
Like DeBrusk, Erik Haula’s role also remained unchanged following the deadline.
Haula wasn’t directly involved in any trade rumors. But the Bruins entered this year’s deadline hoping to finally secure the second-line center void left by David Krejci.
Whether it was J.T. Miller, Filip Forsberg, Max Domi, or Claude Giroux, the Bruins seemingly found themselves attached to every major top-six center on the trade market leading up to the deadline.
Haula struggled to produce in a bottom-six role after signing with the Bruins in the offseason, with only one goal and four assists in his first 25 games of the season.
After moving up to center Hall and David Pastrnak on the second line second-line, Haula’s production has ramped up significantly. The Bruins now have their Krejci replacement, at least for this season, with Haula producing 12 goals and 20 assists in 42 games since Jan. 1.
After staying pat up front, Sweeney and the front office showed their commitment to DeBrusk and Haula as a part of the top-six on a surging team primed for a playoff run with an aging core.
“Obviously we probably would have liked to add a little more depth [at forward], but several of our guys have really stepped up and played well,” Sweeney said post-deadline. “We feel that we’re in a good spot overall with our hockey club.”
Since the end of the trade deadline, Sweeney’s faith in the current group has paid off thanks to the continued improved production of DeBrusk (8 GP, 6G 2A) and Haula (8 GP, 5G 6A).
“It is nice when you know this is our team,” Haula said of his post-deadline mindset. “That’s ultimately out of my control, and now just put the foot on the gas and try to do something special.”
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