The league-leading Boston Bruins aren’t just any ordinary team sitting at the top of the NHL perch.
Entering March just one point shy of 100, the Bruins have positioned themselves to surpass the single-season record in points (132 set by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens) and wins (62 set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and matched by the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning). Anything short of a Stanley Cup amid this historic run will turn a potentially special season into a bust.
Well, they just improved their Cup odds again on Thursday.
Indeed, the league’s best keeps getting better. Former Detroit Red Wing Tyler Bertuzzi is on his way to Boston in exchange for a 2024 top-10 protected first-round pick and a 2025 fourth-round selection. The Red Wings will retain 50 percent of Bertuzzi’s $4.75 million cap hit signed through the end of this season.
The Bruins managed to add Bertuzzi after placing Taylor Hall on long-term injured reserve and Nick Foligno on injured reserve. Don Sweeney did not have a timetable for either Foligno or Hall’s potential return.
“It definitely created a situation for us where we felt we had to fill a hole,” Sweeney told reporters. “Because we just don’t have a timeline [for Foligno and Hall] at this point.”
For a team who already addressed the few holes they had on the roster after acquiring Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from Washington, Boston’s impeccable depth got even deeper. Sweeney positioned his squad nicely to navigate through a grueling Eastern Conference bracket.
Boston’s general manager had to relinquish significant draft capital, however. The Bruins will only have 13 picks over the next three seasons.
Drafting and developing was never a strength of Sweeney’s tenure. He won’t have to worry too much about future development for now. And he still has his two top prospects in Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei.
Still, the eighth-year GM continued positioning the Bruins for future success on Thursday.
After months of speculation, the Bruins and David Pastrnak inked pen to paper with an eight-year, $90 million contract extension.
“Our goal all along was to make him a lifelong Bruin,” Sweeney told reporters.
“It’s been home for us,” Pastrnak, the ninth-year Bruin, added. “We are really excited to stay here as a family.”
On the cusp of his first career 50-goal and 100-point season, the Bruins now have their most prolific homegrown scorer in recent memory locked up until 2030-31.
But with projected carry-over bonuses on David Krejci’s and Patrice Bergeron’s one-year deal, Sweeney will have little projected cap room — roughly over $3.9 million according to Bruins Cap Space — to work with during the summer. The Bruins have seven UFA’s (Bergeron, Krejci, Orlov, Hathaway, Foligno, Tomas Nosek and Nick Foligno) and a pair of notable RFA’s (Trent Frederic and Jeremy Swayman) on the final year of their respective contracts.
The flat cap didn’t do Sweeney any favors in that regard. Yet, as the post-Krejci and Bergeron era inches closer, the Bruins have pieces in place to carry the mantle.
The Bruins have three established talents in Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm to build around. The dynamic bromance goaltending tandem of Linus Ullmark and Swayman, along with a potential contract extension for Jake DeBrusk, a player ready to blossom in Pavel Zacha, two more years of Brad Marchand and a healthy mix of youth and veterans throughout their short and long-term lineup only increases their future chances of success.
Of course, the post-Krejci, Bergeron transitional era won’t come easy. Even with Zacha likely moving from wing to center, they’ll need to find another suitable top-six centerman to fill the gap. Any potential option in the pipeline, like Brett Harrison, remains a few years away from a potential regular NHL role.
Over the last year, however, Sweeney has turned a bleaker future into something slightly more transparent. He accomplished that feat while increasing the Bruins’ chances of completing a season for the ages.
“We’re gonna be a tough out in the playoffs,” head coach Jim Montgomery told the media.
The other top teams in the East improved their chances at the trade deadline. The Rangers, Hurricanes, Devils, Maple Leafs and Lightning addressed their holes to gear up for the stretch run.
Even with Foligno and Hall out, those teams remain a little ways away from the Bruins.
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