Bruins on Boylston: B’s deadline dealings are bold, risky


Illustration by Ryan Yau

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney traded away two first-round picks in addition to future assets to acquire three new players in the last week.

By Leo Kagan, Assistant Sports Editor

It’s official: the Bruins are all-in on winning the Stanley Cup. 

If centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejčí re-signing or the Bruins’ unreal 45-8-5 record didn’t tip you off, the B’s recent trades for right winger Garnet Hathaway and defenseman Dmitry Orlov on Feb. 23 and winger Tyler Bertuzzi on Thursday should have clued you in. 

The Bruins are an elite team, and they have been since the puck dropped on the 2022-23 NHL season. But not every elite team pushes all their chips to the middle of the table at the trade deadline—take the 2018-19 St. Louis Blues, for example. 

Now, the 2019 Blues are not a perfect analog to this year’s Bruins—they did not display nearly the level of dominance the B’s have since the season began. In fact, their start was so poor that they were the league’s worst team by the half-season mark.

But by the time of the trade deadline, the Blue Notes had gone on a heater, winning 16 of their 20 most recent games and catapulting themselves back into playoff contention. With the postseason looking like a real possibility for the team, general manager Doug Armstrong had the green light to add some significant upgrades to his roster. But the Blues’ deadline was relatively conservative; Armstrong’s only move was to acquire defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who he obtained for a 2019 sixth-round pick. 

The Blues would go on to win the Stanley Cup by defeating the Bruins at TD Garden in Game 7. 

But this year, playing the trade deadline conservatively wasn’t an option for the Bruins. The 2019 Blues knew, at the very least, that if they lost in the playoffs, they had a solid core of young potential stars like center Robert Thomas and right winger Jordan Kyrou. For the Bruins, 2022-23 might be their last real shot at a Stanley Cup in the foreseeable future. 

Krejčí and Bergeron are 36 and 37 years old, respectively. Though both are still high quality players, their time in the NHL is limited, and this season may be the last for both, regardless of whether they win another championship. 

So it makes sense why General Manager Don Sweeney would part with a slew of future assets—a 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick, 2024 third-round pick, 2025 fourth-round pick, and a 2023 fifth-round pick—in exchange for a trio of players he believes can augment an already otherworldly hockey club

The trade signifies little in a vacuum; Sweeney knows this season is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and gave up a lot with the hope that Lord Stanley’s Cup will be his team’s reward. But examining Sweeney’s trade history over the past several years indicates that these trades are different from the rest. They’re bolder, win-now-at-all-costs types of moves that a general manager only makes if they believe their situation is Cup-or-bust.

Sweeney’s actions at the past two trade deadlines are good examples. In 2022, the Bruins GM gave up a similar package—a 2022 first-round pick, 2023 and 2024 second-round picks, and defensemen John Moore and Urho Vaakanainen—for blue-liner Hampus Lindholm. The only difference between the Lindholm deal and Sweeney’s most recent trade? Lindholm signed an eight-year contract extension almost immediately after the trade went through. 

In 2021, the deadline went down in a similar way: Sweeney swapped the 2021 second-round pick and depth-forward Anders Bjork for former MVP Taylor Hall and fourth-line center Curtis Lazar. Hall signed a four-year extension over the summer

Orlov, Hathaway, and Bertuzzi may end up signing extensions of their own—and in fact, one of them must, or the Bruins will be needlessly bleeding draft picks—but right now, they’re rental pieces. Sweeney’s decision to part with so many future assets in consecutive years shows his belief in the team’s ability to succeed no matter the cost. 

Now, the Bruins are out of chips—everything is at table-center. For the sake of the franchise, the team must win out on this gamble. If they don’t, their future looks dire. 

Left winger Fabian Lysell and defenseman Mason Lohrei qualify as the Bruins’ only two prospects in a dangerously shallow pool. Right winger David Pastrňák, defenseman Charlie McAvoy, and goaltender Jeremy Swayman represent the franchise’s next nucleus, but without an elite center in the mix, the Bruins aren’t a legitimate postseason threat moving forward. 

Now, without a first-round pick in a draft regarded as one of the deepest in the last several decades or their first-rounder in 2024, the B’s have lost a pair of crucial opportunities to restock the prospect cupboard. 

Sweeney’s deadline work is bold. His track record proves that his moves typically strengthen his club, but Sweeney is putting his job on the line now—if the Bruins don’t win the Stanley Cup, he might be handed the pink slip in the case of a rebuild. 

For his sake—and ours—let’s hope they win it.