At long last, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has his third line center and potentially one of the best 1-2-3 punches in the NHL up the middle, as general manager Don Sweeney made the first of what’s expected to be at least two moves to bolster his team up front.
Early Wednesday night, Sweeney dealt away 22-year-old forward and Scituate, MA native Ryan Donato and a 2019 conditional fifth-round draft pick (becomes fourth rounder if B’s make second round of playoffs) for Weymouth, MA native and center Charlie Coyle. Shortly after the trade though, an NHL source – the same one who repeatedly told this puck scribe since December that the B’s were shopping Donato – texted:
“Bruins far from done.”
There’s no doubt here that’s true and other sources continued to indicate Sweeney was still looking for that seamless pass through the neutral zone to send his team into legit Stanley Cup contention via a top 6 scoring winger. Plenty of chatter remained after the trade with Minnesota that the B’s were still in on Senators wingers Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel, and as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet wrote in his latest 31 Thoughts column Tuesday, were hovering around Blue Jackets star forward Artemi Panarin. The feel here as David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period said on the latest Bruins Beat, the feel here is that Dzingel makes the most sense at this point given the insane price tags for Stone and Panarin.
Also, as TSN and NHL On NBC Insider Bob McKenzie reported on Wednesday night, there is still a chance that Stone doesn’t even reach the trade market and the Sens sign him to an extension.
“My understanding is that this last-ditch effort to sign Mark Stone, that the dialogue continued through the course of this day and that this thing will likely come to a head on Thursday,” McKenzie said.
if that’s not the case, Sweeney will make an offer but it will not include Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk, who sources tell CLNSMedia.com the Senators insist on being in any potential deal with the B’s.
How about we pause the speculation and “we need more” mantra for a bit though and applaud Sweeney for achieving one of his trade deadline goals though and that’s solidifying the third line center slot. That’s exactly what he did in acquiring the 26-year-old Coyle from the Wild. Also, as NBC Between The Glass analyst Pierre McGuire stated during the Bruins-Knights broadcast Wednesday night, Coyle isn’t limited to the third line center slot.
“He can play up and down your top nine and play wing and center,” McGuire said.
That will definitely benefit the oft-injured Bruins but in the versatile 6’3 220-pound Coyle, the Bruins have solidified a season-long hole in their lineup with a third line center that has top 6 talent. With Coyle only cracking the 20-goal plateau mark once (21 lamplighters in 2015-16), in seven seasons, some may say he’s underachieved, but he did have 56 points the next season and is still in his prime. He’s also signed through 2019-20, with a $3.2 million cap hit, and not a rental. After auditioning the likes of Donato, Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, and even David Backes at one point, Sweeney had to throw Cassidy a bone here and fill that center void on the third line and the feel here is he did that.
“The Bruins are excited to add Charlie Coyle to our immediate lineup,” Sweeney said in a press release. “Charlie brings unique qualities to our team – he is an experienced, productive, two-position player with size, skill, and speed. Charlie will provide the necessary depth in all areas of our game as we continue to battle for a playoff position. Charlie is a player our entire organization believes can help us now and moving forward.”
Boston was very much in the running for Rangers center Kevin Hayes, but the word Wednesday night was that with the Rangers asking for a first rounder for a potential rental in Hayes, Sweeney chose Coyle who has one year left after this season with a cap hit of $3.2 million.
Could this be Sweeney’s version of Peter Chiarelli acquiring center Chris Kelly for a 2011 second round pick prior to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline? Like Kelly, Coyle is solid on faceoffs and will go through a wall for his teammates, but only time will tell if he becomes a key cog in a Cup run like the 30-year-old Kelly did in 2011. Coyle, of course, is just 26 and that’s why the price tag was higher in the form of the 22-year-old Donato. Which is why it was a bit surprising to see so many on Twitter, including a local Bruins beat writer, immediately cite the amount of 25 and under players the Bruins have given up in the last ten years. As Cassidy pointed out to McGuire during the second period of the Bruins-Knights, you need to give to get.
“Well, yeah I’m excited!” Cassidy told McGuire Wednesday night. “You hate to lose a young player like Ryan, he’s a terrific kid, but you want to acquire talent, you gotta give up talent. So I’m excited to have Charlie here, I’m sure he’ll be a great addition for us and help us win some games.”
Furthermore, to bunch Donato in with the likes of Phil Kessel or Tyler Seguin, as some were doing on Twitter in an effort to push the narrative, the Bruins are impatient with youth, is a premature exaggeration if there ever was one. Here’s a newsflash for my fellow media and those fans bashing the Bruins for “giving up” on Donato, the Bruins gave him a chance, even putting him on the wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand a few times before sending him to Providence (AHL) twice. Too many times Donato stayed in the perimeter, and was a defensive liability, making costly turnovers in the offensive and neutral zones, but never the defensive since he was hardly ever there. As Cassidy said, he’s a great kid and yes, he has plenty of potential, but let’s not beat a dead horse and not let facts be part of the discussion OK?
The read here is Coyle is exactly what the Bruins needed on the third line and now Sweeney can focus on that top 6 sniper to join David Krejci and DeBrusk on the second line. If he can’t land a big fish like Stone, Panarin or Dzingel though it’s not the end of the world. Cup teams aren’t built on the wing, they’re built up the middle and Sweeney just added what the final layer at center.