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Thomas: Calm Approach of Bruins’ Don Sweeney The Right Call



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Fireworks in early July are exactly what people in both Canada and the United States crave. For the second year in a row though, Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney apparently didn’t make the trip over the border to New Hampshire for even bottle rockets. Instead, the now veteran GM tinkered with his roster’s depth and added pieces that will contribute in both Boston and Providence.

It worked out quite well for Sweeney a year ago. After all, it’s been only two weeks since he was named the NHL’s GM of the Year. Sweeney lost valuable depth forward Noel Acciari to Florida on Monday but replaced him with former Dallas Star Brett Ritchie. Ritchie will earn $1 million on a one-year contract, while Acciari will be paid $1,666,667 per season on a three-year deal.

Although most fans were upset to lose the Rhode Island native to the Panthers, Sweeney avoided the fatal mistake committed so many times by Peter Chiarelli. Sweeney didn’t overpay and commit term to a depth piece. He made a solid bet in Ritchie to replace Acciari, spent less money, and gave up no term. It’s the kind of shrewd free agent deal Sweeney has become so good at over the years.

Sweeney confirmed on Monday that the price for Acciari simply got too high.

“I think there’s always a breaking point” began Sweeney. “We got to a point where I felt that we needed to head in a different direction.”

That direction was the aforementioned Ritchie, who scored four goals in 53 NHL games last season.

The depth additions have been Sweeney’s bread and butter. Just last July, Sweeney greatly enhanced the depth of his club by signing Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, John Moore, and Jaroslav Halak. One could make the case that all of those players had a positive impact on Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Sweeney himself knows that he’s done a good job in this regard and that he can keep his patient approach knowing he’s had success.

“I think we did a pretty good job last year in recognizing some players that would come in and do a good job, and they did do that,” he pointed out. “Nordy and Wags are good examples of that, and hopefully we continue to do that, as well as develop players.”

Sweeney wasn’t exactly frugal and patient from the start of 2018 Free Agency though as swung for the fences and fell just short in the John Tavares sweepstakes, watching him sign with the rival Maple Leafs. Sweeney kept his powder dry after that and added those aforementioned valuable depth pieces. The result? Another playoff triumph over the Leafs, with Boston’s homegrown core and added depth leading the way.

He’s done that again this July, even with the Leafs adding Tyson Barrie and Panthers adding star netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. Sweeney isn’t worried about what has happened around him. He’s worried about the Boston Bruins. He’s once again added valuable depth to a dynamic core and hasn’t harmed Boston’s long-term salary outlook. Don’t expect him to deviate from that course in the coming days, either.

“For right now, I think we are” was the frank response Sweeney gave when asked if his team is done with this free agent class. Any further additions would seem to be via trade. That’s probably the smart move if last summer is any indication.

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