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Haggs: Boston Bruins Become True Contenders with Lindholm Trade



The Boston Bruins needed to land a big deal ahead of the NHL trade deadline to truly become a contender this season, and they may have done just that. Teams like the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning are still going to be the prohibitive favorites in the Eastern Conference this season, but the acquisition of Anaheim Ducks left-shot defenseman Hampus Lindholm gives the B’s the kind of roster where they could beat anybody in a playoff series.

It was obvious in recent weeks watching the Bruins give up damaging goals late in the third period that they needed help on the back end, even if all fancy stats defensive numbers seemed to be saying that they were doing okay in that department. Derek Forbort was on the ice for a number of those game-tying or go-ahead scores for opponents late in games, and Matt Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly are the kind of smallish defenseman that can find it challenging to stay healthy in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

So the Boston Bruins traded their first-round pick for the third time in the last handful of years (Rick Nash deal, Ondrej Kase trade with Anaheim) at the NHL trade deadline, but this time they’ve done it for player in the 28-year-old Lindholm that will be a difference-maker.

“What a great trade! And trust me they didn’t give up that much. You can talk about the [Vaakanainen], he’s a first-round draft pick that might play in the NHL, and these other [traded draft] picks are a long way off,” said TSN analyst Craig Button while breaking down the Lindholm deal, and the Claude Giroux traded to the Florida Panthers. “The Bruins are about right now and Don Sweeney addressed his biggest need and you’re looking at teams [like the Bruins] getting stronger.”

Not only did the Boston Bruins get stronger, but they’ve now taken that difficult leap from being a middling playoff team to a true contender in the East that’s built up a formidable roster.

The smooth-skating puck mover has size at 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, he has the body of work as a top pair defenseman that’s averaged 22 plus minutes of ice time per game for the balance of his NHL career and he’s shown that he can contribute offensively with several double-digit goal seasons in his blueline career as well.

Even better, a top pairing of Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy will allow the Boston Bruins to have their best defensemen on the ice for nearly half (25-30 minutes) the 60-minute regulation playoff games this spring after watching McAvoy try to carry too much on his shoulders last spring in the second round against the New York Islanders. Even better, the reports are that the 28-year-old Lindholm is going to ink an eight-year contract extension with the Bruins that’s going to come between $6-7 million per season.

It makes the cost worth it after sending a 2022 first round pick, two second round picks, Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore to Anaheim in exchange for Lindholm, and it also helps give the Boston Bruins enough cap flexibility that they’re still in the market for more help.

The real proof will be if the Boston Bruins can end up winning it all after hitting a home run landing Lindholm. That didn’t happen five years ago when they made the right move going all in for Rick Nash, and it absolutely didn’t happen a couple of seasons ago when they gave up a first-round pick to Anaheim to get out from under the David Backes contract.

It also remains to be seen if they move Jake DeBrusk prior to the NHL trade deadline and make a corresponding move to bring in another winger capable of playing a top line role with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The sense from this humble hockey writer is that the Boston Bruins aren’t done before Monday’s deadline and there is still a move or two to be made by Don Sweeney clearly in “in it to win it” mode this season.

But the biggest step toward getting the Boston Bruins back into the true “contender” category was landing a top pair left shot defenseman capable of matching Charlie McAvoy shift for shift, and they have that hard-to-find piece now in Lindholm. Credit where it’s due for Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins for recognizing what needed to be done, getting it done and setting themselves for a spring playoff run that truly feels like it’s got some potential now.

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