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Murphy: Arms Race In The East Is On; When Will Bruins Join In?

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NHL Trade

The arms race is on in the East as teams not named the Boston Bruins continue to be involved in blockbuster moves on the NHL trade market. Will the Bruins answer and make an impact move themselves before the March 3 NHL trade deadline.

The New York Rangers became the latest Eastern Conference team to make a splash on the NHL trade market when they acquired sniper Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for conditional 2023 first round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick, forward Sammy Blais and prospect Hunter Skinner on Thursday. This comes just over two weeks after the New York Islanders acquired center Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty, and a conditional first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

The Islanders were then able to lock up Horvat – whom the Bruins had been linked to on the NHL trade market – to an eight-year, $68 million contract that carries an $8.5M AAV. It’s believed for now that Tarasenko will be a rental for what the Rangers are hoping to be a deep run into the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Bruins continue to be linked to Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun, and Canucks defenseman Luke Schenn, as well as Chicago Blackhawks veteran forwards and three-time Stanley Cup champions, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the NHL trade market. So far though, there’s been plenty of NHL trade rumors surrounding the Boston Bruins and no action from Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. That being said, Sweeney has always been calculated and doesn’t necessarily let other teams pulling off a big trade dictate his next move  on the NHL trade market. In fact, the 2019 Lou Lamoriello Award winner (GM of the year), made his last two big trades right at the NHL trade deadline.

Sweeney acquired winger Taylor Hall and forward Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres at the 2021 NHL trade deadline in exchange for forward Anders Bjork and a 2021 second round pick. Then, just before high noon at the 2022 NHL trade deadline, Sweeney acquired defenseman Hampus Lindholm and prospect defenseman Jodie Curran from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2022 first round pick, a 2023 second round pick, a 2024 second round pick, and defensemen Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore. Sweeney then immediately signed Lindholm to an eight-year, $52 million contract that carries a $6.5M AAV.

Sweeney was able to get Ducks GM Pat Verbeek to retain 50-percent of Lindholm’s remaining salary cap hit for last season, and with just $3.2 million in salary cap space as of Thursday, the Bruins GM will likely need to do the same in any potential impact trades. If his track record is any indication, Sweeney won’t be doing that and jumping into this arms race in the East just yet, and will likely return serve on the Rangers, Islanders and any other contenders in the East closer to or at the March 3 NHL trade deadline.

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