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Sweeney Doesn’t Regret NHL Trade Deadline Moves



Boston Bruins

As he has been since the 2017-18 season, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was all in at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, and he wasn’t shy in trading away first round draft picks for potential rentals. In his eighth season as Boston Bruins GM, and with his team already the Stanley Cup favorite by January and on pace to break the records for regular season wins and points, Sweeney went to work again just over a week before the NHL Trade Deadline.

In his final media availability of the 2022-23 season this past Tuesday, Sweeney was asked if given the fact he’s yet to win the Stanley Cup as Bruins GM, he regrets giving more first round picks and draft capital for more potential rentals after watching his team bow out in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

“Well, I mean, you can always compare Seattle [Kraken] — they added one piece to the deadline,” Sweeney pointed out when discussing the second-year club that is currently battling the Dallas Stars in the second round. “You know, there have been years where we have stayed, you know, pretty steady. I think we try to take our P’s and Q’s as to where our team is, where our performance level is, and react accordingly. Clearly, the market dictates whether or not players are available and how aggressive you need to be. The acquisition costs are generally quite steep, at the deadline you’re trying to fill holes.”

On February 23, the Bruins acquired 31-year-old veteran defenseman Dmitry Orlov and 31-year-old 6-foot-3, 208-pound winger Garnet Hathaway in a three-way trade with the Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild. The Bruins sent forward Craig Smith, a 2023 first-round draft pick, a 2025 second-round draft pick and a 2024 third-round draft pick to the Capitals for Hathaway and Orlov. Both Hathaway and Orlov were in the final seasons of their respective contracts and can become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Then just a day before the NHL Trade Deadline, the Boston Bruins acquired Winger Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2024 first round pick (top-10 protected) and a 2025 fourth round pick. Like Orlov and Hathaway, Bertuzzi was also a potential rental.

Given the salary cap crunch that the Boston Bruins are about to enter, and with five other potential unrestricted free agents – including captain Patrice Bergeron and veteran center David Krejci – as well as three restricted free agents, including goalie Jeremy Swayman, it’s not likely that Sweeney will be able to bring back even one of Bertuzzi, Orlov and Hathaway. If all three walk into free agency, then that will be five playoff rentals that Sweeney used a first round pick or more on that haven’t returned. So far, only Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm has re-upped with the Bruins after he immediately signed an eight-year, $52 million contract extension when the Bruins acquired him just prior to the 2022 NHL trade deadline.

As Sweeney pointed out, the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline acquisitions weren’t just to bolster the lineup for a potential Stanley Cup run but also because the Bruins weren’t sure some of their players dealing with nagging injuries would be ready to play in the postseason.

“In our case we had two and then shortly thereafter had three significant injuries. And in some of those cases, we weren’t sure they were actually going to play in the playoffs,” Sweeney explained. “So, again, you have to take your direction of how your team is playing first and foremost. And we were in a very good spot, and we expected to have a deep roster to take a run if we got healthy and made the decisions.”

Since becoming Bruins GM in May, 2015, Sweeney has dealt away four first round picks, four second round picks and three third round draft picks heading into the NHL trade deadline. Last summer, the Bruins didn’t have a first or third round pick at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal. The Bruins won’t draft until the third round at the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville next month, and won’t pick until the fourth round at the 2024 NHL draft, that some expect to be in Boston as part of their centennial year celebrations.

Still, hindsight is 20/20 and Sweeney doesn’t regret his efforts to give his teams a chance to with the Stanley Cup at the deadline.

“So, you know I look back — I didn’t say at times you’re sitting there at the table, and you know, you’re kind of going all in and then you have to do the job afterwards,” he said. “No different than years past where we’ve had to draft with less capital. And now we had a lot of capital to draft. I mean, roster decisions are coming in, changes are coming. So, you know, if the opportunity presents itself in the draft, perspective this year or in future years, where you have to look at everything and make the best decision for the organization.”




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