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Murphy: Can Don Sweeney Score In Bargain Bin Again?

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Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was easily the best bargain-bin shopper in free agency last summer; can he do the same heading into the March 8, 2024, NHL Trade Deadline?

“Unless it makes sense for the future too, the word is Donny will not be making the splash he’s made at recent deadlines,” an NHL source told Boston Hockey Now recently. “I still think he’d make a big trade, but he wants term if he’s paying a premium on the market. That’s why I expect more depth-specific moves.”

That falls in line with what Sportsnet NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman opined on the 32 Thoughts Podcast last Friday. When discussing why Sweeney and the Boston Bruins seemingly dropped out of the NHL Trade sweepstakes for new Vancouver Canucks center and potential 2024 unrestricted free agent Elias Lindholm, Friedman had this to say:

“There was one team that was not willing to make the deal without an extension, and I don’t know this for sure, but to me, that screams Boston. Because Boston has a need for the player,” Friedman said on the latest 32 Thoughts podcast. “They did it with Hampus Lindholm. They like to get guys signed, and the other thing about Boston, one of the things about them this year – and they’re having a really good year – they went all in last year.

Sweeney pushed the chips in last year. …you can’t do that every year. You can not do that every year, and my read of the situation, again, this is my opinion, but I believe it’s an informed opinion because of the way they do business. I would be shocked if that team weren’t Boston without an extension, and if Lindholm hits the market this summer, I think the Bruins are going to be in there.”

Friedman’s theory makes a ton of sense, and it’s pretty clear that Sweeney still wants to improve the Bruins’ depth up the middle for the present and the future. However, he likely won’t be making the same type of NHL trade deadline splash he made last March when he acquired impending UFA’s Dmitry Orlov and Tyler Bertuzzi. With no 2024 first round pick to offer and teams instead asking for top prospects such as defenseman Mason Lohrei, winger Fabian Lysell, and center Matthew Poitras, Sweeney will be saying no thanks to any of the remaining rentals on the NHL trade market. Instead, he’ll probably take the same approach he took last offseason.

Armed with the likely knowledge that he would lose Patrice Bergeron and longtime center David Krejci and being forced to trade wingers Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno due to salary cap constraints, Sweeney went bargain shopping in NHL free agency and on the NHL trade market last summer. He acquired Ian Mitchell ($775,000 AAV), Alec Regula ($775,000 AAV), and Reilly Walsh ($775,000 AAV) on the NHL trade market. He then signed Jesper Boqvist ($775,000 AAV), Patrick Brown ($800,000 AAV), Jayson Megna ($775,000), Morgan Geekie ($2M AAV), Milan Lucic ($1M AAV), Anthony Richard ($775,000 AAV), Kevin Shattenkirk ($1.05M AAV), and James van Riemsdyk ($1M AAV) and Danton Heinen ($775,000 AAV).

The read here: Unless Sweeney can get a top NHL trade target like Flames defenseman and Norwood, MA native Noah Hanifin, whom he’s targeted before, to sign a contract extension right away, then expect acquisitions like those listed above. Another rugged, bottom-pairing shutdown defenseman and a middle-six winger that can score sound about right.

 

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