Mark Stone was off the board as the 3 p.m. trade deadline inched closer. The biggest names left after Stone were Wayne Simmonds and Tyler Toffoli. The Bruins missed on Simmonds as the Flyers traded him to Nashville, while the Kings kept Toffoli.
Don Sweeney didn’t land that big fish on Monday. Instead, he traded for Devils winger Marcus Johansson in exchange for a 2019 second round draft pick and a 2020 fourth rounder.
Sure the Bruins got added versatility in the middle of the lineup with Johansson, who notched 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and was a minus-15 during his 48-game stint with New Jersey this season. The eight-year veteran only has two 20-goal seasons under his belt and one season of 50-plus points. Those totals came during his first six years in Washington.
Johansson can play both wing and center much like Charlie Coyle, the Bruins’ other marquee deadline acquisition. That should suit him well skating with the likes of Coyle, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik, Karson Kuhlman, Danton Heinen or any other second or third liner once leading goal scorer David Pastrnak returns from his thumb injury.
“I think for us, Marcus represents a lot of versatility and production in a top-nine role,” Sweeney said about Johansson. “It’s something that we felt that we could still use coming down the stretch.”
More goal scoring isn’t a bad thing, especially after Sweeney’s original vision backfired entering the season. The fourth-year GM thought some of the young guys like Heinen and Ryan Donato would seamlessly transition into a top-six scorer and fill a hole with DeBrusk and Krejci. The former is slowly finding his groove again on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The latter packed his bags for Minnesota in the Coyle deal.
But is Johansson that coveted scorer the Bruins needed? And was it worth trading two draft picks, especially when the original asking prices for Stone and Simmonds went down in the waning minutes of the deadline?
Well, let’s put it this way. There was no way that Sweeney would’ve added Stone and signed him to a $9 million extension. Even without the first round pick, the Senators still did well for themselves acquiring coveted prospect Alexander Brannstrom and forward Oskar Lindberg from the Golden Knights. Even on the surface — and without the contract extension — the Bruins would have to part ways with Urho Vaakaninen, their 2019 first round pick and another young talent like Heinen, DeBrusk or Brandon Carlo. A steep price for any rental, let alone Stone.
The silver lining is that Stone is no longer a member of the Atlantic Division. The same holds true for Simmonds, whose cost went down significantly when the Predators parted with Ryan Hartman and a conditional 2020 fourth round pick.
At age 30, Simmonds (16 goals, 11 assists in 62 games) isn’t the same prolific power forward from year’s past. But his high-energy traits and power play prowess wouldn’t have been a bad fit in Boston by any means.
Johansson should also help bolster Boston’s second-ranked power play that can still use a few tweaks. He’s hardly the big splash acquisition, but rather a safe backup plan that Sweeney circled back to.
“We’ve been exploring things for a while at different levels even going back to the acquisition of Charlie. Those deals don’t happen just because you pick up the phone today,” Sweeney said about his trade deadline approach.
“A lot of times its just periodic conversations over and over and there might be another team that gets in and interrupts what you’re trying to do. So we were in on a bunch of things to explore and what we wanted to do now and moving forward without handcuffing ourselves and continue to keep a long term vision in place. But we also wanted to win.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning stood pat at the deadline, yet they are still the heavy favorites to lift the Stanley Cup in June. The Maple Leafs added Jake Muzzin from the lowly Kings a few weeks ago and improved their chances in a potential first-round matchup with the Bruins.
The Bruins bolstered the middle of the lineup with Coyle and Johansson. They both provided upgrades over any of the young players (Heinen, Donato, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, namely) that Bruce Cassidy trotted out earlier this season. But did they do enough to get past the Lightning and Maple Leafs again come playoff time?
Of course, time will tell whether the 2019 deadline deals panned out. But there’s one thing that’s certain. Any alleged heat between Marchand and Johansson — stemming from a Jan. 2018 incident resulting in a five-game suspension for Boston’s first-line left winger — was put to rest upon Sweeney’s comments.
“We’re looking forward to a player that wants to join our club. I think his quick line was, ‘I’d much rather be playing with Marchand than against [him],” Sweeney said to a round of chuckles from reporters. “I think he’s happy with knowing where our club is at currently, and the fact that he goes right into a competitive atmosphere.”
The Bruins welcomed Coyle with open arms in St. Louis. Marchand and company will do the same for Johansson.
They all have the same goal of hoisting the Cup this spring. They’re in a good spot having notched points in each of their last 13 games as they return home for their longest homestand of the season, beginning Tuesday against the highly-skilled Sharks — eight days removed from their thrilling overtime tilt in San Jose.
Yet, the Bruins could’ve put themselves in a better spot had Sweeney come through on a big name. Maybe he was hesitant parting with their talented prospect pool and relinquishing draft picks following the Rick Nash trade last year.
Sweeney aimed for another deadline day home run. Instead, he settled for a base hit.