Another trade deadline is in the books.
On Saturday, the Boston Bruins addressed their top deadline priority after acquiring Hampus Lindholm from Anaheim. General Manager Don Sweeney added more defensive depth Monday after picking up Josh Brown from Ottawa, along with a conditional seventh-round pick in 2022, for Zach Senyshyn and the B’s 2022 fifth-round selection.
But Boston’s most significant development from Monday involved Jake DeBrusk. The two sides agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $4 million per year.
Perhaps the Bruins signed DeBrusk to dangle him in a deal for Rikard Rakell, Andrew Copp, or any other marquee forward remaining on the open market. But Sweeney couldn’t materialize a deal for a top-six upgrade, ultimately keeping DeBrusk in the fold for the rest of the 2021-22 campaign.
Surely, some Bruins supporters remain disappointed that Sweeney didn’t receive that top-six upgrade. Yet, they received a much-needed boost to their top-four pairings with Lindholm’s arrival and added depth on the right side off the blue-line after acquiring Brown.
With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into Boston’s trade deadline developments.
DeBrusk remains a Bruin, for now
The Bruins had to deal with the elephant in the room once DeBrusk’s trade request became public. To his credit, DeBrusk hardly became a distraction amid an awkward time.
Boston’s 2015 first round selection increased his trade value since late November. He eventually worked his way into a top-line role with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. After standing pat up front, the Bruins hope DeBrusk (15 goals and 26 points in 57 games) sustains his improved effort and increases his offensive production, especially come playoff time.
Aside from dangling DeBrusk in a deal for Rakell, Copp, or perhaps Conor Garland or Phil Kessel, the Bruins wouldn’t have received a significant top-six upgrade. They could circle back on Rakell, Kessel and Copp — all pending UFA’s — in the off-season.
Inking DeBrusk to a contract extension also provides some certainty for other teams who may inquire about the fifth-year winger this summer. Without a new deal, the Bruins would’ve likely had to give DeBrusk, who was a scheduled RFA before his new contract, a qualifying offer north of $4 million. This development at least provides Sweeney flexibility to seek more significant assets for DeBrusk if they choose to go down that route in a few months.
DeBrusk’s time in Boston remains uncertain. But another era is on the cusp of beginning.
Lindholm itching to get going
The Bruins felt Lindholm would fit in well among their defensive core. Their prized acquisition already echoed that sentiment before even donning the spoked B for the first time.
“They’ve always had that grit to them, and I feel like they play a fun style of hockey that still has that kind of winning mentality,” Lindholm said in his introductory Zoom call with the Boston media. “Playing against them [in Anaheim] has always been tough games. There’s always been fun hockey games playing against Boston … the fans and the city speaks for itself, I think. So, I’m obviously super excited to be a part of all that, and I’m ready to get going.”
Lindholm will likely skate next to Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo come Thursday in a pivotal Bruins-Lightning matchup.
But Lindholm isn’t coming as a rental. After Saturday’s trade, the Bruins quickly worked on a new deal, signing the 28-year-old to an eight-year deal worth $52 million.
After some transition following Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara’s departure, the Bruins finally have some short and long-term stability in the top two defensive pairs. Both Carlo and McAvoy signed multi-year contract extensions before the start of the 2021-22 season. Matt Grzelcyk also remains under contract through the 2023-24 campaign.
Brown adds depth and physicality on the right-side of Boston’s D
The Islanders exposed the Bruins’ thin defensive depth behind Carlo — particularly on the right-side of the blue-line — after the Colorado Springs native sustained a series-ending injury in Game 3 of last year’s second-round matchup. They circled through a rotation of right shot blue-liners on the third pairing this year with Connor Clifton, Urho Vaakanainen and Derek Forbort, to name a few.
The Bruins included Vaakananinen in their deal for Lindholm. The left-shot Forbort remains better served on the strong side of a bottom-pairing role. Clifton provides sparks of energy with his keen skating and physical traits but struggles with consistency in his own end at times.
Adding Brown gives the Bruins some needed size and physicality on the back end. The 6-foot-5, 217-pound blue-liner led all Sens defenseman in hits per 60 (9.88) and dropped the gloves four times in 46 games.
With tighter-checking contests ahead, the Bruins added some needed depth with Brown after giving up Vaakanainen and John Moore. They’ll likely keep a rotation going with Brown, Clifton and Forbort in a bottom-pairing role next to Mike Reilly.
Boston’s top two propsects remain in the fold
Dangling future pieces for a short or long-term upgrade always provides a risk, especially during deadline season.
The red-hot Bruins found themselves in a rather interesting spot. With Bergeron playing out the final months of his contract, the B’s needed a top-six forward and a top-four blue-liner to extend their championship window. But they also have a thin prospect system with very few future assets to dangle.
Sweeney surrendered multiple draft picks to Anaheim (a 2022 first-rounder and second-rounders in 2023 and 2024) and a fifth-round selection to Ottawa. Yet, he didn’t have to part with the top two players in Boston’s pipeline.
Fabian Lysell, Boston’s first-round choice in 2021, provided dazzling moments in his first season of North American Hockey with the Vancouver Giants (WHL). Defenseman Mason Lohrei, a 2020 second-round pick, finished as Ohio State’s second-leading point producer (29) during his freshman season.
Years of questionable selections put Sweeney in a challenging position. For all the warranted criticism of the drafting and developing during Sweeney’s tenure, the Bruins at least kept some of their future intact, with Lysell and Loheri remaining in the system.
The Bruins will still have their hands full against their Atlantic Division foes
The Bruins, Lightning, Maple Leafs, and Panthers all checked off the top item on their deadline to-do list. But Boston’s Floridan divisional foes stood out with their particular trades.
The cap-strapped Lightning somehow added Brandon Hagel from Chicago to bolster their third line. The division-leading Panthers acquired longtime Flyers captain Claude Giroux to their top-six and strengthened the top-four on the blue-line after pulling off a deal with Montreal for Ben Chariot.
Lindholm’s arrival puts Boston’s top two pairings near par with the Lightning and Panthers. But failing to obtain a top-six forward could haunt them in a potential first-round matchup with Tampa, Florida or even Carolina.
The Bruins can’t afford to lose any of their top forwards to injury even after adding their necessary pieces on the blue-line. Ideally, they’ll get Bergeron (arm injury) back in time for Thursday’s matchup with the Lightning.
The Bruins will have a better idea on their playoff positioning over the next 20 games, with seven of those coming against the Lightning (twice), Panthers (twice) and Maple Leafs (three times).