Boston Bruins

The NHL trade deadline is in the rearview mirror, and man was it a busy one. And the Bruins were one of the teams right in the thick of it.

GM Don Sweeney took an aggressive approach at this season’s deadline, bolstering both the top-six talent on the Bruins’ roster and adding depth at defense, center, and wing. You can expect blue liner Nick Holden to see time on the third pairing down the stretch, and Tommy Wingels could crack the fourth line if one of those forwards either gets injured or falls off.

Veteran winger Brian Gionta, who signed a pro-rated one-year deal for $700,000, may not see the ice unless there’s serious injury problems. But for Sweeney the depth is there. And on top of all that, he swung one of the biggest deals of the season in acquiring winger Rick Nash from the Rangers.

The B’s made four moves in all, and they vary in terms of quality and impact. Here are some incredibly important and meaningful grades for each of them…

Rob O’Gara And A Third-Round Pick To Rangers For Nick Holden: C

Nick Holden of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils on September 23, 2017. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Nick Holden of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils on September 23, 2017. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

This is the move that arguably raised the most eyebrows. Why would Sweeney send a third-round pick and a prospect for a depth defenseman who may not be active all that often?

As for the second part, that remains to be seen. Holden still just arrived; he’s only been in the fold for three games, and one of them happened on the day of the trade. They’re back at home after a five-game road trip, and perhaps they’ve found a combination for Holden that will work for them.

On the idea that the Bruins grossly overpaid for Holden … this may surprise you, but a third-round pick and/or a prospect has mostly been the going rate for depth defensemen in the past year. A week before the 2017 draft, the Buffalo Sabres traded their third-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, a former first-round pick who has settled in on their third pairing. On July 1, the Nashville Predators traded a 2019 third-rounder to the Vegas Golden Knights for third-pairing defenseman Alexi Emelin.

Then this season, one day before the Holden trade, the Chicago Blackhawks traded defenseman Michael Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a 2018 third-round pick. (Kempny, however, has gotten time in the top-4 with John Carlson). And on Monday, the Blue Jackets acquired defenseman Ian Cole (better than Holden, but still a third-pairing guy) for a 2020 third-round pick and forward Nick Moutrey.

Ultimately, if Holden really is just the seventh or eighth defenseman, you could argue the Bruins made a slight overpay for him. But let’s operate on the assumption that he supplants Matt Grzelcyk for a regular third-pairing role with either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller. Based on that and the other trades made for similar players, this trade is fine. Nothing special, not terrible. Just a typical deal.

Frank Vatrano To Panthers For A Third-Round Pick: A

Frank Vatrano (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Frank Vatrano (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Not much to say about this trade, except that it’s a huge win for the Bruins. It could be a win-win for both sides, in fact, because Vatrano has flashed NHL-quality offense and could have room to earn a regular role for the Panthers.

But for Sweeney to score a third-round pick – a higher pick than the one he sent for Holden – for a kid who had no future in Boston and scored just two goals and no assists in 25 games this season, is a slam-dunk for the GM. Combine this deal with the Holden trade, and it’s a net positive for Sweeney.

First-Round Pick, Ryan Lindgren, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, Seventh-Round Pick To Rangers For Rick Nash: B

Rick Nash (Photo credit: Mike Penhollow/Boston Bruins)

Rick Nash (Photo credit: Mike Penhollow/Boston Bruins)

The big one. On paper, this looks like a massive package to give up for Nash. But at the end of the day, the idea in the first place was to upgrade from Spooner to Nash. The bigger Nash is a much better fit for David Krejci’s right wing than the speedier Spooner, and his sniping ability could be a great complement for Krejci’s playmaking.

Nash already appears to be clicking with his new linemates, so the upgrade from Spooner should be a good one. And as for Beleskey, well, he completely fell off the face of the Earth here. To shave half his contract off the books, rather than buy him out, actually saves the Bruins some money for future years when they will need to pay their younger players (read: Charlie McAvoy) when they are up.

Ultimately, the real price for this trade is the first-round pick and Ryan Lindgren. While the defenseman isn’t a spectacular prospect, he could pan out as a longtime NHL blue liner and could even be a top-four guy for the Rangers. But considering the wealth of young defensemen on the roster and in the pipeline, Lindgren was the most expendable of the Bruins’ top prospects. The first-round pick is a big price, but they’ve made six of those picks in the last three years and still have a deep well of young prospects to bring up.

The reason that this trade is good, but not great, for the Bruins is because Nash isn’t exactly known for his playoff prowess. He most infamously scored just three goals in 25 games over the Rangers’ 2014 Cup Final run. He’s been better lately, with 10 goals and 23 points in his last 36 playoff games for the Rangers. That’s a 20-goal pace over a full regular season, and something the Bruins would certainly take from the 33-year-old.

Fortunately for Nash, he only needs to be a reliable second-line winger. He doesn’t need to be the top dog. So if he can do what he’s done in recent years and not disappear, he could be a boon for Krejci, Sweeney, and the Bruins. But the questions remain about whether he’ll show up come playoff time, which is why this trade isn’t quite A-level for me.

Conditional Fifth-Round Pick To Blackhawks For Tommy Wingels: C

Tommy Wingels (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Tommy Wingels (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Meh. Wingels gives the Bruins depth down the middle and would step in to be a capable fourth-line forward in the case of an injury or under-performance. There’s no guarantee that Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, or Tim Schaller will be able to hold up over the course of an entire playoff run.

What makes this deal a bit questionable is the “conditional” part. If the Bruins win a playoff round or re-sign Wingels next season, the pick becomes a fourth-rounder. That’s a bit of a steep price to pay for a guy who isn’t guaranteed to even play that much, and if he does it will be on the fourth line and on spot duty in penalty-kill situations.

Wingels can be useful, but he likely won’t be particularly consequential to the stretch run or the playoffs for the Bruins. They obviously didn’t kill their future or drain their assets in this trade, but the deal isn’t the best that Sweeney’s made. It just shows that the GM is absolutely obsessed with having more depth after last year’s rash of injuries.

Overall: B

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Sweeney gave up legit assets for depth guys and made a typical trade deadline overpay to get Nash, who may or may not be worth the price. He had a good, not great deadline if you ask me. But Bruins fans have good reason to be excited, especially about the addition of Nash. If the Bruins can return to the way they played in the middle of the season when they get into the playoffs, and keep all of their top players intact and healthy, then they have a legitimate shot to make a deep run.

The expectation heading into the season was to win a playoff round. That’s now an absolute must. And assuming they meet the favored Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round, the hope is that they give them a real fight in that series. Sweeney clearly believes that they can.

Their newfound depth is nice, but Nash will be the key to that. They’ve certainly improved, but it remains to be seen how much that will matter.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.