Boston Bruins

  • Tell the Bruins they have too many defensemen and there’s a good chance that Don Sweeney will (rightfully) try to stare laser beams through your soul.

    It’s nothing personal, of course. It’s just that Sweeney has learned that you can never have too many defensemen too many times before. It happened in 2017 against Ottawa, again in 2019 in the Stanley Cup Final, and reared its end for the Bruins during their second-round series with the Islanders in 2021.

    The experiences have been so bad that Sweeney outright acknowledged that he’d prefer not to trade an NHL-quality defenseman when discussing a crowded backend after the first day of free agency this past summer. And he only added to the team’s blue line between saying that and dropping the puck on the 2022-23 season.

    But the Bruins appear to be in the midst of an attempted money-clearing offloading from their point, with Mike Reilly back on the ice, and with about a third of the league watching with some level of interest.

  • Mar 15, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Mike Reilly (6) practices before the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 15, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Mike Reilly (6) practices before the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. (Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Waived down to Providence earlier this month, the Bruins assigned the 29-year-old Reilly without a clear or definitive plan in place when it came to his next steps.

    It was originally believed that the Bruins were going to go Full David Backes with Reilly and have him not play with the P-Bruins while they scoured the trade market, and it was believed that Reilly himself was staying out of AHL action in the hopes of a trade to a new team (and back to the NHL) materializing for him.

    But speaking on the latest edition of 32 Thoughts, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman acknowledged the inevitable change in those plans with the Bruins looking to come to a resolution that appeases all involved.

    “One thing just to watch out with them, I really think they’re trying to find a trade for Mike Reilly,” Friedman told co-host Jeff Marek. “He’s back in Providence, and there was some question about whether or not he was actually gonna play there because they were trying to move him and the latest I heard was he’s probably gonna play there for the P-Bruins this weekend. I think they’re trying to find him a new home.”

    Friedman certainly heard right, as Reilly did make his P-Bruins debut Friday, and finished with a goal and an assist — along with a Providence-leading six shots on goal — in a losing effort against Lehigh Valley.

  • And, as noted, it was a P-Bruins debut that was well attended by NHL reps, with scouts from 10 different organizations credentialed for Reilly’s first minor-league contest since Oct. 2017, according to P-Bruins insider Mark Divver.

    Per Divver, that 10-seat arrangement included reps from the Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Devils, Kraken, Lightning, Predators, Rangers, Sharks, and Stars.

    That’s quite a list of potential suitors.

    All of whom could’ve have picked up Reilly for absolutely nothing when he hit the waiver wire earlier this month (or back in October for that matter), by the way. But as they say, situations are fluid, and ain’t that the truth when it comes to NHL blue lines.

    Among that group of teams watching Reilly and the P-Bruins, the Blue Jackets stick out as an obvious candidate to add Reilly.

    Columbus lost franchise defenseman Zach Werenski for the season almost immediately after Reilly cleared waivers, and Jake Bean was just lost indefinitely to a shoulder injury of his own. The Blue Jackets are currently icing an NHL defense corps featuring just two left shots, and with Bean and Werenski done, the top scoring defender on the Jackets is Erik Gudbranson, with a mild five points in 15 games. The Columbus power play is also clicking at a league-worst 10.3 percent this season.

    Safe to say they could use a boost.

    The rest of that group is hardly as desperate as the Blue Jackets — at least when it comes to obvious, painfully glaring holes that almost need to be addressed — which makes this trade situation all the more interesting.

    If you wanted to read into the fact that Reilly went unclaimed, you’re probably not crazy. Teams know that the Bruins are in both a roster jam and salary cap jam. In essence, why hand them a Get Out of Jail Free card and claim Reilly when you could play the odds of him going unclaimed and then working a trade that allows you to pry an extra asset or two out of the Bruins in exchange for a player they almost have to move when fully healthy?

    It’s just about the only sensible explanation for a player as talented as Reilly — in a league where power-play help is always a need and where Reilly is an analytics darling, there’s a lot worse ways to spend $3 million, you gotta admit — to go unclaimed twice in a month’s time.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 15: Mike Reilly #6 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the New York Islanders at TD Garden on April 15, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Islanders 4-1. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 15: Mike Reilly #6 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the New York Islanders at TD Garden on April 15, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • The Bruins are certainly aware of this, too. This has been hanging over the club since the summer, really, and the team’s front office (namely cap guru Evan Gold) has managed this about as well as you could have asked.

    But the Bruins needed to send Reilly down to the minors to have the cap space necessary to activate Charlie McAvoy off the long-term injured reserve, and the picture will only get fuzzier when Derek Forbort’s finger heals. (The Bruins placed Forbort, who was injured in the team’s Nov. 1 win over the Penguins, on long-term injured reserve once McAvoy was activated and Reilly went unclaimed on waivers.)

    The original timeline on Forbort called for an absence of at least four weeks. The Bruins are rapidly approaching the three-week mark of that timeline. And for what it’s worth, I spotted Forbort leaving the locker room after Thursday’s win over the Flyers and he didn’t appear to have any sort of cast, brace, or wrap on his hand or finger. (For the record, not sure if this injury required such a thing, but it seems like a positive in terms of his recovery.)

    In plain English, barring another LTIR-worthy injury, the clock is ticking on the B’s to become cap compliant.

    That clearly begins with Reilly.

    It’s the who and what else is included, however, that’s the key to watch between now and when the Bruins ultimately find the 6-foot-1 defender his new home.

    But, hey, at least there’s no shortage of potential suitors.