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Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

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Sounds like Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekäläinen just got Sweeney’d.

Columbus is no stranger to big in-season trades, as evidenced by sending Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic in January 2021. Kekäläinen (former Bruin, by the way) is in his 10th full season as GM of the Jackets. But the NHL is, above all else, a business, especially for GMs. And he was dealing with the Bruins’ Don Sweeney, who is among the most aggressive and savvy GMs in the league this time of year.

Sweeney owes it to the Bruins to get the best deal(s) possible ahead of the NHL trade deadline – and understands that trades aren’t final until they’re final. Kekäläinen apparently just learned that, the hard way.

  • VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: (L-R) Don Sweeney and Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins attend the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: (L-R) Don Sweeney and Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins attend the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • As reported by Aaron Portzline in The Athletic, the Blue Jackets were under the impression that a deal with the Bruins for defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov was essentially done, and the B’s just had to make another transaction to clear cap space first. But now, it appears that the Bruins left the Jackets in the dust by opting for a deal with the Capitals. Here’s what Portzline wrote:

    Multiple team and league sources confirmed to The Athletic that the Blue Jackets firmly felt they had a deal in place with Boston for more than a week that would have sent defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov to the Bruins for multiple picks and/or players. … The Blue Jackets believed the deal was done, sources said, but Boston repeatedly asked for more time. A deal isn’t official until it’s submitted to the NHL for approval.

    That last part is important. Kekäläinen appears to have made the same mistake that former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli made in 2013, when he thought he had a deal with the Flames to bring in Jarome Iginla, before the Penguins swooped in and got him instead. The two situations aren’t entirely comparable to each other, but they offer the same lesson in the end: deal ain’t done until it’s officially submitted to the league.

  • Apr 4, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) battles for the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (44) in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 4, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) battles for the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (44) in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

  • Kekäläinen seems to feel Sweeney lied to him, or broke some kind of promise. It would be surprising if we learned that Sweeney agreed agreed to a deal with the Blue Jackets, then went back on that word. Makes more sense that the framework of a Gavrikov trade – which was heavily reported to be in place for days, as Columbus held the defenseman out of game for trade-related reasons – was a matter of IF, rather than WHEN.

    Sweeney was operating on ifs, but Kekäläinen seems to have a different view.

    That’s business. It can be cutthroat. The NHL trade deadline is most certainly going to get dicey. If anything, Kekäläinen should be blaming himself for not closing the deal, or having a contingency plan in place. Sweeney was reported to have contingency plans of his own, so he wouldn’t be left wondering what to do with his assets.

    Ostensibly, Sweeney discovered that a deal to acquire defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from the Capitals accomplished both of his goals in one move. They solved their cap situation (for now) and added a left-shot defenseman, which they were long-rumored to be targeting. Bringing in Hathaway’s loud, heavy agitating game was essentially a bonus.

  • WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 28: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins is checked by Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals during the first period at Capital One Arena on December 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 28: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins is checked by Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals during the first period at Capital One Arena on December 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

  • We’ll see if Sweeney or the Bruins are accused of something more nefarious, but more than anything this feels like a case of one GM doing what it took to accomplish his goals, and another not doing enough.

    The 2023 NHL trade deadline is just one week away, at 3 p.m. ET on March 3. The Bruins aren’t expected to make any more significant moves, but may still need to make another deal to clear cap space, so Sweeney may not be done. Be careful out there, other GMs.

    Click here for complete Boston Bruins coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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