Boston Bruins

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 21: The Boston Bruins celebrate their overtime victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on March 21, 2022 in Montreal, Canada. The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Got a feeling they’re probably gonna kill me for this one, but count me among that didn’t walk away from the close of the 2022 NHL trade deadline in utter disbelief that the Bruins didn’t solve all of their problems.

Let’s start with two basic, undeniable points.

One: The Bruins are a better team than they were a week ago. They added a dependable left-shot defenseman to their top four. No matter where the 28-year-old Lindholm slots out of the gate for the Bruins, whether it’s with Charlie McAvoy on Boston’s top pair or to the left of Brandon Carlo on the B’s second unit, the 6-foot-4 Swede is a worthwhile addition. The Bruins also addressed their paper-thin right side defensive depth with the addition of the Senators’ Josh Brown. Given the way this team routinely burns through defensemen, that was an absolute must (and it was a must a year ago when they didn’t do it). Being better than you were the previous week is the obvious goal of any deadline movement, and the Bruins accomplished that.

Two: The Bruins weren’t going to leapfrog the Panthers, Hurricanes, or Lightning with any of the moves available to them Monday. It just wasn’t happening. Rickard Rakell, Andrew Copp, or Justin Braun. Take your pick. The Bruins were not bridging the gap between themselves and those teams on Mar. 21. The Bruins will remain an underdog against any of those teams.

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With that in mind, does it suck that the Bruins left cap space on the board? Of course. But I wouldn’t say that their deadline day inactivity was for a lack of trying. The message you heard again and again this deadline was that the Bruins were among the most aggressive teams in the league. They didn’t wait for the perfect price on the Ducks’ Lindholm — which was a nice change from the Bruins getting beat to the punch, which they experienced in the past with Blake Coleman to the Bolts and Kyle Palmieri to Long Island — and they actually tried to make the Lindholm trade an even bigger package.

The Bruins tried again Monday and were in serious talks with the Ducks for Rakell along with Vegas before Pittsburgh popped into frame and offered a roster player, second-round pick, and prospect. The Bruins’ appetite to go without a second-round for three years in a row (or three of the next four or five years at the very best) without term involved was a limited one.

The B’s also made a serious push for Flyers captain Claude Giroux before Giroux made it known that he’d only go to Florida. Outside of some tampering (‘sup 2013 Sidney Crosby calling Jarome Iginla and ruining everything?), there’s nothing the Bruins could have done to change that. You got the sense that there was some frustration within the Philly front office regarding that whole thing, too, as they felt that the offers from the other interested parties were better than Florida’s opening offers.

San Jose’s Tomas Hertl was never made available, and the free-falling Canucks ultimately chose not to sell off the top-of-the-roster pieces that the Bruins would have wanted, such as J.T. Miller and Conor Garland. Had any of those players been on the block, the Bruins would have been rushing to the front of the line and negotiating until the phones died.

But that didn’t happen, and this is a bit too close to getting the Bruins in trouble for something they didn’t do. Buying big just to say you did it would have been the worst move they could have made. I mean, are we really going to sit here and say we wouldn’t be killing the Bruins if they sent that Ranger package (two second-round picks and a prospect) for Andrew Copp? In  no world were the Bruins an Andrew Copp addition away from justifying going four years without a second-round pick.

“We kept towards what we have, our prospect pool, knowing what we have in a couple of players in particular that we’ve felt were a big part of what we’re going to need going forward,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. “There’s always a balancing act there, it just is. You’re paying it forward to some degree or borrowing it and paying it now.

“We could have stayed in on other things as well.”

But they ultimately had to make a true difference, or at least make you think so, and that was the trickiest part.

“Moving the pieces around and where guys were going to play was a little bit of a challenge for us if it didn’t really move the needle,” Sweeney admitted. “Obviously, we would like to have probably added a little more depth [up front], but several of our guys have really stepped up and played well and feel that we’re in a good spot overall with our hockey club.”

Better than they were a week ago, at the very least.

  • VANCOUVER, BC – FEBRUARY 22: Jake DeBrusk #74 of the Boston Bruins skates with the puck during NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on February 22, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

    The most surprising news of the day: Jake DeBrusk’s two-year extension.

    If I had to guess, that two-year extension will take place somewhere else, but the fact that it happened and didn’t lead to a trade in the five hours between the announcement and trade deadline was a bit surprising. I mean, the second it went down, I started wondering where DeBrusk was going to land and how the Bruins were going to parlay the return into something more. It felt like an example of the market, which had been mostly down on DeBrusk all year, adjusting its prices in the B’s favor.

    Instead, the Bruins did it provide clarity and get back down to the basics with DeBrusk.

    “[We] sent a clear message to Jake and he sent one to us, that he just wants to play hockey,” Sweeney said of DeBrusk’s extension. “Bottom line is he knows he’s an important part if he plays to his capabilities, he’s going to help us and help himself.

    “The impact that he can have on our hockey club, we believe in.”

    The way I read this: The Bruins are more willing to ‘lose’ a DeBrusk trade in the summer when they’re not in the middle of surging up the Eastern Conference and relying on them to be a contributor on their top line. Without a direct replacement at their disposal — and I believe that the Bruins wanted a right-shot, natural right wing to slot at RW1 if DeBrusk was a goner — there was just too much risk in saying ‘we gotta be done with this just because’ when it came to DeBrusk.

    The Bruins also have to hope that delaying this split benefits them in some fashion. The No. 1 hope is that DeBrusk plays well and helps the team go on a run, develops some more consistency in his game. From there, DeBrusk would either want to stay (this one seems unlikely) or simply maximizes the return coming the B’s way. Another is that the market is less depressed now that DeBrusk’s cap hit for the next two years is known and there’s no icky qualifying offer on deck. Third, of course, is that everything remains the same and the Bruins have to bite the bullet on one of these offers that didn’t woo ’em the first time.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 02: Zach Senyshyn #19 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period of the preseason game against the New York Rangers at TD Garden. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    The Bruins did, however, honor one 2015 first-round pick’s trade request with the move that sent Zach Senyshyn to Ottawa.

    And just like that, the Bruins have officially closed the book on one chapter of their disastrous 2015 NHL Draft. A reach made with one scout believing that they had a sleeper on their hands, Senyshyn felt doomed from the start when the analysts outright said they didn’t even have him listed on their charts for the first round and scrambled for info. He didn’t do much to prove ’em wrong, as his development was a bit slower than the B’s would have liked and came with a near-constant injury interruption.

    Ultimately, I have no idea what kind of NHL player Senyshyn will be in Ottawa, if he’s an NHL player at all. (And if he can’t hack it for his hometown Sens, one of the neediest teams at right wing in all the land, I don’t think he’s going to get a chance to hack it anywhere else in this league.) I think he’s looked solid in his brief NHL samples, but again, the injuries haven’t helped.

    But I think, collectively, we can have one gripe about Senyshyn’s Boston tenure. For a team that has routinely played centers and left wings on the right side, it was weird to never see Senyshyn get an extended look just for the hell of it. I mean, he went unclaimed on waivers multiple times and had two straight training camps without even skating with NHLers. It was basically the definition of a ‘throw some crap at the wall and see what happens’ kind of option and it never really came to be.

    Just a bit odd, especially with a 2021-22 AHL campaign that came with a career-best 19 goals and 31 points through 51 games.

  • Jan 29, 2022; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Anaheim Ducks right wing Buddy Robinson (53) fights with Ottawa Senators defenseman Josh Brown (3) in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports)

    Mentioned it earlier, but you gotta like the Bruins’ move for Josh Brown for what it is.

    Without Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore out of the equation for the Bruins, Jack Ahcan became the B’s de facto No. 8 defenseman on the organizational depth chart. Now, the problem with that is the Bruins view the 5-foot-8 Ahcan as more of a specialist in the sense that if he’s playing, they’re going to want him opposite Brandon Carlo. They’d also to prefer to keep him on his natural left side. Not exactly a ‘throw him in’ option. So, if a slight rash of injuries came to the B’s blue line, you were talking about a defense featuring a Tyler Lewington, Kodie Curran or Nick Wolff as a lineup regular.

    Brown helps prevent that, even if it’s just by one extra body.

    A 6-foot-5, right-shot veteran of 165 career games between Florida and Ottawa, Brown posted a career-high 106 hits and 57 blocks through 46 games with the Sens this year, and brings a nasty element the Bruins could always use more of. (And if the name sounds familiar, Brown was the one who knocked Trent Frederic out of commission with a heavy hit early in the year.)

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 02: Jack Studnicka #23 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers during overtime of the preseason game at TD Garden on October 02, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    It may have been a weak deadline in terms of high-end talent on the move, but the forward depth pieces were there.

    From old friends like Marcus Johansson to Riley Nash, and other potentially intriguing options such as Zach Sanford and Vladdy Namestnikov, the Bruins could have found a palatable price to bring someone in if they truly wanted to.

    But it doesn’t sound like the Bruins really didn’t want to reconfigure a 12-forward group that’s finally operating as one.

    “We certainly addressed some things this summer that we needed to from a depth perspective,” Sweeney said. “It took some time for chemistry and pieces to fall into place. Obviously with Bruce making the change and Pastrnak moving down with Hall, it kind of reconfigured how we were playing as a group. You see with the third line has now gone and played together for a period of time and they have some chemistry and productivity going. It sort of allowed the pieces to slot in where we had hoped and envisioned. You just never know. Fourth line plays to their identity and we’ve had depth in that situation.

    “Bottom line is the war of attrition starts from now until when a Cup is presented. Staying healthy is a big part of that.”

    And if health isn’t part of the equation, the Bruins are going to have to rely on players like Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen up front. The Bruins deciding not to add a veteran depth forward confirms that these guys are indeed viewed as part of the equation for the Bruins, and their respective ‘rope’ should reflect that if this team is going to be as deep as they could be.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 09: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden on November 09, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Oh, and one more nugget from the deadline: There’s been a lot of talk about Patrice Bergeron and doing right by him in what may very well be his final season. Count me in as part of that. (And I think the B’s aggressive-but-not-reckless approach reflected that.) And as it stands right now, nobody knows what Bergeron is going to do. Not even Sweeney.

    But Sweeney does think he has an idea what it will take to keep No. 37 on the ice for the future.

    “My job is to put together the best team I possibly can [and] I honestly believe that Patrice is playing at the top of his game. If he’s healthy and he looks around at his teammates and enjoys it, he’s going to want to play hockey,” Sweeney said. “That’s his decision, he’s the only one that can have a timeline on it. I’ve never asked him since he made his statement since the first of the year. I just take my cues from how he’s doing and how invested he is [and] he’s pretty invested. And I think he’s excited about adding a player to our hockey club like Hampus and the long term [future].

    “Hopefully it sends the right message. Not just to your club, but to one of the important players in the history of the organization.”