Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Feb 17, 2020; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm (47) against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline itch finally got to Bruins general manager Don Sweeney on Saturday, as the Bruins made their first move ahead of Monday’s deadline with the acquisition of left-shot defenseman Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks.

It’s the kind of home run swing the Bruins positioned themselves to make with what’s been a white-hot 2022 calendar year to date, and was considered a borderline must entering a pivotal deadline for Sweeney and the Bruins.

And there’s a whole lot to unpack as Lindholm makes his way to Boston.

  • UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 25: Urho Vaakanainen #58 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on February 25, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    The price paid to bring Lindholm into the mix

    If you’re looking for a win off the bat: The Bruins addressed their dire need for a high-impact left-shot defenseman under 30 years old without having to part with top prospects Fabian Lysell and/or Mason Lohrei. That was going to downright impossible if the Bruins made a move for the Coyotes’ Jakob Chychrun. Of course, there’s about a five years age difference between Lindholm and Chychrun, so that obviously plays a factor in the talent leaving the door for the Black and Gold’s organizational ranks, but the B’s already-shallow prospect pool really didn’t lose any water here.

    When it comes to the picks out the door, well, that’s the cost of doing business this deadline. The market first distorted when the Avalanche traded a second-round pick (and a prospect selected with a second-round pick) for the oft-injured Josh Manson, and then entered a true potential nightmare territory when the Panthers parted with a first-round pick for Ben Chiarot. Once that happened, it felt like any non-bandaid option for the Bruins (the B’s always wanted a player they viewed as a potential long-term answer with any addition on the left side of their defense) was going to cost multiple first-round picks. It did not.

    On the roster front, losing Urho Vaakanainen after the 2017 first-round pick finally showed signs of turning around a corner stings a bit. But replacing him with Lindholm is an upgrade for a win-now club like the Bruins, and Vaakanainen’s injury woes didn’t help. I first started to wonder if Vaakanainen was going to be dangled out there as a trade chip when Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy outright said ‘nope’ when asked if Vaakanainen would be thrown right back into the mix for the Bruins when fully healthy. Given the way Vaakanainen was beginning to excel prior to his injury, that felt oddly telling.

    A huge inclusion from the B’s point of view: John Moore. Stuck in a truly awful spot as a player who in theory is an NHL player but makes too much money for his role on his team (Moore was going to make $2.75 million as the B’s eighth defenseman and that was just too rich for the B’s blood this time around), Moore has spent the majority of the year in the AHL as a ‘buried’ contract for the Bruins. Sending him to Anaheim has opened $2.75 million up from the Bruins’ books for 2022-23, or $1.625 million based off Moore’s cap hit when buried to the minors. It’s believed that getting the Ducks to take Moore’s contract off the Bruins’ hands is what earned Anaheim an extra second-round pick from the Bruins.

  • ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks pushes Alex Wennberg #21 of the Seattle Kraken in front of the net during the second period of a game at Honda Center. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    What are the Bruins getting with their newest addition? 

    If there’s one word that comes to mind when I think about Hampus Lindholm, it’s dependable.

    He’s definitely not going to set YouTube on fire with an open-ice hit or finish near the top of the defensive scoring race (though his three-assist night against the B’s earlier this year would tell you otherwise), but you’re going to mostly get what you asked for with his 21 or so minutes per night. And that’s something that this team’s left side could definitely use.

    It’s been almost two calendar years since the Bruins decided to move on from Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. And let’s not get this twisted: They made that decision. Both players wanted to stay with the Bruins, but the B’s wanted to try something new, either with lineup complexions or usage, or with their financials. And until Saturday’s trade, the Bruins landed on Derek Forbort and Mike Reilly as their external replacements for their departures. Both players are perfectly fine in complementary roles, but as direct replacements for 40 minutes of top-four play? Well, that’s a different story.

    Lindholm, meanwhile, has been a legitimate top-four defenseman since the moment he made the NHL leap in 2013.

    In 2021-22, the 28-year-old Lindholm had been asked to be the guiding hand for first-year NHLer Jamie Drysdale, with the duo together for over 900 minutes of five-on-five play this season. Their 918:34 of five-on-five together in 2021-22 is actually the fourth-most among all defensive pairings in the NHL this year, trailing only the Panthers’ MacKenzie Weegar-Aaron Ekblad duo, Calgary’s Noah Hanifin-Rasmus Andersson pairing, and the Rangers’ K’Andre Miller-Jacob Trouba pair.

    It’s a pairing that went through its understandable growing pains, as the Ducks were outshot 474-455 and outscored 38-33 with Lindholm-Drysdale out there. But Lindholm has remained a steady penalty-killing threat for the Ducks, and is one of 70 defensemen to record at least 120 minutes on the kill this season. And Lindholm, who stands at 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds, has been on the ice for fifth-fewest power-play goals against per 60 among that group of 70, at 4.41.

    Lindholm has some slight offensive punch to his game, too, with five goals and 22 points through 61 games this year. Those five goals would tie him with Brandon Carlo for second-most among all Boston blue liners this season (Charlie McAvoy leads all Boston defensemen on that front, with 8), and his 22 points would be second to only McAvoy and his defense-leading 40.

    One potentially interesting stat for Lindholm? His 119 shots on goal. That ranked sixth among all Anaheim shooters this season, and is actually the 35th-most shots among all defensemen this season. The need for more offensive pressure from Boston defenders in 2021-22, especially when it comes to getting shots through traffic and on goal, has been mentioned repeatedly.

  • GLENDALE, ARIZONA – JANUARY 26: Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks skates with the puck ahead of Nick Schmaltz #8 of the Arizona Coyotes during the third period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Where should Lindholm play?

    It’s easy to look at Boston’s depth chart and plug Lindholm next to Charlie McAvoy on Boston’s top pairing. I think it stands to reason that that’s how they’ll line it up out of the gate. The Bruins are just so desperate to find that perfect pairing partner for McAvoy, and Lindholm certainly has the highest ceiling out of all the guys at their disposal. And some of the things that Lindholm does real well — zone-entry defense and puck retrieval, in particular — would allow McAvoy to truly take flight through the neutral zone and into the attacking zone at the rate that both he and the Bruins would prefer.

    But I really wouldn’t sleep on the possibility of Lindholm playing with Brandon Carlo on Boston’s second pairing.

    While the Bruins have searched for that perfect partner for McAvoy for obvious reasons, it’s worth noting that McAvoy really hasn’t let any partner take him underwater this season. Remember back in the day when the Bruins would put just about anybody next to Zdeno Chara and be OK with it? Yeah, McAvoy is basically already that kind of presence with the Bruins, and the numbers confirm that, with almost every pairing partner of his posting positive differentials over an extended stretch.

    It’s Boston’s second pairing that’s been an issue for large chunks of the 2021-22 season. Part of that comes back to what’s been a bad luck season for Brandon Carlo, but just as much comes back to his inability to properly mesh with either Grzelcyk or Reilly to the point where the Bruins stop messing with that pair’s complexion.

    Lindholm has experience playing with someone a bit like Carlo, too, as he played almost exclusively with Josh Manson prior to Drysdale’s full-time jump to the NHL.

    Just something to ponder.

  • Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks checks Pierre-Luc Dubois #80 of the Winnipeg Jets in the third period at Honda Center on October 13, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks checks Pierre-Luc Dubois #80 of the Winnipeg Jets in the third period at Honda Center on October 13, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Roster fallout and the immediate future

    I’m not of the belief that the Bruins are a finished product just yet. I still think there’s another trade or two to be made between Lindholm and Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline. But when it comes to Boston defense, the Bruins now have four left-shot defensemen all deserving of playing time between Lindholm, Derek Forbort, Matt Grzelcyk, and Mike Reilly.

    It seems that all three of the team’s ‘been here’ defendes are polarizing depending on who you ask, but let’s consider the following when it comes to ’em: Grzelcyk is a possession-driver that the Bruins can’t really afford to sit given their lack of offensive firepower on the backend, Reilly has shown signs of progress when with McAvoy, and Forbort is the team’s top penalty-killing defenseman (and for a kill that ranks 10th in the NHL). Again, all three deserve to play even with Lindholm here. For the Bruins, the simplest decision likely involves one of them to their off side. They’ve all done it before at various points (Grzelcyk has the largest sample of doing it under Cassidy), but Forbort may be the easiest fit to plug to the right side given his style of play and what the Bruins are going to ask out of him when out there.

    It’s a problem the Bruins, who routinely go 10 or 11 deep into their defensive bag in the postseason, will happily take.

  • Feb 7, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm (47) waits for the face-off during the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. (Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)

    The long-term future

    Lindholm is going to be more than a rental for the Bruins. In fact, it took less than 24 hours for the sides to hammer out an eight-year extension north of $50 million, and good for a $6.5 million cap hit.

    That slots Lindholm between Carlo’s $4.1 million cap hit through 2026-27 and McAvoy’s $9.5 million cap hit, which kicks in next year and runs through 2030. That locks the B’s top-three defensive pillars in at $20.1 million per year for the next five seasons.

    The next great challenge for Sweeney: Re-upping David Pastrnak, who is slated to hit unrestricted free agency in 2023.

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