The Bruins were all around the action on Wednesday as the massive hockey trades dropped fast and furiously, but once again they were on the outside with their anticipatory faces pressed up against the glass as the top GMs in the game did their thing.
Instead, the B’s were left to mull an offer sheet to Jacob Trouba that isn’t very likely to drop on Friday and wait for the secondary defenseman market in free agency as it appears the Oilers might have snapped up Jason Demers already.
Some of the bold moves clearly may be mistakes: the Canadiens got older, slower and much more explosive in swapping out P.K. Subban for Shea Weber one-for-one, but also will be tougher to play against in some ways with Weber and Andrew Shaw now added to the mix. Clearly, GM Dave Poile once again was the right manager in the right place at the right time to land the super-talented Subban, who will pack the hockey house in Nashville and help continue a tradition of stud defensemen for the Predators organization.
One keen hockey source cautioned me when I said the Habs got worse on Wednesday: “I don’t think people understand how good Weber really is in the East. Montreal has become a lot harder to play against with him and Shaw.”
This certainly may be true, but the Bruins lost their cherished Habs villain with Subban moving to the Nashville Predators, where he will become a genuine U.S. hockey market superstar. Subban was charismatic and colorful, and played the role with the flops and the phantom embellishment that has become synonymous with Habs hockey over the years.
His personality and elite skill level won him a Norris Trophy a few years back and made him one of the biggest stars in the NHL and his absence now significantly reduces the wattage of the modern Bruins/Canadiens rivalry. That’s another blow to a storied rivalry that was flat as its been in years last season without Milan Lucic. It’s one that might have some rocky roads ahead with the Bruins very clearly in need of some roster help.
Peter Chiarelli became the first GM in NHL history to trade both the first and second overall picks in the same draft after shipping away Tyler Seguin in 2013 and then dealing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday for young, developing D-man Adam Larsson. Essentially he traded two top-of-the-draft lottery picks for two Swedish mid-first round talents in Loui Eriksson and Larsson. That’s going to leave many questioning his decision-making process until we see the final picture this October in Edmonton.
If things don’t go very right for the Oil this season, with Larsson developing into a prime time top-pairing D-man, the heat could turned up on Chiarelli in the never-ending rebuild in Edmonton.
Once again credit a veteran GM in Ray Shero with getting exactly what his team needed in a dynamic scoring force like Hall and doing it while giving up something that hadn’t been a significant piece over the past few seasons in New Jersey. This may just be the cost of doing business for Chiarelli if Lucic and Demers are indeed on their way to the Oilers as free agents, and if the whispers are true that Edmonton might move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for defensemen help as well.
None of this even begins to mention GM Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay, who calmly and patiently waited out the Steve Stamkos free agency sweepstakes until his star player came back to him for a massive hometown discount. Now, he has the superstar, the young and talented core group and the players from those two second-round picks the B's charitably sent along for right wing bust Brett Connolly.
The one thing that defies explanation is the Bruins-friendly voices that say inking the 22-year-old Trouba to an offer sheet “makes no sense.” Guess what really makes no sense? That would be going into next season with close to the exact same back-end group that missed the playoff cut over the past two seasons and couldn’t break the puck out of their zone under pressure if their collective lives depended on it.
The Bruins don’t have the trade assets in their organization to match offers of players like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene, and they were beaten to the punch for top free agent D-men like Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski and perhaps even Demers. That “makes no sense” for a Bruins team that finished 19th in the league in goals allowed and had a blue line group that couldn’t execute simple tape-to-tape passes up the ice.
Signing Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract extension? Signing fringe free agent D-men like John-Michael Liles? Not getting anything done with anybody in the trade or free agency market around draft weekend and July 1? That’s what really “doesn’t make sense” to me if I’m trying to cough out the Black and Gold party line right about now.
Because the NHL management groups with the big stones, the matching respect factor and the real NHL assets are making big, bold moves all across the league right now, and the Bruins are still waiting idly for their numbers to get called at the NHL deli counter.