Haggerty: B's need to tread lightly with McDonagh pursuit

Haggerty: B's need to tread lightly with McDonagh pursuit

Among the names potentially available ahead of the NHL trade deadline, New York Rangers captain and top defenseman Ryan McDonagh is certainly the most intriguing from a Bruins perspective for any number of reasons.

McDonagh is probably the most intriguing name to at least a dozen teams, including Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and a Tampa Bay team the Bruins will be battling with neck-and-neck the next few months for the Atlantic Division’s top spot.

Really, what’s not to like in a guy like McDonagh?

He’s still just 28, he’s on a reasonable contract paying him less than $5 million a season for the next two years and he’s a proven, experienced commodity that could immediately become the veteran leader on any defensemen corps he joined down the stretch.

He’s also averaged nine goals and 38 points the past four seasons for the Blueshirts and averaged less than 23 minutes per game in only one of his seven full NHL seasons.

Certainly, McDonagh wouldn’t have to do that with the Bruins. Zdeno Chara, at 40, is still the captain in Boston, and the 6-foot-9 stopper is expected to remain with the Black and Gold for at least the next season or two. Still, McDonagh would step in and totally fortify a top-four back end that the Bruins could go to Stanley Cup playoffs with and he’d also give the Bruins a long-term answer for what they do when Chara does eventually step away from his Hall of Fame NHL career.

All that being said, the Bruins should steer clear of any last-minute deals for McDonagh unless they can absolutely steal him from the Rangers ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline. If Rangers GM Jeff Gorton wants to accept Jakub Zboril, Anders Bjork and a first-round pick for a proven workhorse No. 1 defenseman, then full speed ahead for Don Sweeney to pull the trigger on that steal of the century.

Still, Gorton is a shrewd evaluator of talent and an experienced executive and the Rangers are in need of young NHL talent that’s already proven they can play in the league.

He is going to maximize the return for McDonagh and the whispers are that Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa’s version of Charlie McAvoy, would be in play in a deal with the Lightning.

A commodity such as McDonagh doesn’t go on the trade market very often, so the Bruins that will be mentioned would be Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Brandon Carlo with Charlie McAvoy already an untouchable for the Black and Gold. That should present a major problem for the Bruins, who've seen more production (a league-leading 39 goals from their first-year players) from their rookies than any other NHL team this season and have constructed a very effective mix of young players and experienced core veterans into one of the NHL’s best teams.

Sweeney would have to significantly impact the DNA of his current team in order to acquire McDonagh and he'd be taking a major risk with a group that’s shown equal parts talent, character and good chemistry in their first 55 games. With a phalanx of prospects and some redundancy among their left-shot defensemen and speedy, skilled wingers, the Bruins clearly should cash in some of their prospect chips to fill the team’s needs.

That’s the kind of team improvement that comes right along with a possible long playoff run right in front of them and there’s where the B’s find themselves. Dealing away the right prospects to fill NHL needs is part of the draft-and-development plan right, along with raising a crop of talented, productive homegrown players.

Still, the bottom line is this: The Bruins are theoretically going to have to pay too much to acquire McDonagh in the middle of the season and they just shouldn’t do it if that’s the case. Period.


They could potentially end up in a bidding war with the Yzerman for McDonagh’s services if New York really wants to move him. That’s a losing proposition facing down one of the league’s best GMs. It’s also less-than-ideal for the Bruins, who are ahead of schedule in developing a contending team. It's also a little ambitious for a team that’s probably still a year away from a legitimate Stanley Cup run.

It’s something that should be unthinkable if it involves young Bruins players DeBrusk, Heinen and Carlo, who have contributed mightily to the team’s success this season and there’s no reason to think Gorton would demand anything less.

That’s the kind of thing the Bruins are weighing heavily less than two weeks ahead of the trade deadline, and are very likely to err on the side of caution when push comes to shove. That’s exactly what Sweeney and Cam Neely should be doing at this point.

The Bruins are on the precipice of something special with a Cup-winning core group and a roster overstuffed with talented rookies who are already threatening for a President’s Trophy this season. They need to be very wary of overpaying for veterans and busting up what they’ve spent three years painstakingly crafting.

That’s why the Bruins need to pass on McDonagh right now unless the price is rock-bottom and perhaps revisit things in the summer around the draft when the Rangers are more likely to pull off the blockbuster deal anyway.



Bruins loss, no call in overtime spoil Donato's stellar debut

Bruins loss, no call in overtime spoil Donato's stellar debut

GOLD STAR: Ryan Donato was great for the Bruins in his NHL debut. No two ways about it. He showed good hockey IQ, a willingness to work for pucks around the net and an absolute bazooka of a shot from the face-off dots that the Bruins can always use more of in their lineup. Donato scored his first NHL goal in the second period on of those aforementioned scorched shots from the circle after a give-and-go with Torey Krug, assisted on a pair of other scores including a game-tying, backhanded saucer pass to David Krejci for a third period score and finished with a team-high six shots on net in 19:40 of ice time. It remains to be seen if Donato can play at close to this level once the adrenaline wears off a little bit, but it looks like the Bruins might just have themselves another impact player. At worst they’ve got another young left wing with a lot of possibilities.  

BLACK EYE: It wasn’t a very good night for the Bruins fourth line after Bruce Cassidy had to bust up the usual combination, and Sean Kuraly certainly had his share of struggles through the evening. Kuraly finished with a couple of shots on net, a couple of hits and a minus-2 rating to go along with a 4-for-10 in the face-off circle as he continues to struggle on the draw this season. It’s pretty much impossible to go on points as a judgment for how well, or badly, Kuraly is playing, so it comes down to physicality, keeping the puck out of his own net and doing the little things like face-offs. For the entire new-look fourth line, it was a tough outing against a hard-nosed, blue collar Columbus team that isn’t going to give up an inch. 

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it came in overtime when Brad Marchand was freed up for a partial breakaway and swooped in with a clear shot at the net for the game-winner. Instead Pierre-Luc Dubois wrapped his arms around Marchand in a bear hug, and one of the league’s most dangerous offensive players wasn’t allowed to get a shot off in a clutch situation. Instead of being called a penalty shot or at least a minor penalty on Dubois, there was no call and a real stunning lack of consideration for one of the league’s best players. Do you think Sidney Crosby would have been handed a penalty shot in that situation? How about Alex Ovechkin? Yeah, Marchand’s numbers have been in that neighborhood for three years now, so maybe it’s about time he started getting some of those calls. That could have tipped the scales in favor of the Bruins, but instead the Blue Jackets weathered the storm and pulled it out in overtime. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Boone Jenner was pretty awesome for the Blue Jackets and deserves some credit for getting his game together after a slow start. Jenner finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-1 rating in 13:02 of ice time, and finished with four shots on net, a rugged five registered hits and a couple of blocked shots in addition to winning 6-of-10 face-offs. It was Jenner that jumped in front of the net and pushed home the first goal of the game for the Blue Jackets after Thomas Vanek turned a puck over from Brandon Carlo in the corner. That got the Columbus train rolling and it didn’t stop until they had the overtime game-winner against the Bruins. Jenner played a lead role in making all of that happen for his team. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 – the number of players that have scored their first NHL goal for the Bruins this season including Ryan Donato, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "During warm-ups, actually, I was kind of taken away. It kind of felt like a dream. I really didn’t even get that warmed up because I was too focused on everything else & just the whole situation. It was an unbelievable experience and it was a blessing tonight." –Ryan Donato, talking about his first NHL game for the Bruins.


Donato has fantastic debut, but Bruins fall to Blue Jackets in OT

Donato has fantastic debut, but Bruins fall to Blue Jackets in OT

BOSTON – It wasn’t a winning debut for Bruins rookie Ryan Donato, but it was nonetheless extremely impressive. 

Cam Atkinson scored on a wrist shot in overtime to give the Blue Jackets a 5-4 overtime in on Monday night at TD Garden, but 21-year-old Donato finished with a goal and three points in an impressive, impact performance in his first NHL game after signing with the Black and Gold.

The Bruins looked a little shaky very early in the game as Brandon Carlo coughed up a puck in the D-zone that immediately turned into a Thomas Vanek-to-Boone Jenner strike for the Blue Jackets. But the Bruins responded in the second period with a first NHL goal from Ryan Donato, a bombed beauty from the right face-off dot after playing the give-and-go game with Torey Krug. 

It was the eighth Bruins player to score their first NHL goal for the Black and Gold this season in a youth movement that’s been as overwhelming as it’s been straight-up good. 

Brad Marchand followed less than two minutes later with a top shelf backhanded bullet off a drop pass from David Pastrnak for his 31st goal of the season, and the Bruins made it 3-1 on a Riley Nash power play strike assisted by Donato as well. 

The Blue Jackets got one right back with a Sonny Milano wide open score on the backdoor, and Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin both scored in the third period to give the Blue Jackets a short-lived lead. Once again the Bruins fought right back and this time it was Donato throwing a backhanded saucer pass to David Krejci all alone in front for his 17th goal of the season. 

That play capped off a three-point night for the 21-year-old Donato in his first NHL appearance, and really sets the stage for what could be an impactful late season addition to the Black and Gold’s roster. After a scoreless rest of the third period, the Bruins and Blue Jackets settled things in the extra session with Boston picking up another point in defeat.