TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months.
Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin.
The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.
He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury.
Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.
Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.
TORONTO – The Bruins are making more moves well ahead of the Monday trade deadline as they shipped injured winger Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick.
The trade somewhat eases a crowded roster, essentially gives the B’s a replacement for the third-rounder they sent to the New York Rangers for Nick Holden earlier this week and gives them a solid return on an undrafted college hockey free agent that had fallen a bit this season on the B’s organizational depth chart.
Vatrano had two goals and a minus-3 rating in 25 games with the Bruins this season, but had typically been either a healthy scratch or strictly a bottom-six winger when he had been in the lineup this season. Vatrano, the East Longmeadow, Mass., native who turns 24 next month, had fallen behind Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on the depth chart as two of the aforementioned three had locked down top-nine roles.
In that respect, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear Vatrano getting moved as he’d hit a wall in his development with the Bruins after scoring 20 goals in his first 108 career NHL games and lighting up the AHL as a goal-per-game player. Now, Vatrano will get a chance to rekindle that goal-scoring ability with the Panthers and prove that he’s more than the one-dimensional player he appeared to be in three seasons with the B’s.
There was some thinking Vatrano might have served as a trade asset to be utilized in one of the potential deals that the Bruins have cooking for a rental wingers Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash or Thomas Vanek. Instead, general manager Don Sweeney scoops up a solid draft pick asset for a player that was sitting on the bench for the Black and Gold. That's a solid piece of asset management in a trade deadline period that so far is going very well for the GM.
TORONTO – The traveling party is growing to pretty gigantic proportions for the Bruins.
Newly acquired defenseman Nick Holden and injured winger Frank Vatrano (lower body) both met the team in Toronto now that Boston has returned from the Western Canadian portion of their five-game trip.
Anders Bjork (upper body) remains the only injured Bruins player back in Boston.
The Bruins had a travel day from Edmonton to Toronto on Wednesday and didn’t practice for the second day in a row on Thursday while getting perhaps their final exhale in before a mad sprint to end the season.
Beginning this weekend, the Bruins will close out the season with a whopping 24 games in 44 games ahead of a playoff berth that’s become a formality at this point. So, the depth and wealth of bodies will be a good thing for the Bruins, but right now they have an unwieldy nine defensemen with the addition of Holden to the Black and Gold and Kevan Miller now fully healthy.
So, something has to give with the NHL roster whether it’s a Paul Postma demotion to Providence, a trade of a younger D-men such as Matt Grzelcyk or Brandon Carlo or something unexpected from Don Sweeney ahead of the trade deadline on Monday.
“I would think so. Let’s see him in a regular practice first, and then we’ll go from there with what our lineup looks like. I don’t have a definitive answer,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked how the 30-year-old Holden will fit into Boston’s lineup. “We’ll get through a team practice [on Friday] and we’ll make decisions from there. With the deadline coming up, some decisions will have to be made. It is difficult to hold practice with nine guys [on the back end], but that’s something Don and I will sit down about.
“It’s something we’ll just have to do in the short term prior to [the trade deadline on] Monday. Obviously, Kevan Miller is ready to go, so we’ve got nine healthy ‘D’ as well.”
Things will begin to clear up a little bit when the Bruins hit the ice for Friday morning practice at Ricoh Coliseum ahead of this weekend’s back-to-back road games against the Maple Leafs and the Sabres.