TORONTO – The clear message signaled from the Bruins to the rest of the NHL this weekend is that they’re going for it.
The Bruins landed their big fish at the trade deadline on Sunday morning by acquiring power forward Rick Nash from the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2018 first round pick, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, college D-man prospect Ryan Lindgren and a 2019 seventh round pick. Nash, the 2002 first overall pick that’s scored over 400 goals and 799 points in his 14-year NHL career, will be in Buffalo and available to suit up immediately for the Black and Gold in tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.
While on paper it might seem like the Bruins gave up a lot in the deal, the truth is the Bruins landed the top available winger on the market and had to move all of those pieces in order to make the salary cap side of things work.
Sure Nash hasn’t been a great player in the last couple of years with his best season coming in 2014-15 when he scored 42 goals for the Rangers, but he’s just 33 years old and fully capable of re-energizing his game in a contract year for a Bruins team with a legit chance at a Stanley Cup. In his last three playoff runs with the Blueshirts, Nash has 10 goals and 23 points along with a plus-9 in 39 games for New York and has been an effective offensive player when the bell goes off.
Even more importantly for the Bruins, Nash is the exact kind of power forward-type at 6-foot-4, 213-pounds that has enjoyed excellent success with David Krejci in the past and really gives that Bruins second line a formidable look for a postseason run. He’ll fit right in replacing the speedy, skilled Spooner alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, and give them the exact kind of rental winger they’d been looking for on the trade market.
With only David Backes as a big, heavy physical winger among a bunch of smaller, younger and skilled wings headed into the trade deadline, the Bruins needed to get bigger and stronger with the physical battles ahead in the stretch run and postseason.
To his credit Spooner had turned his game around this season and showed that he wanted to stick with the Bruins, and actually had lesser, but comparable, numbers to Nash with nine goals and 25 points this season in Boston. Spooner will get a chance to be part of the fast, young, skilled Rangers group as an RFA after this season, and could very well flourish given a fresh start in a different organization after doing many of the right things for his NHL career this season. With the youth movement in full swing in Boston, however, there was no real room for Spooner on the Bruins roster moving forward beyond this season’s expected playoff run.
There was also no room for Spooner as anything more than an extra part if he did remain on the Bruins after the Nash deal with his spot gone on the second line, and no appetite from the B’s to break up third or fourth lines that have been very good for them this season. If the Bruins were going to remove a piece from their NHL roster without really disrupting all the good things that they’ve done this season, Spooner might just have been the best candidate in a trade.
Beleskey was buried in the AHL after disappointing the last couple of seasons, and the Bruins get salary cap relief by including him in the deal as a contract that needed to be moved in order for the Bruins to absorb Nash’s $7 plus million cap hit.
The real cost here, obviously, is the first round pick and a solid Bruins prospect in Lindgren, a sophomore defenseman at the University of Minnesota and a 2016 second round pick. But that’s the going rate to land the premier winger available on the trade market even if Nash hasn’t cracked 40 points with the Rangers in each of the last two seasons.
Lindgren was a staple on the Team USA World Junior team in each of the last two seasons and is well-thought of in scouting circles for his leadership and toughness, but he’s also a stay-at-home, left shot defenseman in an organization that is well-stocked in that area with Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen and a number of other players even after trading away Lindgren and Robbie O’Gara.
The message from the Bruins is clear here: The Black and Gold are going for it this season and they didn’t have to give up any of their untouchable pieces in order to do just that. That’s something Bruins fans should be ecstatic about once the shock of a big time rental move engineered by Don Sweeney is digested and broken down beyond this weekend.