Bruins

Bruins sending clear message they're going for it with Nash deal

Bruins sending clear message they're going for it with Nash deal

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. 

MORE BRUINS

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. 

MORE BRUINS

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Haggerty: NHL draft weekend a big dud for the Black and Gold

Haggerty: NHL draft weekend a big dud for the Black and Gold

DALLAS – There’s no way to sugarcoat it for the Boston Bruins, and competitive hockey guys like Don Sweeney and Cam Neely wouldn’t want that anyway.

The 2018 NHL Draft at the American Airlines Center netted the Bruins a few prospects and one in particular in Czech-born Jakub Lauko that has all the makings of a mid-round steal, but in just about every way draft weekend was a big, fat bust for the Black and Gold. 

The Bruins lost out to the Los Angeles Kings in the bidding for 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk when they understandably, and perhaps wisely, wouldn’t go to a three-year offer for a talented player that skipped town on his last NHL team. They weren’t able to engineer a package to entice the Carolina Hurricanes with defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm available in a blockbuster trade that could have answered both of Boston’s needs in one fell swoop.

Instead, Dougie Hamilton was traded from the Flames to the Hurricanes as the biggest piece in the trade, and for a second time in three years Sweeney watched Hamilton get moved while not able to land his “white whale”, a top-4 left shot D-man, in Hanifin.

With the July 1 opening of NHL free agency quickly approaching, the Bruins also don’t appear any closer to locking up backup goaltender Anton Khudobin at a key roster spot that absolutely needs to be addressed if Boston wants to be successful again next season. It’s much the same with Riley Nash, which means the Bruins could be looking at propping up a rookie third line center in the middle of their lineup next season.

To top it all off, the Bruins also didn’t have a pick in the opening night first round of the NHL Draft on Friday, a scenario that Sweeney himself called “excruciating” after watching the top 31 players get selected while his face was pressed up against the proverbial glass. 

So it wasn’t a very productive weekend for the Bruins, who certainly didn’t get any better at the NHL level as several other teams very clearly accomplished that goal. Certainly the Bruins seemed to feel pretty good about their chances for Kovalchuk at the start of this weekend, but they weren’t willing to go to a third year for a 35-year-old player that’s been stowed away in Russia for the last five seasons. Time will tell if that was the right call, but it’s always good business not to overpay for aging free agents in a salary cap world.  

“We put ourselves in a position to be considered,” said Sweeney, when asked about missing out on Kovalchuk after he’d agreed to a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Kings. “West coast-East coast, you’d have to ask Ilya what ultimately swung things into LA’s favor. We thought it was a good fit and it didn’t work out. Ultimately, you move on to the next one.”

Now, the Bruins will move on as well to this week’s interview period ahead of NHL free agency and the July 1 open to the market where they may once again have a few balls up in the air. James van Riemsdyk may be a possibility on the free agent side as a power forward winger with size, net-front presence and plenty of productivity, but he’s clearly not going to come cheap after scoring a lot of goals with the Maple Leafs.

There is still a chance to swing a deal with the Hurricanes as well with winger Jeff Skinner potentially on the trade block as well for Carolina. The 26-year-old put up 24 goals and 49 points last season in Carolina, and has averaged 28 goals per season over the last five years with the Hurricanes. There are also the ongoing talks with Rick Nash about returning to the Bruins after last spring’s deadline deal, of course. But it’s also pretty clear the Bruins viewed Nash as a second tier option to Kovalchuk as a goal-scoring answer on their second line, and that doesn’t exactly ignite the excitement levels thinking about a possible return.

The one that could really come back to haunt the Bruins is the Hanifin/Lindholm package to the Flames that dropped midway through Saturday’s Day 2 of the draft in Dallas. It didn’t sound like the Bruins were heavily in the mix on that deal, but they certainly could have been competitive for it if they’d tailored a package around young NHL players like Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen. Instead, Sweeney cautioned on Friday night that the Bruins were going to be very reluctant to move young NHL players that are still determining just how high their ceiling can be as Bruins. 

“We realize that we have some young players that have played just a year in the National Hockey League with some success. I’d like to continue to see how that unfolds. But [other GMs asking about B’s young players] is a good opportunity to see how other teams around the league view those players as well, and what maybe their market value is,” said Sweeney. “Yeah, there have been a lot of guys that have been intrigued. And I think we are as well. We’ve peeked under the covers a bit and we just want to make sure that if we make a move it’s for the absolute right reasons. 

“I want to make a good hockey trade if we go down that road. We’ve got good players and we’ve got good young players that have assumed roles, and hopefully, they just continue to grow.”

The Bruins certainly do have good, young players and they’ve got a pretty darn good hockey club that amassed 112 points in the regular season as well. But they also showed some pretty well-chronicled weaknesses that cropped up in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the bottom line is they got nothing accomplished in terms of addressing those at NHL Draft weekend.

The good news is that the Bruins have $12 million in cap space headed into free agency week, and there will be other opportunities both in trades and free agency.

But any way you slice it NHL draft weekend in Dallas was an acrid, empty dud for the Black and Gold, and that’s far from a good thing.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins trade target Hanifin traded to Calgary

carolina-hurricanes-noah-hanifin-51718.jpg
File photo

Bruins trade target Hanifin traded to Calgary

Former Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin, a Bruins trade target who they once tried to trade up to get in the 2015 draft, has been traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Calgary Flames in a deal that includes former B's defenseman Dougie Hamilton going to Carolina.

The 'Canes sent center Eric Lindholm and Hanifin, both restricted free agents who rejected Carolina's most recent contract offers, to Calgary for Hamilton, winger Micheal Ferland and prospect defenseman Adam Fox, who was a third-round pick in 2016 now playing at Harvard,

The Bruins have a longstanding interest in Hanifin that goes back to their efforts to trade up for him in when he was the fifth overall pick three years ago. The Canes likely sought Bruins left winger Jake DeBrusk in the hefty package they were seeking for Hanifin. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE