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Tough to watch McQuaid go, but trade was smart move for Bruins

BRIGHTON -- Adam McQuaid is a great teammate. He's an intimidating and fierce fighter who inspires fear in opponents, and conversely is one of the nicest hockey players you’d ever want to meet. He blocks shots fearlessly and stands up without hesitation for his teammates against the biggest, toughest NHL foes. 

So it was understandable that emotions were a little raw in the Bruins dressing room today when, on the first day of training camp at Warrior Ice Arena, the Bruins traded McQuaid to the New York Rangers on the eve of their trip to China.

“It’s a tough day,” said Brad Marchand, who played with McQuaid in both Providence and Boston. “It’s difficult losing Quaider, who has been an incredible teammate for a long time.

"When you look around the room, you want guys like him. He’s just an incredible guy off the ice, and in the room. He’s a great friend, and as a teammate he’d do anything for the team and for each individual player.

"So it sucks. It’s unfortunately part of the business. This is the game that we play and these are the things that happen, but we’ll never forget him as a teammate or as a friend after everything we’ve been through together. It’s hard losing him."

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McQuaid, 31, was one of the last links to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship; only Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask now are left. He was tirelessly working his way back from a wide swath of injuries that resulted from his physical style of play.

But let’s put this into cold, hard hockey perspective.

Getting a fourth-round pick, a conditional seventh-round pick and defenseman Steven Kampfer for McQuaid was a slam dunk for general manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins.

They’ll absolutely miss his toughness, his selflessness and his sledgehammer right-handed punch, but McQuaid -- one of eight NHL defensemen in the B's camp -- probably wasn’t going to play much at all this season. Last year he only got into 38 games and was a healthy scratch for long stretches in the middle of the season when the rest of the blue line was healthy, productive and playing at a high level. McQuaid and Kevan Miller are essentially two sides of the same coin as big, rugged and physical right-shot D-men, with Miller a little faster and more skilled and McQuaid a little more of a fearsome fighter.

The Bruins essentially gained at least one mid-round draft pick and a decent AHL/NHL depth D-man in Kampfer while clearing $2.75 million in cap space. With both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo up for new contracts after this season, there was zero chance McQuaid was coming back to Boston in 2019. So Boston got a little value for a player on the back end of his NHL career.

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The Bruins still have seven high-caliber NHL D-men, and that means a quality player is going to be a healthy scratch every night, but at least the logjam of blueliners has been eased a little. Perhaps the most difficult part of the transaction will be the first time one of the Bruins has to drop the gloves and tangle with McQuaid.

Sweeney was respectful in his comments about McQuaid. He said he was hopeful the B's could maintain a “team toughness” approach without McQuaid.

“I think [hockey fighting] is still a factor and it still exists, and it just comes in smaller doses." said Sweeney. "Adam always found the right time to do those things, but it still exists and it’s still part of the game. It’s become less prevalent on a nightly basis. I think it’s about team toughness . . . [I] firmly [believe] that you do that through a team aspect.”

So that means Chara, Miller and David Backes, or maybe even somebody new like Carlo, are going to expected to answer the bell when it’s called for on the ice, especially with the Bruins getting smaller and more skill-oriented with each passing season.

Still, it's absolutely the right hockey move, and it made sense from a talent and business perspective. Players, coaches and executives around the NHL are wont to say that “it’s a business," and shipping out an aging, good soldier for the betterment of the team was just that: Strictly business.

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