Heading into the trade deadline, the Bruins were in a sticky situation. They don’t have the talent to make a deep playoff run, but they’re too good to fall out of playoff contention. That problem forced the Bruins to either buy or sell at the deadline, and they chose to buy- sort of.
The Bruins biggest weakness this year has been the defensive corps. Aging defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara continue to show signs of regression and have lost steps in recent years. Adam McQuaid continues to find ways to hurt himself, and the team. Torey Krug, who was taking serious strides in his development, has seen his on ice effectiveness take a hit, as he’s only found the back of the net three times in 61 games after scoring 12 goals a season ago. Kevan and Colin Miller (no relation) have been good, yet inconsistent. Colin Miller has shown big-tme upside as an offensive defenseman, but is still developing.
So the need for a defenseman was large for Boston, and the Bruins were rumored in trade talks with the Calgary Flames for Kris Russell and maybe even Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks. Russell, however, wound up in Dallas, and Hamhuis stayed home in Vancouver. So as a consolation prize the Bruins added another aging defenseman in John-Michael Liles, who was just another player sent away by the Carolina Hurricanes in their max exodus.
Liles is a mobile yet undersized defenseman, like Russell, and has six goals and nine assists in 64 games to this point. He can help out on the power play, which the Bruins really don’t even need help with, but isn’t too strong on the defensive end, something the Bruins really need help with.
To put it bluntly, the addition of Liles doesn’t really help the B’s. And when you factor in that the Bruins gave up a third round pick in 2016, a fifth round pick in 2017, and rising prospect Anthony Camara for an old, unrestricted free agent following this season, the Bruins lose this trade pretty badly.
Another move the Bruins made at the deadline was acquiring forward Lee Stempniak from the New Jersey Devils for fourth rounder in 2016 and a second rounder in 2017. The Bruins had in fact brought the veteran Stempniak to training camp before not offering him a contract. As it turns out, Stempniak was New Jersey’s leading scorer with 16 goals and 25 assists for a team ranked last in goals per game, which isn’t saying much about his scoring ability.
Like Liles, Stempniak is a free agent following this season, and the price of a second and fourth rounder is a tough bullet to bite. But Stempniak does bring value as a veteran forward who can play both the power play and penalty kill, as well as both sides on the wings. With Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly underperforming on the right side, Stempniak can bring stability to that side of the ice.
Also similarly to Liles, Stempniak is unexpected to resign in Boston, with all signs actually pointing to him resigning with New Jersey in the offseason. This is the third straight trade deadline where Stempniak has been moved. Is that relevant? Not really, just an interesting factoid.
However, the biggest move the Bruins made was deciding to hang on to Loui Eriksson (pictured). Eriksson is in ongoing talks with Boston with an extension, but the two sides remain apart on both years and money. Eriksson did generate trade interest at the deadline, but general manager Don Sweeney is quoted as saying the deals for Loui “weren’t right”.
Whether the asking price was too high or no good offers came through remain to be seen, but now the Bruins have put themselves behind the 8-ball with Eriksson likely to leave in free agency as a premier free agent.
Don Sweeney’s first go-round as general manager has been tumultuous at best. Trading Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton certainly seem to be biting the Bruins in the backside at this point in the year. With Boston reaching on the first round picks they received for those players wasn’t a good start. The inability to get deals done for Russell and Eriksson and losing both deals he made show that Sweeney either can’t negotiate or is still learning the ropes, and I pray that it’s the latter.
The Bruins were supposedly buyers at the deadline, but they didn’t really improve enough to make teams in the east worry about them come playoff time.
Cover Photo via Boston.com