The retirement of Rick Nash was not only a reminder that too many great players have been forced out of the game because of concussion-related symptoms, but also a reminder how risky NHL trade deadline deals can turn out.
The Bruins traded their first-round pick as part of the package for Nash last February, and any time a trade doesn’t result in a Stanley Cup championship, watching another team make that pick inspires regret on the part of the trading team.
After going through the 2018 NHL Draft without a first-round pick, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney didn’t regret making the Nash trade because he believed in Nash and last year’s roster to be able to make a long postseason run. But sitting out the first night of the draft was agonizing and Sweeney expressed he’d be reluctant to trade his first-round pick again.
However, he’s not ruling out doing whatever it takes to improve his lineup before the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
“Until that deal [for Nash] really materialized we held [the first-rounder] out all the way [until the end],” Sweeney told WEEI.com this week. “We just felt that at the time and some of the pieces that we shifted around as a result, where we might’ve finished in the league, bottom of the first, top of the second based on where you are, we took a swing.
“I’m always going to want to be in a position to take a swing. We’re evaluating our team, where we are when we’re healthy, and that hasn’t been the case. Knock on whatever, Charlie coming back, maybe seeing what our team is, maybe that changes. I don’t have a hard and fast rule, but by design I’d be hesitant to be doing it.”
The Bruins will be as close to full strength as they’ve been this season assuming defenseman Charlie McAvoy returns in the next couple games and no one else goes down; only bottom-six forward Joakim Nordstrom will be left among the wounded. The Bruins have lost 158 man-games to injury, including Zdeno Chara (19 games) and Patrice Bergeron (16 games) missing significant time.
Trade chatter around the league hasn’t stopped but might have hit a bit of a lull while teams are holding their organizational meetings. The Bruins’ amateur scouts came to town this week and the pro meetings will be next week.
Sweeney swung a minor-league deal with Ottawa on Friday sending depth defenseman Cody Goloubef to the Senators for forward Paul Carey. Goloubef became expendable with the development of Conor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon in addition to the return from the World Junior Championship of Urho Vaakanainen. Carey will help a Providence forward corps that’s a little thing with injuries to Anders Bjork (shoulder) and All-Star Ryan Fitzgerald (wrist).
Whether there are bigger trades by the Bruins in the offing remains to be seen. Improvements made by the likes of Ryan Donato and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson have allowed the Bruins to get by in the short term but there’s little doubt they’ll be shopping for an experienced third-line center and/or a top-six wing, and Sweeney will be more than willing to take another “swing” as long as the Bruins keep playing the way they have in winning five of their past six games.