The Bruins have done their part on the ice, now it’s time for general manager Don Sweeney to do his part in the boardroom.
By taking nine out of a possible 10 points on their just-concluded five-game road trip the Bruins sent a message to Sweeney that they’ll be ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup if he can get them at least a little more help before the NHL trade deadline 3 p.m. on Monday.
The Bruins beat the lowly Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks to start the trip, then prevailed against two legitimate Cup contenders – the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights. Against the St. Louis Blues, the only team in the NHL hotter than the Bruins this month, Boston dropped a 2-1 shootout Saturday in their last game before the trade deadline. But the Bruins once against proved they could skate stride for stride against an emerging contender after a sluggish first period.
In his Bruins debut Charlie Coyle, who came over in a trade Wednesday for Ryan Donato and a draft pick, didn’t attempt a shot in 16:36 of ice time (no surprise there) but linemate David Backes had five shots on goal. For the first time in a while the Bruins had a fourth line that was a threat, especially once Peter Cehlarik picked up his game. His turnover led to St. Louis’ first goal and a one-shift benching from coach Bruce Cassidy in the first period.
Cehlarik’s benching, though, may have come at the right time. Sweeney shouldn’t be fooled into thinking he can stand pat past Monday just because the Bruins have won seven of their past eight games and have a 13-game point streak (10-0-3). He still has plenty of assets and multiple positions on his NHL roster he could upgrade.
Here’s a quick look at Sweeney’s options in light of the Bruins’ improved play and some maneuvering that’s gone on around the league the past couple days:
Pick apart the Senators
Ottawa shipped Matt Duchene to Columbus on Friday and Ryan Dzingel to the Blue Jackets on Saturday. Things are fluid between the Senators Mark Stone but more media reports are indicating they’re going to trade him rather than keep him. No one could blame them at this point, and no one could blame him for wanting out.. Stone will come at a price close to what Duchene fetched (a first-rounder, a conditional first-rounder and two prospects). Like Rick Nash last year, though, the Bruins would be determined to re-sign Stone and then the price is well worth acquiring a 26-year-old two-way force.
Dzingel's price of Anthony Duclair and two picks was obviously something the Bruins wouldn't match for a player that may not have been much of an upgrade on what they currently have.
Maybe the Senators’ asking prices are too high. The New York Rangers' trade of forward Mats Zuccarello to Dallas for a second- and a third-round puck proves that the price for New Jersey’s Marcus Johansson, Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and others will cost less and trading for them should allow the Bruins to keep their first-round pick and top two or three prospects. This would be the safest route for Sweeney and also one that would significantly make the Bruins legitimately elite.
Danton Heinen’s been great with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but imagine a world where he plays with Coyle when David Pastrnak comes back and someone with NHL experience and several 20-plus goal seasons on his resume skates with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. And then you have the likes of Backes, Cehlarik and Joakim Nordstrom to rotate on Coyle’s right side. Cassidy wouldn’t have to worry about any Cehlarik miscues in the middle of the ice with veteran to fill his spot.
The Bruins have scored 22 goals in six games without Pastrnak, but the more proven offensive weapons they have the better they’ll be able to soften the inevitable dip when the current hot streak ends, not to mention how much deeper the Bruins would be in the playoffs with one more legitimate NHL wing)
Sweeney didn’t rule out being done after he picked up Coyle. It would be his right to ride out the rest of this season with the current roster. But if he doesn’t add anyone else (even signing long-timer tryout Lee Stempniak would be a step forward at this point), he can’t continue to say he’s all-in for a championship run this season. There are still too many question marks in Boston's forward group, and some concerns on defense, to put Boston among the top two or three Cup contenders.