Don Sweeney Succeeding for Boston Bruins
The Bruins fired former general manager, Peter Chiarelli, after nine years with the team. His often-questionable moves led Boston fans to a large distrust of team management.
Chiarelli made moves trading players like Blake Wheeler, Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin in exchange for players or picks of lesser value. When Chiarelli was fired in 2015, Boston needed a new sense of direction.
In came Sweeney. His first job as an executive in the NHL brought him into an original six franchise with a rich history and a strong group of core players. What Sweeney has done since then has been phenomenal.
Sweeney has made a total of 22 trades during his tenure in Boston. One of his first moves was sending Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames for three draft picks. With those draft picks, Sweeney selected Zachary Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon, all of which are still in the Bruins organization.
After making more depth and organizational moves, the Bruins began to become a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference again. In 2018, Sweeney made a deal with the New York Rangers to acquire forward Rick Nash. Sweeney gave up three players and two draft picks for a rental player in Nash, but it showed his aggressive attitude towards winning now.
The following season, Sweeney felt the team needed an extra piece or two to make them legitimate contenders. In two separate trades, Sweeney acquired Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. Two players who would play a large role in Boston’s playoff run that ended in the Stanley Cup Finals.
As each day without hockey passes, Sweeney’s deadline deals this year are looking better. In two separate trades, Sweeney traded Danton Heinen, David Backes, Axel Andersson and a first-round pick in exchange for Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie.
Replacing Heinen with Kase and Ritchie made the Bruins slightly better on the ice while shedding 75 percent of Backes’s contract opened up cap space. Neither Kase or Ritchie are on expiring contracts so if the remainder of the NHL season were to be cancelled, they would remain in Boston for the following season.
Sweeney could have extended for a higher-end rental player at the deadline, but with the current situation, his decision against that is looking smarter by the day.
The Bruins have one of the most talented rosters in the league. They have a great mix of top-end talent with strong depth players. It’s all possible due to the contracts Don Sweeney has been able to draw up.
David Pastrnak leads the NHL in goals this season and signed a six-year extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $6.66 million. Brad Marchand signed an eight-year extension with an AAV of $6.125 million. Patrice Bergeron signed his contract before Don Sweeney was general manager, but has an AAV of $6.875 million.
The Bruins top line of Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak are ranked the top line in hockey by Daily Faceoff. That line has produced 238 points (most in the NHL) with a combined AAV of $19,666,666.
In comparison, the Tampa Bay Lightning top line of Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov have combined for 190 points at an AAV of $23,300,000. Boston’s top line is better at a cheaper price.
Like anything, Sweeney hasn’t hit on 100 percent of his moves. Signing David Backes to a five-year deal worth $30 million in 2016 is Sweeney’s biggest mistake. Backes had 94 points in 214 games during his tenure with the Bruins.
Trading Hamilton to Calgary may not look like the best move on paper right now. The three draft picks in return have not resulted in the player that Hamilton has turned out to be. This trade resulted in another mishap by Sweeney when he whiffed on at least two of the three first-round picks in the 2015 draft.
The 15th overall pick received in the Hamilton trade was used on Senyshyn while players like Mathew Barzal and Kyle Connor were still on the board. Having picks 14, 15 and 16 in the 2015 draft resulting in one current NHL player (Jake Debrusk) is something Sweeney would like to forget.
The Bruins are in good hands with Sweeney making decisions. He was named the NHL General Manager of the Year for the 2018-19 season. In his five years, Sweeney has shown a strong ability to acquire talent while not giving too much in exchange.
Along with that, the ability to sign top players to team-friendly deals has allowed Boston to keep the core group intact while supporting them with solid talent.
Sweeney has made smaller moves that have gone fairly unnoticed but are a key piece to success. In 2015, Sweeney traded Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings to create cap space. He would eventually parlay that trade into another one, acquiring Sean Kuraly, who plays a key role in the current Bruins team.
The moves made by Sweeney will help him in a very important offseason. He created extra cap space in an off-season with Torey Krug, Joakim Nordstrom, Zdeno Chara and Jaroslav Halak set to become unrestricted free agents. Debrusk, Anders Bjork and Matt Grzelcyk will become restricted free agents.
Sweeney has exceeded expectations thus far in Boston. In his first season as general manager, the Bruins missed the playoffs. Yet just three seasons later they were playing in the Stanley Cup Finals.
This off-season will be another test for Sweeney. His biggest challenge will be keeping Krug in Boston. It would be another major accomplishment for Sweeney if he can extend Krug. Regardless, the Bruins should feel comfortable with Sweeney calling the shots.