Sweeney goes all-in for B’s
Trades for Hall, Reilly, Lazar at deadline
As injuries mounted for the Bruins leading into Monday’s NHL trade deadline, it was never really obvious which way GM Don Sweeney would go.
While selling assets never seemed much of an option with the team still in a playoff spot, he could have easily chosen to go with a BandAid approach with a minor deal here or there. Instead, he chose to go all in — and it didn’t hurt that he got some help in what was already a buyer’s market.
Sweeney made out with a good haul at the deadline for minimal cost, first giving up a 2022 third-round pick for defenseman Mike Reilly from Ottawa and then making bigger news by getting onetime Hart Trophy-winner Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar for Anders Bjork and a 2021 second-round pick. Hall’s desire to play in Boston, coupled with his no-movement clause, prevented Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams from creating a bidding war for the 2010 first overall pick and surely kept the price down.
All that made it easier for Sweeney to give this core group of veterans like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand a fighting chance for another long playoff run. While Sweeney didn’t term it that way, it could very well be this group’s last hurrah
“We have such a motivated group, a tight-knit locker room, on and off the ice, they’re pulling for each other. And you definitely want to add some juice,” Sweeney said Monday. “We felt that finding some depth, finding some potential balance in scoring up front with the addition of Taylor, with the versatility of Curtis, and the puck-moving ability in Mike, we were trying to address a couple areas of need and to complement our group. You never know. But our group, they want to compete. You know this leadership core. And we’re trying to incorporate the next guys that want that mantle as well, and try to reward them with the investment they put forth. And the coaches as well, with what they go through. They’re part of this. The coaches are so invested in development and the process and they continue to get better and hold the group accountable. It’s a team-wide effort and you’re trying to help them in anyway, shape or form. That’s the manager’s role, to evaluate where you’re at and improve when you can.”
All parties involved — Sweeney, Hall and Adams — agreed that Hall was pretty much driving the bus with his no-movement clause.
“Because you’re not the decision-maker, you’re trying to find an agreement. But in Taylor’s case, we certainly knew that he had interest in us and maybe that played some factor in him deciding, because he had the authority to veto trades if he wanted to go to particular places,” said Sweeney, who’d pursued Hall in he offseason before he signed in Buffalo. “So, for me, there’s mutual buy-in there.”
Hall has already expressed an interest in re-signing with Boston, but Sweeney said that’s a conversation to be held down the road.
“It usually comes with success and fitting in, and Taylor will have a say in that. Our group will have a say in that and how those two things come together,” said Sweeney.
What is of more timely importance is getting Hall back to the player he can be. He had just 2-17-19 totals in 37 games for Buffalo. Sweeney pointed to the fact that he’s had more scoring chances than those numbers would indicate. His shooting percentage is at 2.3%.
“Whether that’s bad puck luck or it’s something he needs to do to make adjustments, we’re going to point some things out to him. But ultimately, we think he adds to the depth, bringing speed off the wing, having the opportunity to play with Krejci and/or (Charlie) Coyle,” said Sweeney.
The hope is the Bruins now have enough depth up front, with the addition of the versatile Lazar as well, to create a more balanced attack like they had in the 2019 trip to the Finals, when they had a highly effective third line with Coyle, deadline acquisition Marcus Johansson and Danton Heinen. It also won’t hurt that he’ll be playing behind Marchand.
“He’s rarely had that in the opportunities he had in other places to play behind a guy like Brad, who sees all the top match-ups every given night,” said Sweeney.
As for Hall’s admitted lack of confidence right now, Sweeney believes the Bruins’ environment will help.
“He’s been a highly successful player at the highest of levels. If he has a little bit of success, I think he could get a snowball affect associated with that,” said Sweeney. “The pressure is not on only Taylor. I know our leadership group will let him know that. He just needs to come in and fit in and do what he does well and complement the group.”
Reilly could be key pick-up
The Hall deal overshadowed what was a pretty good pick-up in Reilly, who will help in some key areas, especially right now with the injuries that the back end is enduring. Sweeney pointed to puck retrievals, first passes and getting pucks through at the offensive blue line as key factors.
Reilly credited the communication he got from Sens coach D.J. Smith for what has been something of a breakthrough year for him.
“That really helps with your confidence and coming to the rink every day,” said Reilly, who played with Coyle in Minnesota. “Things went really well here and I think I can take the momentum in to Boston here.”
Lazar a ‘perfect fit’
Hall, Reilly and Lazar were all driving to Boston to avoid being held up in quarantine situations and be available for tonight’s game. While Lazar, who’d been dealing with a lower body injury, said he’s ready, Sweeney said he may not go in for a couple of days. Regardless, Lazar said he always loved playing Boston. He can play center or right wing and move around the lineup.
“They kind of have that swag and that physicality,” said Lazar. “I kind of see myself as a perfect fit for that team.”
Odds and ends
The B’s are left-shot heavy up front, and Sweeney said Jake DeBrusk was a leading candidate to play his off wing.
Goalie Jaroslav Halak remains on the team’s COVID list.