Chapter One- In The Beginning… (2016)
With over two months until the 2022 NHL trade deadline on March 21st, there’s plenty of time to start speculating about what kind of moves— if any— would make the most sense for the Boston Bruins in their 2021-22 endeavor.
Though it wasn’t easy at the start of his tenure as General Manager, Don Sweeney, has significantly improved his trading prowess as the deadline approaches from season to season in Boston.
That said, not every trade has yielded a gold mine for the Bruins and they’ve yet to win the Stanley Cup since 2011, despite making it all the way to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final on home ice and winning the Presidents’ Trophy the following season (2019-20).
For the record, a lot has changed in both the league itself, as well as the team’s development since the days of acquiring guys like John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak on Feb. 29, 2016, instead of swinging for the fences and landing, uh, guys like Pat Maroon, Kris Russell or Mikkel Boedker at the 2016 trade deadline.
In retrospect, maybe there really wasn’t that much of a market that season.
Sure, Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers the day before the 2016 trade deadline on Feb. 28th, but he only managed to amass six points in 20 games with the Rangers down the stretch.
Staal then joined the Minnesota Wild in free agency on July 1, 2016, and had four seasons of a career resurgence before he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres prior to the 2020-21 season— whereby he was later flipped to the Montréal Canadiens— only to end up losing in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.
These days he has been invited to Team Canada’s training camp for the 2022 Winter Games as he’s currently an unrestricted free agent.
More and more recently, the bigger trades happen in the last couple of weeks leading up to the deadline itself, so let’s widen the scope a bit for 2016, just for a second.
The Florida Panthers added Jakub Kindl from the Detroit Red Wings, Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames and Teddy Purcell from the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 27th that year.
Kindl spent parts of two seasons in Florida before leaving for Europe after the 2016-17 season, Hudler joined the Dallas Stars for 2016-17, and promptly retired thereafter, while Purcell joined the Los Angeles Kings in 2016-17, before joining the Bruins on a PTO at training camp in 2017, prior to being released then spent the 2017-18 season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and retired thereafter.
One other team tried going for it in the rental market, as Chicago acquired Tomáš Fleischmann and Dale Weise from the Montréal Canadiens for Phillip Danault and a 2018 2nd round pick (38th overall, Alexander Romanov), added Christian Ehrhoff from Los Angeles for Rob Scuderi and dealt Marko Dano, a 2016 1st round pick (later flipped to the Philadelphia Flyers, 22nd overall—selected German Rubtsov) and a conditional 2018 3rd round pick (the condition was not met) to the Winnipeg Jets for Jay Harrison, Andrew Ladd and Matt Fraser.
Fleischmann retired after that season, Weise left for the Philadelphia Flyers in free agency that summer, Ehrhoff went back to Europe, Harrison never suited up for Chicago, Ladd had 12 points in 19 games— then joined the New York Islanders in free agency— and Fraser also never suited up in a Chicago uniform.
So, the rental market didn’t really pan out that year.
The San Jose Sharks added James Reimer and Jeremy Morin from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Ben Smith, Alex Stalock and a 2018 3rd round pick (83rd overall, Riley Stotts) the same day the Panthers made all of their moves.
Reimer went on to serve as a decent backup to Martin Jones in San Jose’s 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance before ultimately losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Sharks also bolstered their blue line five days prior in a separate trade with Toronto on the 22nd, in which San Jose acquired Roman Polák and Nick Spaling from the Maple Leafs for Raffi Torres, a 2017 2nd round pick (later flipped to the Anaheim Ducks, 50th overall— Maxime Comtois) and a 2018 2nd round pick (52nd overall, Sean Durzi), but again, neither of those deals were earth-shattering.
Polák was in search of a Cup ring late in his career (despite playing four more seasons afterward) and had three assists in 24 games with San Jose in the regular season before failing to put up a point in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games as a Shark prior to rejoining Toronto via free agency that summer.
Spaling at least had 2-4—6 totals in 24 games down the stretch with the Sharks and even recorded an assist in 24 playoff games before— like the rest of the team— losing to the Penguins in the Final and leaving the NHL for the Swiss League that summer.
In terms of immediate impact, the Sharks got their money’s worth (kind of), but for a trio of rental players.
San Jose’s deals might have been the biggest trades not involving the Bruins in the buildup to one of Sweeney’s most often criticized trade deadlines because first impressions mean a lot to some in the Boston fanbase.
What was made available, however, didn’t amount to much.
Although, there is enough credibility to the thought that the Bruins should’ve sold high on Loui Eriksson at the time when they could’ve shipped him out of the Hub at a premium before missing the playoffs for a second-straight year.
Instead, Eriksson went on to amass 63 points (30 goals, 33 assists) in all 82 games with Boston in his first healthy season in the three years he had been there after the Tyler Seguin trade (which happened under previous General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, while Sweeney worked in a player development role)— and signed on the dotted line with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1, 2016, leaving Boston with nothing in his wake.
This, after the Bruins (42-31-9, 93 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division) missed the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker with the Red Wings (41-30-11, 93 points, 3rd in the Atlantic) who had 39 regulation plus overtime wins (ROW) to Boston’s 38.
Two teams from the Metropolitan Division— the Islanders and the Flyers— clinched the Eastern Conference wild card playoff berths with 100 and 96 points, respectively, in the standings.
As for the biggest deal leading up to the 2016 trade deadline, you’d probably have to move the goalposts a little bit on the “within two weeks before the deadline itself” rule to find the best deal.
But the Ottawa Senators were the beneficiary of a revival on Feb. 9, 2016, when they traded Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen, Tobias Lindberg and a 2017 2nd round pick (59th overall, Eemeli Räsänen) to Toronto for Dion Phaneuf (captain of the Maple Leafs at the time), Matt Frattin, Ryan Rupert, Casey Bailey and Cody Donaghey.
Phaneuf had a late career renaissance with the Sens and proved to be pivotal in their run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final the following year— only to lose on the road in a Game 7 against the Penguins, 3-2, in double overtime.
Pittsburgh, by the way, went on to repeat as Stanley Cup champions that June.
Frattin never suited up for the Senators and left for the KHL after spending a year with the Stockton Heat (AHL) in 2016-17.
Rupert was mired in the minors until going to Europe in 2018-19, while Bailey played in seven games for Ottawa in 2016-17, then spent time split between the American Hockey League and Europe since then (currently in the DEL).
Donaghey, on the other hand, played in one AHL game in 2017-18, before spending the majority of his time in the ECHL prior to leaving for Europe last season (currently in the ELH).
But Phaneuf brought his $7.000 million cap hit to the Sens and actually saved the team money since they shipped out Greening ($2.650 million), Michalek ($4.000 million) and Cowen ($3.100 million) as part of the package— adding about $2.750 million towards the cap for Toronto in the deal.
Of course, the Leafs went on to win the 2016 Draft Lottery and selected Auston Matthews 1st overall that June, so it wasn’t all that bad.
In 51 games with the Maple Leafs prior to the trade in the 2015-16 season, Phaneuf had 3-21—24 totals. In 20 games with Ottawa, he had 1-7—8 totals.
The following year, he had 9-21—30 totals in 81 games and put up five points (one goal, four assists) from the blue line in 19 playoff games in 2017.
He then had 3-13—16 totals in 53 games with Ottawa in 2017-18, before he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in another deal that— you guessed it, saved the Senators some money (only about $1.100 million this time around).
Phaneuf had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 26 games with Los Angeles and recorded an assist in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Kings were swept by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2018 First Round.
Then in 2018-19, he amassed 1-5—6 totals in 67 games and had the last two years of his contract bought out by Los Angeles on June 15, 2019.
He didn’t officially retire until Nov. 16, 2021, and spent parts of two seasons following Brendan Shanahan around in his role as president and alternate governor of the Leafs.
Though he wasn’t scoring 40, 50 or even 60 points as a defender like he did in his prime with the Calgary Flames, Phaneuf was still the rugged and durable veteran blue liner that he was in his short tenure from before the 2016 deadline until about his final season and injury was really the only thing that did him in at the end due to his physical style.
He had value and the Leafs just gave him up to their intra-provincial rivals about three years before Toronto repeated themselves in giving Ottawa a better defender (Nikita Zaitsev) for a younger defender (Cody Ceci) that just didn’t really pan out as part of a larger package in a trade on July 1, 2019.
Anyway, that last part was really just for those of you that made it this far and care about things outside of just the Bruins organization.
We’ll move on to analyzing Sweeney’s deadline deals since 2016, in the next chapter.