Grading Don Sweeney’s Offseason

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Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney speaks after being introduced Wednesday, May 20, 2015, in Boston. Sweeney was elevated to general manager, taking over for his former boss, Peter Chiarelli, who was fired in April after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

It certainly hasn’t been a boring few months for Bruins fans. The Boston Bruins were the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs with 96 points, yet ownership felt a change was needed. Peter Chiarelli was fired for falling in love with his mediocre locker room guys, and signing them to lucrative deals with no trade clauses. After over a month of a new general manager search that included Ray Shero, Jeff Gorton, and Mike Futa, management decided on the safe choice of Don Sweeney. Only time will tell how safe this choice was. Here is a rundown of Don Sweeney’s rookie offseason that has every Bruin’s fan pulling their hair out, jumping for joy, and simply scratching their head.

 

Dealer Donny

 

Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames for the 15th, 45th, and 52nd pick in the 2015 draft.

The first thing that Don Sweeney did as the GM of the Boston Bruins was trade the future of the blue line to the Calgary Flames. Dougie was a restricted free agent this offseason, and the Bruins needed to sign him by July 1st before other teams could offer-sheet him. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Boston offered the 22-year-old defenseman a six-year, $33 million contract, but after Dougie was gone, and in the midst of a pathetic smear campaign, reports that Dougie did not counter offer came out.

The public may never know what happened in that negotiation, but it was obvious that Dougie Hamilton did not want to be here in Boston, and it would’ve taken a lot of money to have him stay, more than market value, and much more than the Bruins were willing to give him. This isn’t where the problem lays. I wouldn’t want to be locked into a team I didn’t want to be apart of for the majority of my young adulthood either. The problem was the process of shopping him, and the return of the trade. Because he was a RFA, the Bruins had options. The first would be to sign him, and trade him. The return would have been much better because teams wouldn’t have the leverage of Dougie being a RFA. This isn’t very common in the NHL, but neither is trading your future number one defenseman for picks. The second option, and more likely would’ve been to let the world know that Dougie is available. This would’ve started a bidding war that would’ve resulted in a better return. He may have ended up in the Eastern Conference, undesirable, but for the opportunity to make your team better, you do it.

Grade: D

Milan Lucic to the LA Kings for the 13th overall pick in the 2015 draft and Goaltender Martin Jones.

Don Sweeney proved that he doesn’t care who you are, or how much the fans love you with this move. Lucic has been a fan favorite since his debut in 2007, and it seemed impossible to imagine the “Big Bad Bruins” roster without him on it. Lucic had a rough season last year totaling 44 points, and hasn’t been the impact player he was once upon a time. I never thought it was fair to label him a 30-goal scorer and at the time it happened I said it would never happen again, and five years later I’m still right. Regardless, 30 goals in the NHL land you a fat contract, and it’s hard to live up to it at times. I was in the “Lucic needs to go” camp, and was ecstatic with this move. Not only did Don Sweeney get a 1st round pick, and free up $3.3 million dollars in space, but he flipped Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks for their 1st round pick in 2016. Essentially we got two first round picks and much needed cap space for Lucic who we couldn’t afford next year when his contract runs out.

Grade: A

Reilly Smith and Marc Savard to Florida Panthers for Jimmy Hayes.

Reilly Smith was always Peter Chiarelli’s guy. He had been eyeing him for years before the Seguin trade, called him “silky-smooth” in a media conference, and extended him for two years at nearly $3.5 million in the middle of a disappointing season. Not on Donny’s watch. He packaged him with the contract of Marc Savard and got Jimmy Hayes, a huge body from Dorchester, MA. It seems the revival of the “Big Bad Bruins” image is being restored a little bit as “silky smooth” has been replaced with big and rugged. He hasn’t put up as many points as Smith has in any individual season, or his career, but will bring the physical presence lost in the Lucic trade. Hayes who is 25 is entering the prime of his career, and if properly utilized can be a good complimentary player the Bruins can use for years to come. The freeing of roughly $5 million dollars in cap space will be huge in the development of this team in the next few years.

Grade: A-

 3rd round pick in 2016 to Philadelphia Flyers for Zac Rinaldo.

Bruins fans all over the world nearly choked on their cereal the morning they saw what the Bruins had to give up in order to receive this fourth liner. It appears that Don Sweeney has envisioned what his team will look like, and is assembling it using whatever assets he has at his disposal. Do I like the trade? Absolutely not. Do I like Zac Rinaldo? Absolutely. This kid has terrorized opponents in Philly for years, and though he plays a little over the line at times, it’s that reason that opponents fear him. Don Sweeney went as far to say “Rinaldo has to become a penalty killer in this league, he skates extremely well and can create anxiety.” He may not be the biggest guy, listed at 5’11” and 170lbs, but he will hit, fight and stand up for anyone. I look forward to seeing how this pans out for the Bruins. If you are weary of this acquisition because of what he brings, and not because of the ridiculous amount we traded for him, watch this video below.

Grade: C-

 

Draft Day

The two major trades the Bruins made before the draft began shook the hockey world up, and big things were expected to happen with their 13th, 14th, and 15th overall picks. Will they trade up for Arizona’s 3rd and select BC’s shutdown defenseman Noah Hanifin? Will they package them and make a move for a guy like Kevin Shattenkirk or Patrick Sharp? There’s no way they’ll pick three consecutive times as they’re not a rebuilding team. Don Sweeney’s got some magic up his sleeve, it’s just a matter of time before the next shoe drops. There was very little magic. The Bruins selected Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Shenyshyn as Bruins fans around the world found a happy place in a bottle of Jameson.

Jakub Zboril – Defenseman, St. John Sea Dogs QMJHL

Being one that followed the rankings and the prospects prior to the actual draft, I knew Jakub Zboril was a highly regarded prospect, and am happy the Bruins picked him up. If the Bruins only had one pick in this round, it may have been a different story, however with three consecutive picks, this was one Bruins fans should get behind. This Czech defenseman is very good at everything, and while he might not be the best offensive defenseman or that shutdown guy a team needs in order to compete for the cup, he has very few holes in his game. He tallied 13 goals, 20 assists and 73 penalty minutes in 44 games for the St. John Sea Dogs last year. He is reliable in his own zone, and looks to create offense in transition in the neutral zone.

This is a safe pick. Reports say he will be back in the QMJHL next year to polish up his skills before making the leap to the big leagues where he will most likely end up in Providence. Look for him to be a second pairing defenseman in a couple years.

Grade: B

Jake DeBrusk – LW, Swift Current Broncos WHL

 This is when Don Sweeney turned off TSN. While Jake DeBrusk was projected to be a first round player, it was expected that he would go very late, and that the Bruins should take the consensus top-10 prospect in Matthew Barzal. They did not, and the winger from the Broncos is added to our now seemingly deep prospect pool. He is noted as a very good two-way player (go figure), with a scoring touch. He’s more of a shooter than a passer, though possesses the ability to create opportunities with the puck on his stick. He tallied 42 goals and 39 assists in 72 games for the Swift Current Broncos last year. He will most likely be sent back to the WHL to polish up his game away from the puck. He needs to work on making his presence known, and getting into good positioning without the puck on his stick.

DeBrusk has first line potential but will most likely end up as a good second liner with power play ability. Many of us have seen his shootout move in the Bruins development camp, and though it wasn’t a game time situation, this move shows his confidence in his game and not to mention pretty slick mitts. If you haven’t seen it, check it out below.

Grade: C

Dirty.

A video posted by Boston Bruins (@nhlbruins) on

Zach Senyshyn – RW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL

Will they pick Matthew Barzal? Kyle Conner? Paul Bittner? Instead they opt for second round projection Zach Senyshyn with the 15th overall selection leaving a plethora of higher regarded players on the board. Senyshyn played on the fourth line on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and still managed to rack up 26 goals in 66 games in a limited role. The Bruins were raving about his performance in their annual development camp, claiming he was one of the best forwards on the ice. Though this doesn’t change the face that he was a reach, it is encouraging to hear that the Bruins have faith in this guy and are willing to update us on his tryout against peewees. He has decent size, offensive skill and instinct, but his development will be a work in progress. He will most certainly be going back to the OHL to work on all aspects of his defensive game and his transition game in the neutral zone.

Zach Senyshyn was still an early to mid second round selection projection in what has been anticipated as the deepest draft since 2003, so fans shouldn’t be disappointed with this pick. Though I’m not alone in feeling like we missed a player that in five years we’ll be saying “wait…we could’ve had him?” Don Sweeney has faith in his scouting department, and they seem to have hit a homerun last year with late pick David Pastrnak, so lets all stand by and see what happens.

Grade: D-

 

Signings

Matt Beleskey

The Bruins signed Matt Beleskey to a five year, $19 million dollar deal at a cap hit of 3.8 AAV. This left-winger tallied 22 goals and 10 assists for the Anaheim Ducks last year, but really solidified himself as a “clutch player” during last years playoff run where he scored 8 goals in 16 games including an overtime winner, and many other game changing goals. This is a good signing for Matt Beleskey as he gets security for a long stretch of his career, and it’s fair market value for someone of his caliber, but I wish another team took the chance on him. Beleksey’s shooting percentage was 15.2 percent this season, and since that’s nearly double his career average, it’s unlikely he will remain at that level in future seasons. If he can however keep it at this level, this will prove to be a good signing for the Bruins as they need scoring and Beleskey can do just that. His playmaking ability is below average, and he isn’t great with the puck, but he will outwork opponents in the corners, on the boards and will get open for good scoring opportunities. Five years is a long contract for someone who had a breakout year at 27, but Don Sweeney smartly gave him a no movement clause for only the first two years of his contract, something Peter Chiarelli apparently didn’t know was possible. This allows the Bruins some flexibility to move him if he doesn’t pan out to be worth the $3.8 million dollar contract.

Grade: C+

Matt Irwin

The Bruins signed Matt Irwin to a one year, $800,000 contract. This is a very low risk move by the Bruins and he will probably spend time sharing that 6th defender role until either Joe Morrow or Zach Trotman claims it full time. After that he will most likely provide depth support and be an injury call up along with Kevan Miller. Matt Irwin recorded 8 goals and 10 assists last year for the Sharks, which is very respectable for a lower pairing defenseman, but was often a healthy scratch due to “hiccups” in his defensive play. He has a great shot, and likes to join the rush when he can. Sometimes he pinches when he shouldn’t and provides the opposition with odd man rushes. This is a great signing, and will take some pressure off the young defensive talent we have coming up, and won’t be a bad replacement for Adam McQuaid when he goes down with his annual injury.

Grade: A

 Adam McQuaid

The Bruins re-signed Adam McQuaid to a 4 year, $11 million dollar contract with a cap hit of 2.75 AAV. Peter Chiarelli was fired in May for reasons that Bruins fans believed was his awful contract negotiation skills. This is worse than any signing in his tenure here in Boston, including Chris Kelly’s current one. McQuaid has missed 87 games since 2012, and has a career high goal total of 3. He consistently takes dumb penalties and can be a reliability in the defensive zone. Personally, I love Adam McQuaid, and if the market value for him is set at $2.75 million, he should go get that money. There is no way I pay him that kind of salary when Kevan Miller is sitting in the pressbox making $800,000 who essentially does all the same things McQuaid is capable of. By far the worst move Don Sweeney has made since being here, and I’m sure we’ll all understand why for the next four seasons.

Grade: F

Ryan Spooner

The Bruins signed Ryan Spooner to a 2 year, $1.9 million dollar contract at a cap hit of $950,000 AAV. Just when people couldn’t decide whether or not Sweeney was a genius or a bonehead, he was able to secure Ryan Spooner to an extremely team friendly deal. Spooner is a smooth skating playmaker who found great chemistry with Pastrnak and Lucic last year. Julien publically called him out for being a defensive liability early in the season, but when called up due to an injury to David Krejci, he exceeded expectations. This is a phenomenal deal for the Bruins, and makes you wonder if Sweeney is a master of negotiating contracts, or Spooner was just easier to push around than McQuaid.

Grade: A+

All in all this offseason has been one that fans will remember for a long time, especially if these upcoming seasons don’t pan out the way we’ve gotten accustomed to last five years. Don Sweeney has undoubtedly stocked our prospect pool, shed salary cap, and changed the image of the Boston Bruins. We now how something we never had in the Chiarelli era however, and that’s flexibility. We have the cap space and assets to make a move with a team in the future, something we shouldn’t put past Don Sweeney. As it is now, the Bruins look worse on paper, but with Cody Franson rumors floating around and a handful of unproven yet promising players looming, Bruins fans, hockey enthusiasts. couch GM’s and anyone not named Claude Julien have a lot to look forward to.

Final grade: C+ 

 

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