Two of the NHL’s final four teams in the 2017-18 season were big-time buyers at the trade deadline, picking up pieces that were major contributors down the stretch.
The Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest splash, acquiring Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers, while the Winnipeg Jets swung separate deals for Joe Morrow and Paul Stastny. They were bold moves, yes, and they made their respective teams better, but neither club was able to reach the Stanley Cup Final, bowing out to the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights in the conference finals.
It was just the latest example that winning the deadline doesn’t always mean winning it all, but every year there will be teams that feel they are a piece or two away from a deep playoff run, and it’s hard to criticize a team for taking a shot even if they fall just short.
The Boston Bruins once again figure to be active at the trade deadline where they, too, have taken shots in years past. The Bruins went out last season and landed Rick Nash from the New York Rangers, a move that looks worse in hindsight after Nash suffered what ultimately was a career-ending concussion. That, however, overshadows the fact that Boston won eight of 11 games down the stretch with Nash in the lineup, and the future Hall of Famer was the club’s lone bright spot in its second-round loss to Tampa Bay where he scored a pair of goals in the Bruins’ only win of the series.
General manager Don Sweeney isn’t afraid to get in there and mix it up in the trade market, and early indications are this season figures to be no different The Bruins’ defense corps is solid, and the goaltending situation is among the best in the NHL. There’s depth up front, but it’s fairly redundant depth on the third and fourth lines, and even the second line has inconsistencies. Adding a second-line winger who can score, especially in 5-on-5 situations, should be Sweeney’s No. 1 priority at the deadline.
The Bruins reportedly have been active in trade talks ahead of the Feb. 25 deadline, with TSN’s and The Athletic’s Pierre Le Brun reporting Boston is most likely to zero in on a robust market for unrestricted free agent forwards. Le Brun also indicated prices are too high for potential buyers at the moment, but the market should open up as the deadline nears.