The Boston Bruins lost 8-1 to the Washington Capitals on Sunday night, but that ugly performance quickly became a footnote as the team made multiple trades to address a couple glaring roster weaknesses.
The first trade sent a 2022 third-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Mike Reilly. The next trade reportedly involves the Bruins acquiring left winger Taylor Hall and center Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round pick and forward Anders Bjork. Buffalo reportedly will retain 50 percent of Hall’s salary, too.
Let’s look at three areas that B’s general manager Don Sweeney addressed by making the Hall and Reilly trades.
More skill, speed up front
The Bruins have struggled to score outside of the first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. These three superstar forwards all have at least 16 goals. Nick Ritchie is second on the team with 10, but only two have come in his last 18 games. Craig Smith is fifth with eight goals thanks to a recent hot streak. Nobody else on the roster has scored more than five times.
For the Bruins to have a chance at winning multiple playoff rounds in the spring, the front office had to acquire a middle-six winger with speed and skill, plus the ability to generate offense off the rush and boost the transition game with puck-carrying skill. Hall has the potential to provide the Bruins with those traits.
How about this for Boston’s four lines when healthy?
Not too bad.
It needs to be noted that Hall struggled offensively for the Sabres with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games. However, his shooting percentage is an absurdly low 2.3 percent — well below his career average of 10 percent.
Hall is due for some puck luck, to say the least, and there’s a good chance it’ll turn in his favor playing for a Bruins team that will surround him with much better players than he had in Buffalo, New Jersey and Arizona over the last four-plus years. Hall also gets to play the last-place Sabres six times in Boston’s final 17 regular season games, giving him plenty of time against awful competition to build chemistry with his new linemates.
He’s just three years removed from a 93-point season for the Devils in 2017-18 that earned him the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Injuries derailed his 2018-19 campaign, but he did bounce back with a respectable 52 points in 65 games between the Devils and Coyotes last season. He also has six seasons of 20-plus goals since being drafted No. 1 overall by the Oilers in 2010. His playmaking ability is underrated, too.
Bruins fans shouldn’t expect a Hart Trophy-caliber Hall coming into Boston. He’s not that type of elite player anymore. But the Bruins had to make this move to inject much-needed offensive talent into a veteran core that probably will be making its last run at a Stanley Cup title in the spring.
The potential upside of Hall is far greater than the cost was to acquire him. Therefore, it’s a worthy gamble by the B’s.
The Bruins’ top priority at the trade deadline needed to be finding a veteran defenseman to play the left side of the blue line, and Reilly fits the bill.
The B’s defensive corps has been hit hard by injuries this season, and the unit was missing four regulars — Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller — on Sunday night.
In addition to much-needed left-side depth, Reilly also improves the Bruins at 5-on-5, where they’ve struggled all season.
The Senators accounted for 52.2 percent of all shot attempts (608 for, 557 against), 52.6 percent of all shots on net (348 for, 314 against) and 52.2 percent of all scoring chances (286 for, 262 against) during 5-on-5 action with Reilly on the ice. In fact, he ranks second behind Avalanche star Cale Makar in 5-on-5 assists per 60 minutes (1.27) among the 134 defensemen with 500-plus 5-on-5 minutes played in 2021. And it’s not like Reilly is getting easy offensive-zone starts, either. His o-zone start percentage is just 35.6.
Reilly’s offensive skill set will help the Bruins in all three zones. He also gives Boston a more reliable option on the left side than the younger and more inexperienced Lauzon and Jakub Zboril. A Reilly-Carlo second pairing is better than a Lauzon-Carlo duo.
The B’s didn’t give up much to get Reilly, and if he ends up not being a good fit, the team can let him walk in free agency this summer. It’s a low-risk move with the potential for a very nice reward.
Try to win and preserve best future assets
The Bruins acquired a quality left-shot defenseman and a top-six forward without giving up a first-round draft pick, which, to be fair to Sweeney, is pretty impressive. A couple deals made over the last few days involved first-round picks being dealt for rentals — Kyle Palmieri, Nick Foligno and David Savard.
Boston was able to preserve its 2021 first-rounder, which is important because the team has traded away two of its last three first-round selections. Giving up those picks largely contributed to the Bruins currently having the worst prospect pool in the league.
The Bruins also didn’t give up any of their top prospects (Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman, etc.) or young NHLers who were long-term fits. Bjork showed flashes of potential but couldn’t stay healthy nor produce offensively on a consistent basis.
Trying to balance winning in 2021 while not gutting an already bare cupboard of assets wasn’t going to be an easy task for the Bruins entering the trade deadline, but they’ve done a nice job of it over the last 24 hours.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick