(Photo Credit: Zuma Press)

By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68

With the NHL’s March 3rd trade deadline looming on the horizon, this is as good a time as any to spotlight the who’s, what’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s of the Boston Bruins’ approach to the frenzy. The deadline brings a dizzying array of speculation, from deliberate and thought-out to crazed and insanely impulsive. Guesswork from media outlets and fan bases feeds the flames and keeps the rumor mill alive until the deadline’s final bell.

As with most seasons, this version of the Bruins has imaginations running wild with what could be concerning a deal spun by Bruins’ General Manager Don Sweeney. Like previous deadline dealings, the bigger the fish, the bigger the price, and always factoring into any deal linked to the Bruins is the salary cap implications that come with a franchise that is pressed against the salary cap ceiling.

For every Taylor Hall, Hampus Lindholm, Rick Nash, and Jaromir Jagr deadline deal, there is a Chris Kelly, Greg Zanon, Marcus Johansson, or Rich Peverley acquisition that addresses needs identified by Bruins’ coaches and management. Fanbases and media outlets flock to the big-ticket trades mostly due to name recognition and the feeling that the big-name acquisition is what will ultimately put a team over the top.

Sweeney has shown in past deals to be a shrewd trader and works diligently to find players in situations that either the team or the player wants out of. His modus operandi is finding players with existing terms on their contract or no-movement-clauses that a player can waive to allow for movement to Boston. Once the player is acquired, Sweeney wastes little time and signs the player to a long-term extension that ensures optimal payoff on the trade.

With a crop of prospects looking to take the franchise beyond the core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand, Sweeney is tasked with deciding to either go “all-in” for a Cup run and risk losing prospects expected to succeed that trio of current Bruins or tweak the current roster for role players that fits specialized needs. The least popular option is to “stand pat” and go past the deadline with the roster as currently constructed.

As the deadline nears, teams in Boston’s path to the Cup will undoubtedly make tweaks to close the gap with the Bruins to improve aspects of their roster. Thus, the “stand-pat” option makes little sense, as there will be injuries, poor play, and situations in postseason play that necessitate roster depth to facilitate a lineup change.

Going with the “all-in” approach does not guarantee a Stanley Cup parade through the streets of Boston in mid-June, and mortgaging the franchise’s future for uncertainty leaves the franchise vulnerable moving past this season. With an aging core desperately wanting to win another Cup, Sweeney has to walk a fine line regarding going “all-in.” In some circles, it is felt that the organization would like to reward Bergeron and Krejci for returning under extremely team-friendly contracts and do all they can to obtain that second Cup title that has eluded the franchise since 2011.

The reasonable and more logical approach for Sweeney to take would be small tweaks to coach Jim Montgomery’s team. Targeting impactful players with playoff experience, secondary scoring, grit, and toughness would ultimately tick off more boxes in hopes of constructing a complete lineup that makes Montgomery’s team a nightmare to prepare for. This ultimately sets the Bruins up for future success, as the price tag with this class of players is certainly lower than the sticker shock that accompanies the higher-profile players.

Whomever the Bruins acquire in search of the missing piece(s) to bring the seventh Stanley Cup title to Boston, the hope is that Sweeney finds an Artturi Lehkonen, Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman, Justin Schultz, Marián Gáborík, or Jeff Carter. All were deadline acquisitions who contributed greatly to teams that acquired them and helped to raise the Stanley Cup. The general managers that made those deadline deals were in similar situations as Sweeney. They wrestled with the tough call about whether their teams needed fine-tuning or a high-caliber move to set them apart from the competition. A nice problem to have for a GM on a contender, made even sweeter by turning that contender into a champion.