Bringing You News About The Boston Bruins

Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney Looks to Retool /Rebuild Heading Into Draft Day

(Photo Credit: Steven Senne / AP)

By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68

As the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals kick off on Saturday night, the Boston Bruins continue to work on their preparation for the league’s annual entry draft on June 28th in Nashville. Having moved inside of a month on the calendar until the draft, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney will be tasked with getting the Bruins cap compliant for the 2023-24 season. Paired with the Bruins’ salary cap issues, Sweeney has the equally tall task of trying to maximize the current Bruins’ draft cache, finding creative ways to expand upon this year’s crop of five picks or restocking 2024 and 2025 draft selections that were dealt away in pursuit of an elusive Stanley Cup championship the past two seasons.

Starting with the 2022 trade for Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks, Sweeney sent the Bruins’ 2022 first-round, a 2023 and 2024 second-round selections out west. Then at this past season’s trade deadline, Sweeney dealt away 2023 and 2024’s first-round picks, a 2023 fifth-round selection, a 2024 third-round pick, and 2025 second and fourth-round selections. The nine picks Sweeney surrendered brought to Boston the previously mentioned Lindholm in 2022, followed by the 2023 acquisitions of Tyler Bertuzzi, Garnet Hathaway, and Dmitry Orlov.

Further hamstringing the Bruins’ chances of strengthening their organizational talent pipeline with those lost draft picks is the hard reality that re-signing any of the trio of players acquired at this year’s deadline may be undone by the fact that the Bruins are facing a salary cap crunch this offseason. The salary cap is rumored to be raised by only one million dollars and is not nearly enough to accommodate all the pending restricted and unrestricted free agents on the Bruins roster. The task at hand for Sweeney is to infuse new talent into the organization through the upcoming entry draft, pick and choose who is a priority on the free agent front, and look within the organization to find talent that can hopefully fill the voids left by departing and/or retiring players all why attempting to build a roster that will remain competitive.

One avenue that could be pursued leading up to draft day is dealing away rostered players with term left on their existing contracts to free up salary cap space to make the team cap compliant and regain some of the draft capital lost in the 2022 and 2023 deadline deals. As the internet is wont to do, it got the rumor mill fired up almost as soon as Florida’s Carter Verhaeghe’s game-winning goal slipped behind Jeremy Swayman and ended the Bruins’ chance to pursue its seventh Stanley Cup Championship.

(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer / AP)

Three names that have swirled around the internet and made the rounds on local sports talk airwaves and from the talking heads are Linus Ullmark, Matt Grzelcyk, and Derek Forbort. In terms of maximizing the return on either player, it is believed that the market value for Ullmark and Grzelcyk may never be higher. Ullmark, Grzelcyk, and Forbort have a combined cap hit of $11,687,500, and moving them would free up significant cap space and bring back some draft capital in this years and future entry drafts.

Dealing Ullmark will be tricky, as the Swede’s current contract comes equipped with a 16-team no-trade clause and leaves Swayman as the clearcut starting netminder. With Swayman as the Bruins starter, Sweeney could look internally to AHL prospect Brandon Bussi in Providence, or he could take to the free-agent market and provide Swayman with a cost-effective veteran netminder as his backup. Moving Ullmark instantly downgrades the Bruins in net but offers an opportunity to beef up their prospect talent pool by acquiring what would likely be high-end draft picks or prospects from a willing trade partner.

Grzelcyk and Forbort, on the other hand, are viewed as moves made with the primary goal being to shed salary to become cap compliant. Grzelcyk’s availability will find enthusiastic trade partners, and the return on Grzelcyk will likely come in the form of much-needed draft picks. At the same time, Forbort could be traded or have his contract bought out strictly from the standpoint of freeing up cap space.

Looking ahead to the Bruins’ draft position heading to Nashville on June 28th and 29th, they currently hold one pick each in the third, fourth, and sixth rounds and two selections in the seventh round. One of the goals for Sweeney when he finally makes his first selection in the third round will be to select a center to hopefully one day fill the spot of either Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci. It has been a good while since the Bruins have found an impactful center in the entry draft that has held down either first or second-line duties for a significant amount of time.

While Vladimir Sobotka, Joe Colbourne, Jack Studnicka, and Tyler Seguin have all come and gone, the only constants at center have been Bergeron and Krejci, and both were drafted respectively in 2003 and 2004. If the Bruins are to successfully move on from both Bergeron and Krejci, they must find their replacement through the entry draft in the coming seasons.

If Sweeney moves on from Forbort and Grzelcyk, the Bruins’ defensive corp could have a decidedly different look heading into the 2023-24 season. Mike Reilly could also be moved to free up cap space leaving Lindholm, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Jakub Zboril as the only defenders under contract. With a thin crop of prospects led by 2020 selection Mason Lohrei, it would seem to be one of the issues to address in Nashville at draft time.

One of the biggest knocks on Sweeney and his scouting staff has been their inability to stockpile the organization with quality NHL talent through previous entry drafts. Whether deciding to stand pat with the five picks the Bruins currently hold or working on expanding this year’s or future draft selections, Sweeney will have his work cut out for him as he prepares for what looks to be one of his most challenging offseasons as General Manager.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Sylvia

    Why don’t the bruins get a tough guy or too . they need protection

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *