(Photo Credit: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

The Boston Bruins made their bed. Now, they have to sleep in it. Friday’s trade deadline wasn’t as exciting for the Bruins as some fans may have hoped for. While the Vegas Golden Knights were on a shopping spree—splurging on Tomas Hertl, Anthony Mantha, and Noah Hanifin—the Bruins sat on the sidelines. But that wasn’t out of choice. Due to a lack of draft capital, cap space, and a diminished prospect pool, Don Sweeney didn’t have much to work with before Friday’s 3 p.m. cutoff.

Last spring, Sweeney and the Bruins went all in. They picked up Tyler Bertuzzi, Garnet Hathaway, and Dmitry Orlov in an action-packed deadline, giving the Bruins all the pieces they needed to make a push for the Stanley Cup. Those decisions, while justified, cost the Bruins valuable assets, including their first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Sweeney has been going all in for years, reeling in names such as Charlie Coyle and Hampus Lindholm at the deadline to put the Bruins in a position to succeed when it mattered the most. Eventually, there was going to be nothing to part ways with. That time has come.

“We’ve been a little challenged in the fact that we have been aggressive in years with draft capital, and whether or not we wanted to move younger players that have actually come onto our team this year and added to the depth of our club and the success of our club,” Sweeney told the media after Friday’s deadline.

However, Sweeney and the Bruins did the best with what they had. They missed out on players such as Elias Lindholm and Hanifin, but it was unlikely Sweeney could land a player of that caliber. Instead, Boston made small yet meaningful moves that still bettered the club ahead of the most important time of the year. While Sweeney only made two trades, he doled out a pair of extensions and announced an injury update. He reportedly even almost dealt Linus Ullmark. Before we break down what Sweeney did, let’s address what the Bruins needed.

What did the Bruins Need?

If two glaring holes exist in the Bruins’ lineup this season, they’re at the faceoff dot and on the backend. Struggling on the draws and failing to be a defensively sound team in crunch time have cost the Bruins countless third-period leads since returning from the All-Star break. There’s been a call for Boston to pick up a middle-six center for most of the season and add a depth defenseman to introduce some physicality to Boston’s roster. While Sweeney didn’t bring in a center, he added some bruisers.

Until Friday morning, Sweeney and the Bruins were radio silent regarding trade deadline transactions. By the time the 3 p.m. deadline passed, they traded for Patrick Maroon and Andrew Peeke, signed Parker Wotherspoon to a one-year extension, and signed Joey Abate to a one-year, two-way contract. Sweeney even provided an update on Derek Forbort. Did the Bruins address their needs? Let’s dissect Sweeney’s moves chronologically according to when they were reported.

Wotherspoon Extended

It wasn’t a trade, but the Bruins broke the airwaves on Friday morning when the team announced Wotherspoon had signed a one-year contract extension worth $800,000. Starting his season in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins, Wotherspoon has proven to be an NHL regular since being permanently called to the big club in December. While he’s only logged 0-6-6 in 32 games this season with the Bruins, offense isn’t necessarily what the 26-year-old blueliner brings to the table.

Wotherspoon has implemented his simple, structured style of play to Boston’s defensive core, and he’s taken off ever since. He won’t make the flashy play with the puck on his stick, but he’ll make the correct one nine times out of ten. Though that doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, Wotherspoon has been one of Boston’s most consistent defensemen game in and game out. He even dropped the gloves with Bertuzzi during Thursday night’s win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, revealing some flare to his game. While this move doesn’t give the Bruins something they didn’t already have ahead of the playoffs, it ensures Wotherspoon will rep the Spoked-B for at least through 2024-25. That’s how Sweeney kicked off the deadline.

“This was probably a little quieter deadline relative to last year,” said Sweeney. “For some teams, us, maybe not some others. As you all know, it’s not just one day, it’s obviously a long time leading up to the deadline so to speak. We felt comfortable where our team, in the last three games, has played. Certainly taking a better direction, credit to the staff for sort of getting their attention and getting the players responding.”

Bruins Acquire Maroon From Minnesota

Just before noon, The Athletic’s Michael Russo reported that the Bruins traded for Maroon from the Minnesota Wild. It was later announced that the price for the 6’3 “, 234-pound veteran was prospect Luke Toporowski and a 2026 sixth-round conditional draft pick. Maroon, a veteran bruiser recovering from back surgery, has no specific timetable to make his Bruins debut. After already being over four weeks removed from the procedure, Maroon should be on track to return to the ice later this month.

“We know when he plays his best hockey, and the fact is that he’s been part of championship teams, and the pedigree that he has, and what he brings to the table,” said Sweeney “… I think was important to us on and off the ice, and we’re excited to bring Pat on board.”

Maroon certainly adds some grit to Boston’s bottom six, filling the void the Bruins hoped Milan Lucic would bring. In 49 games this season with the Wild, Maroon has posted 4-12-16 and is still an adequate playmaker in his current role. It is unsure where Jim Montgomery will slot him on the depth chart, but he’ll likely find himself on a fourth line looking to give the Bruins an edge along the boards.

The trade was far from a blockbuster, but Sweeney didn’t give up much to make it happen. The sixth-round conditional pick in 2026 doesn’t carry too much value, and Toporowski is a prospect who seems to have lost his footing in the AHL this season, nothing just 7-10-17 in 49 games with Providence. This comes after a more productive season of 15-14-29 in 2022-23, where he surpassed his point total this season in two fewer games played. While the 22-year-old still has some upside, he wasn’t a player who would soon impact the Bruins. All in all, the trade for Maroon was risk-free.

Andrew Peeke Joins the Blue Line

Sweeney wasn’t done there. In his second and final trade of a relatively uneventful Friday, he acquired Peeke from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Jakub Zboril and a 2027 third-round pick. In yet another effort to bolster Boston’s defensive size and depth, the 6’3″, 214-pound Peeke brings some tenacity and toughness to Montgomery’s blue line. In 23 games with the Blue Jackets this season, he’s posted 1-7-8.

With Forbort being moved to the long-term injured list, Peeke will reinforce Boston’s depth as a sizeable defensive defenseman. Known for laying the lumber and blocking shots, Peeke adds some stability to a backend that has been a little shaky at times throughout the season.

“Andrew [Peeke] addresses another need for us, in depth in the right side, size, penalty killing,” said Sweeney. “In years past, we’ve gone through most of the defenseman at certain times and areas of the game that he can help booster our group and bring balance to our group.”

Abate Inks Two-Way Contract

The most surprising transaction of the day was the decision to sign Abate to a one-year, two-way contract through the 2023-24 season. Contracts are meticulously handled at this time of the year, and it was strange to see Sweeney dish one out to Abate, who has posted 2-8-10 in 40 games in Providence this season.

Known for his knack for buzzing around the ice and using his snarl to make things happen, he’s had difficulty finding the scoresheet this season in the AHL. And while it’s unlikely he will receive a call to Boston at some point before the playoffs, it’s a confusing move for Sweeney to make at this time of the year. Management must think highly of the 25-year-old, wanting to shield him from landing elsewhere. Nonetheless, this move won’t impact the Bruins this season.

Ullmark Reportedly Invokes No-Trade Clause

While Sweeney denied commenting on any rumors involving Ullmark nixing a trade at the goal line, Kevin Weekes reported that Ullmark invoked his no-trade clause to void a deal that was about to go through. Later, the Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported the LA Kings was the destination that Ullmark declined, but other industry sources have disputed that information.

“I’m never going to get into a conversation with what I may have
talked to Linus about,” Sweeney said. “I acknowledge we’ve explored different situations. And we had opportunities to move different players, but I’m not getting into the, you know, the intricacies of what, what’s in somebody’s contract at this point in time.”

Ullmark isn’t going anywhere, at least for the remainder of this season, but it’s interesting to note there was a possibility that Sweeney considered moving on from Ullmark. This reveals two potential conclusions: First, it highlights management and Jeremy Swayman may be close to reaching a new contract agreement this summer. If Sweeney was willing to part ways with Ullmark, he’d only do so if there was a sense of security that Swayman would stay over the long run.

Secondly, this could foreshadow what Montgomery and the Bruins plan to do in the postseason regarding a goalie rotation. Last season, Montgomery elected to roll with Ullmark for the first six games of their first-round series until giving the nod to Swayman for the deciding seventh game. Are they going to roll with that same strategy, but this time turning to Swayman as the primary starter? If they were willing to trade Ullmark, it certainly sounds that way. But at this point, those reports should be taken with a grain of salt.

Sweeney Trusts the Group he has

The Bruins didn’t lose anyone from their current NHL roster at the deadline, and Sweeney has put a lot of trust in the current group he has. This was largely due to the lack of trading power, but the Bruins didn’t sell, either. It’s evident Sweeney and the Bruins are confident the team they have in front of them is deep enough to make a run at the playoffs. Are there still holes? Undoubtedly. But the Bruins did the best with what they had.

“But I like where our team is at how competitive they are,” he concluded. “Let’s see where we stack up.”