As a Bruins fan since the womb, I can tell you that Bs fans love nothing more than hoping their GM trades for every guy whose name comes up before the deadline. Even if it's a trade that doesn't make positional or cap sense, it's always "Why couldn't Sweeney do that?". Occasionally it's a legit question. More often than not, it's just radio-fueled bellyaching. There are 30 other teams trying to swing a deal or swindle a desperate party. Just because one team was able to get a guy, it doesn't mean every other team had a similar offer. Or even an offer.
But after I read about yesterday's trade involving the Devils and Islanders, I knew that Bruins fans would be going nuts after not landing the hairiest man alive. The New York Islanders picked up not only Kyle Palmieri but got the added depth bonus of lifelong Devil Travis Zajac. Even though both guys are UFA after this season and both in their 30s, surely the Devils landed a decent bounty of doling out one of the prized deadline potentials, no?
NJ GM Tommy Fitzgerald ended up with the Islanders 1st Round pick this summer, a conditional 4th in 2022, a pending UFA 27-year-old forward on a two-way deal, and a 24-year-old forward with 37 NHL games played (Colorado '16-'19). Oh, and NJ is retaining 50% of both Palmieri's and Zajac's contracts. (Trade conditions: If the Islanders advance to the 2020-21 Stanley Cup Final, the 4th round pick upgrades to a 3rd in 2022 or 2023l; Islanders have the option of which pick they will transfer.)
That doesn't seem like a particularly high price for adding a fantastic goal scorer on the power play and a vet that Barry Trotz can plug in wherever he needs to. The Isles pick will likely be in the 20s. The conditional 4th could become a 3rd rounder. AJ Greer and Mason Jobst are more organizational depth than prospects at this stage (though seeing Jobst make the NHL as a 27-year-old undrafted free agent would be a great story).
In addition to charting the team's future, Fitzgerald also wanted to give a pair of well-respected vets a chance to win.
As for the Bruins, they were definitely in on Palmieri per @NHLRumorsDaily (even though the handle says 'rumors', NHLRD actually is wired in on shit and a good follow). NHLRD had the Bruins offering a 2nd round pick, a signed prospect, and the same conditional pick. But Lou Lamoriello was willing to part with the 1st that Tommy Fitz coveted. And even if the Bs did offer the 1st, that doesn't mean they get Palmieri.
There's also the 'Lou Factor' as my esteemed colleague Frankie Borelli pointed out yesterday. He ran the Devils for ages, did a brief stint in Toronto, then settled in on Long Island to further improve his impressive CV. But when you think of Lou, you think of the three Cups he won in Jersey. He is the de facto Godfather among NHL front offices. I don't know what else Fitzy was offered from other teams…but I can't say I'm surprised Palmieri ended up with the Islanders.
So what now for the Bs? Taylor Hall is the obvious guess. He'd love to play in Boston though he doesn't really have any say in where he goes. But the price won't be cheap in a tight market. The Sabres are likely looking for a 1st, a good prospect, and another asset/roster player. The Bs would likely need to send money the other way (unless they end up LTIRing a player or two; Rask, Carlo, Moore, and Kase are all presently on IR). NHLRD also mentioned LA King F Alex Iafallo as another option. He's a 27-year-old pending UFA who could improve the middle six.
But what's clear is that the Bruins will need to add something if they plan on continuing this decade-plus run as a Stanley Cup contender. Their D corps has been decimated by injuries and the lack of overall experience has bit them in the ass so picking up a veteran D-man with playoff experience should be the main priority. The offense appears to wake up every few games before getting quiet again so adding a piece like Hall would be huge. But if the cost is too high for him, the Bs need to grab another player to improve the top-six.
I know Sweeney has gotten a rep for sitting on his hands this time of year but that's not really accurate. He paid a healthy price for Rick Nash in 2018, who was then felled by a career-ending concussion. Marcus Johansson was a key player in the Bs 2019 Cup run (cost a 2nd and a 4th). He gave up a 1st last year to bring in a talented Ondrej Kase but we don't know when the poor guy will play again after a suspected concussion.
My biggest concern with the Bruins is the crease. Tuukka Rask is clearly not 100%. I think the Bs are maximizing his rest while they have a comfy playoff lead. But if he's one tweak away from leaving a playoff game? Yikes. Jaro Halak has been a great back-up for Rask but we saw in last year's playoffs that he's not his equal. The Bs currently have two kids manning their most important position and they're doing a pretty damn good job so far. However, I don't think that's the Bruins ideal plan going forward. If Rask isn't healthy enough for Game 1 of the 2021 NHL Playoffs, I'm starting whoever plays better among Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman over the next month. After all, if anybody knows baptism by fire for a goaltender can produce unpredictable results, it's Bruins fans.