According to league sources, Bruins GM Don Sweeney isn’t done trying to improve his team after losing out on prized unrestricted free agent John Tavares. Tavares signed with his hometown Leafs on Sunday leaving the Bruins and 4 other teams at the altar.
A couple names that Sweeney will go after are Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner and Columbus Blue Jackets sniper Artemi Panarin among others.
The Bruins GM may take little break for the Fourth of July after failing to land the best UFA in the salary cap era. He did however find a new back-up goalie in Jaroslav Halak (two years, $2.75 million cap hit), a left-shot, potential top six defenseman with size in John Moore (five years, $2.75 million cap hit) as well as forwards Joakim Nordstrom (two years; $1 million cap hit) and Chris Wagner (two years; $1.25 million cap hit). After that though, Sweeney indicated that with the trade channels hopefully opened up now thanks to the Tavares signing and free agency getting underway, he can continue to explore targets that may be able to come in and add scoring to his team’s second line.
? Bruins general manager Don Sweeney meets with the media to break down a busy opening day of free agency: pic.twitter.com/xWVDG85fpT
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) July 1, 2018
“I don’t know whether everybody goes on holiday for July 4th, but it will,” Sweeney replied when asked Sunday evening if the trading season will pick up. “There are teams that maybe were trying to accomplish things that didn’t, now whether or not you have surpluses or – I think it’s a time – there’s certainly been discussions leading up to it that have indicated some point in time – when that is, whether that is training camp or the first part of the season, everybody is going to kind of look for surpluses or areas that other people have strength that you don’t. It was leading up to it. Whether or not that actually happens, you just never know. Obviously, we had a lot of chatter going in to the draft, and there were very few in and around the draft.”
The Bruins nor any of the other suitors shouldn’t feel that spurned. They were invited to the table and given a chance but in the end, Tavares, the Mississauga, Ontario native decided to go home and sign a seven-year contract with an annual cap hit of $11 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team he dreamed of playing for as a kid.
Not everyday you can live a childhood dream pic.twitter.com/YUTKdfMALl
— John Tavares (@91Tavares) July 1, 2018
Sweeney praised the process and was happy to have the opportunity to land a superstar like Tavares.
“We put our best foot forward and it didn’t fall our way,” he said. “But, again, to be in that situation is something that our group should be happy about, and it’s probably a reflection of what we’re trying to do and trying to accomplish, but I wish it had fallen our way.”
Still the fact that in three years and after two straight seasons of missing the playoffs, he and his staff were able to get themselves into this position and be able to acquire a player of Tavares’ caliber without giving up anything but cap space and money is something to be very proud of and excited about. They have replenished their farm system with not only prospects, but NHL ready prospects, some of whom, have already made the show. They were also able to maintain a veteran and Cup-winning core and lock up bridge to the future players like defenseman Torey Krug. Now they’re in a spot where they have top UFA’s desiring to come here and can afford to sign them or trade for other star players without mortgaging the future or the present.
That’s why if needed – and with the signing of Moore – he can afford to move a player like Krug to acquire that top 6 winger without hurting the balance of the team. Of course Krug’s offense and power play production can’t be replaced instantly, but let’s face it, Charlie McAvoy is the future power play quarterback and there’s more skilled defensemen on the way after him.
“Our organization has been committed to winning from day one,” Sweeney said. “We certainly had a bit of a directional shift when I first took over and addressing some of the needs from the depth standpoint of the organization, and we felt we’re going to commit to the draft and development and, hopefully, we’ll do a better job or get better and continue to add pieces that we feel will complement our group, but we want to win. Sometimes, you look to accelerate when the opportunity presents itself. You have unique players of that nature – again, I think it’s a testament to the organization, how we’re viewed now and where we are and whether or not we have a chance to win. Sometimes that’s not necessarily the case, and I’m glad we’re in a position now that those two things align, and we’ve built some depth. Now, it’s up the players, ultimately.”
That group of players is still likely ton get another tweak as Sweeney continues to have his team be a Stanley Cup contender while also making sure the future remains bright.