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Grading Every Don Sweeney Trade as GM of the Boston Bruins

Since his hiring in May of 2015, Don Sweeney has made 19 NHL-level trades as the Bruins’ GM. After an uninspiring start to the season and Jake DeBrusk’s trade request, the pieces are in place for Sweeney to make another move. He's caught a lot of flack for his past transactions, but let’s take a deeper look into each and every impactful trade Sweeney has made during his tenure at the helm of the Bruins front office.

Milan Lucic for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and 2015 1st Round Pick

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At the time, many Bruins fans were heartbroken to see fan-favorite and Stanley Cup champion Milan Lucic traded to Los Angeles for pieces they likely hadn’t heard of. Lucic’s career has gone south since the deal and is still on one of the worst contracts in the league, now playing for Calgary. Colin Miller played a serviceable 103 games in his two years with the Bruins before being selected by Vegas in the 2017 Expansion Draft. That first round pick was used to select Jakub Zboril in the Bruins’ infamous 2015 Draft. Obviously, Zboril hasn’t lived up to expectations during his time so far in Boston. We’ll get to Martin Jones shortly. Overall, a good job to get a return for a declining star. Better execution in the draft could have made this an excellent deal, but the Zboril pick really hurts Sweeney here.

Grade: B-

Dougie Hamilton for 2015 1st Round Pick, 2 2015 Second Picks

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Days before he was scheduled to become a Restricted Free Agent, Bruins D-man Dougie Hamilton was dealt for three early picks in the 2015 NHL Draft. Sweeney has claimed he offered Hamilton a "very significant" contract, which was snubbed by Hamilton. Only one of the draft picks Boston got in return remains with the club: first round winger Zach Senyshyn, who went unclaimed after being placed on waivers earlier this year. The two second rounders were used to select Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon. Forsbacka-Karlsson had promise after two seasons at Boston University where he totaled 63 points in 78 games for the Terriers. However, the NHL game was too fast for the Swedish center and he decided to take his talents back to his home country in 2019, where he still plays. Lauzon was solid in his 76 games across three seasons for the B’s and played some major minutes in their 2019 Stanley Cup Final run. However, he was left exposed in the 2021 Expansion Draft and eventually selected by the Seattle Kraken. Since leaving Boston, Hamilton’s career has exploded. He was an All Star every year from 2017-2020 for both Calgary and Carolina. He signed a 7-year $63 million deal with the Devils this season, making him the fourth highest paid defenseman in the league. The draft execution hurts Sweeney again here, especially with All Stars Mat Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Thomas Chabot being the next three players picked after Senyshyn.

Grade: D

Zac Rinaldo for 2017 3rd Round Pick

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A minor deal to get things started, but a deal nonetheless. Zac Rinaldo’s reputation has always preceded his hockey ability. That’s what made this trade so stunning to begin with. In his nine-year career, Rinaldo has been suspended 5 times and has scored just eight goals. The Flyers used that 2017 third to select Kirill Ustimenko, a goalie who has struggled in his time in the AHL, never posting a save percentage over .900. However, a third round pick was always an overpay for someone like Zac Rinaldo, who ended up playing just 52 games for the Bruins.

Grade: D

Martin Jones for Sean Kuraly and 2016 1st Round Pick

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After acquiring Martin Jones in the Lucic deal, Sweeney flipped the goaltender to San Jose for former 5th rounder Sean Kuraly and a 2016 first rounder. Kuraly did everything asked of him during his five seasons in Boston and scored some huge playoff goals that Bruins fans won’t soon forget. That 2016 first rounder was used to select Trent Frederic, who made his Bruins debut in 2019. While the offensive upside hasn’t come to fruition, Frederic gives the Bruins an edge that is hard to come by in today’s NHL. Martin Jones had three very good seasons for the Sharks in the years immediately following the trade, receiving Vezina votes in the first two. Ultimately, he was never going to overtake Tuukka Rask in his prime years and was likely too good to serve as a backup. A good job by Sweeney to recognize that and get a solid return.

Grade: B


Marc Savard and Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes

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After the devastating news of Jimmy Hayes’ untimely death this summer, this trade takes on a different meaning. However, in a pure hockey sense, Hayes did not work out in Boston. In 133 games with the Bruins, he had just 34 points, resulting in a buyout in 2017. On the other end of the deal, Reilly Smith has been an incredibly solid second line winger since he was moved. He’s tallied over 50 points in four seasons with Florida and Vegas in the seven years since the deal. Bonus points for moving the two years at just over $4 million on Marc Savard’s contract, but overall, a pretty poor hockey move.

Grade: C-

2016 4th Round Pick, 2017 2nd Round Pick for Lee Stempniak

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Looking to add to his forward depth heading into the 2016 playoffs, Sweeney added veteran winger Lee Stempniak from the New Jersey Devils. Prior to the move, Stempniak put up 41 points in 63 games for the Devils and was on pace to set career highs in points and assists. Sweeney gambled and bought fairly high on a 32-year old on an expiring deal. It didn’t work out. Stempniak had 10 points in 19 games for the Bruins and they missed out on the playoffs. The Devils selected Evan Cormier with the 2016 fourth rounder and Mario Ferraro with the 2017 second round pick. Cormier, a 24-year-old goalie has been back and forth between the AHL and ECHL since 2019. Ferraro, on the other hand, has played 145 games for the Sharks over the past three years, averaging over 24 minutes this season. At 23, he could be a building block for the Sharks as they continue to rebuild.

Grade: C-

Anthony Camara, 2016 3rd Round Pick, 2017 5th Round Pick for John-Michael Liles

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Another trade building up for a potential playoff run in 2016, Sweeney added to his defensive depth with veteran John-Michael Liles. Liles was solid in 17 games for the B’s in 2016 and even signed a one-year deal in the offseason to stick around for 2017, but ended up playing just 36 games. Camara never played an NHL game and is now applying his trade in the KHL. The 2016 third rounder was used to select G Jack LeFontaine, while the 2017 5th rounder was used in a trade to ensure Vegas would select forward Connor Brickley in the expansion draft. After transferring from Michigan, LeFontaine has played his last three seasons at the University of Minnesota, where he’s been excellent. In the 2020-21 season, he led Division 1 in wins and save percentage and won the Mike Richter award for best goaltender in the nation. LeFontaine is currently a fifth-year senior for the Golden Gophers and will likely go pro next season.

Grade: C-

2018 5th Round Pick for Drew Stafford

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Another deadline acquisition, Sweeney picked up vet Drew Stafford from Winnipeg for a conditional 6th. Stafford was solid for the Bruins, adding two goals in six games during their first round exit against the Senators. The Jets ended up selecting defenseman Declan Chisholm with the 5th rounder. The Hockey Writers ranked Chisholm as the eighth best prospect in the Jets system coming into the 2021-22 season. A decent low-risk, low-reward move by Sweeney.

Grade: B-

Frank Vatrano for 2018 3rd Round Pick

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In February of 2018, Sweeney decided to cut ties with 23-year old forward Frank Vatrano. In 108 games with the Bruins, Vatrano finished with just 31 points. Since being dealt, Vatrano has turned his career around in Florida. He’s scored over 15 goals in each full season he’s played for the Panthers and continues to be an excellent bottom-six guy for one of the league’s best teams. The Bruins used the 2018 third rounder to select Jakub Lauko out of the Czech Republic. Yahoo! Sports ranked Lauko as the fifth best prospect in the Bruins system heading into the season. He finished with 19 points in 23 games for the Providence Bruins last season. He started this season in the AHL, but don’t be surprised if we see him soon, especially with the Bruins’ recent COVID troubles. Obviously, we haven’t seen Lauko in the NHL yet so it’s tough to truly judge the deal, but the Bruins really could’ve used an extra goalscorer the past few seasons.

Grade: C

Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Lindgren, 2018 1st Round Pick, 2019 7th Round Pick for Rick Nash

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This is a big one. Expectations were high for Rick Nash in a Bruins uniform. The former Rocket Richard winner wasn’t the same goal scorer he once was, but had still put up over 20 goals in each of the previous two seasons. Nash was supposed to be a perfect fit next to David Krejci on the second line, but it just didn’t work in Boston. In 12 playoff games, he had three goals and two assists, but wasn’t the difference maker the Bruins needed as their playoff hopes flamed out in five games against the Lightning. Nash retired before the 2018-19 season, ending any chance at a reunion with the B’s. For the Rangers, the trade has worked wonders in the following years. After scoring 18 points in 36 games for the Rangers, Ryan Spooner was shipped off to Edmonton for forward Ryan Strome. Yes, you read that right, one for one, Ryan Spooner for Ryan Strome. Strome’s career has exploded since arriving in New York, totaling 159 points in 212 games, growing into a cornerstone of the franchise. D-man Ryan Lindgren has become a major part of their defensive corps, playing 143 games over the past four seasons at a +39. The 2018 1st rounder was used in a trade with the Senators on Draft day for the 22nd overall pick, where the Rangers selected D-man K’Andre Miller. Miller made his debut in 2020 and has proven to be one of the league’s most talented young defenseman. The 2019 7th was used in another trade which eventually netted the Rangers Riley Hughes, a forward from Westwood, MA currently playing for Northeastern. Again, some bonus points for getting off of Matt Beleskey’s eyesore of a contract, but Sweeney was the one who signed him in the first place.

Grade: D-

Tommy Wingels for 2019 4th Round Pick

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In preparation for a deep playoff run, Sweeney bolstered his roster prior to the trade deadline, adding gritty winger Tommy Wingels from the Blackhawks. Wingels played a role in his 18 regular season games, contributing two goals and three assists in that time. He played in four playoff games, but is probably best remembered for taking a nasty hit from Nazem Kadri in Game One of Round One, which got Kadri suspended three games. The Blackhawks used the 2019 fourth round pick to select Antti Saarela out of Finland. At 20, it’s still very early for Saarela, but he has 14 points in 26 games so far this year for Ilves of the Finnish League.

Grade: C

Adam McQuaid for Steven Kampfer, 2019 4th Round Pick, 2019 7th Round Pick

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Just before the 2018 season began, Sweeney dealt Stanley Cup winner Adam McQuaid to the Rangers. A pretty solid deal here, with the fact that the Bruins got off the final year of McQuaid’s $2.7 million cap hit and got some draft capital in return. That fourth rounder ended up being dealt in the Charlie Coyle trade in 2019. With the 7th rounder, Boston selected F Jake Schmaltz. Schmaltz, who lit up the USHL in 2020-21, with 53 points in 51 games for the Green Bay Gamblers. Now at the University of North Dakota, Schmaltz could turn out to be another late-round NCAA success story for the Bruins. Between 2018-21, Kampfer played 65 games for the Bruins and was a solid 7th defenseman.

Grade: B

Ryan Donato, 2019 4th Round Pick for Charlie Coyle

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Desperate for secondary scoring, Sweeney made two deals at the 2019 trade deadline. The first was bringing in Wild center Charlie Coyle. The Weymouth kid ingratiated himself with the fans with nine goals and seven assists on that run, including an overtime winner in Game 1 of the second round. Sweeney rewarded him with a 5-year, $31.5 million contract in November of 2019. Coyle had a solid year in 2019-20, finishing with 37 points in 70 games, but since then has been the target of some scrutiny. With no David Krejci this season, he’s been asked to fill in as the second line center. It hasn’t exactly worked out so far and Boston could be in the market for a true top 6 come the trade deadline. Since being dealt, Ryan Donato hasn’t been able to find a home. Minnesota traded him to San Jose and he then signed a one-year deal with Seattle this offseason. Since leaving the Bruins, Donato has totaled 53 points in 136 games. After a series of trades the 2019 4th round pick eventually netted the Wild goalie Hunter Jones. Jones is currently playing in the ECHL for the Iowa Heartlanders. Overall, Coyle has been a very solid Bruin with some very high highs and the return was minimal for Minnesota.

Grade: A-

2019 2nd Round Pick, 2020 4th Round Pick for Marcus Johansson

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The second move Sweeney made at the deadline was for Devils winger Marcus Johansson Prior to the trade, Johansson was putting together a solid season in New Jersey, tallying 27 points in 48 games. Upon joining the Bruins, Johansson formed an excellent connection with fellow trade deadline acquisition Charlie Coyle. Along with Danton Heinen, that third line was a huge reason Boston came within one game of a Stanley Cup. Johansson had 11 points in 22 playoff games, including huge goals in Game 7 vs. the Maple Leafs and Game 6 vs. the Blue Jackets. The Devils used the 2019 second rounder to select defenseman Nikita Okhotyuk, who is currently playing in the AHL for the Utica Comets. The 2020 fourth round pick was used to select D-man Ethan Edwards, who is currently a freshman at the University of Michigan.

Grade: B+

David Backes, Axel Andersson, 2020 1st Round Pick for Ondrej Kase

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The first of two trade deadline deals with the Ducks, Ondrej Kase’s Bruins tenure was even more odd than Ritchie’s. Across two seasons, Kase played just nine regular season games for the Bruins as injuries defined his time in Boston. Like Ritchie, Kase signed with Toronto this offseason and has scored eight goals in 26 games so far this season. A big part of this trade was getting off David Backes’ contract, another hole Sweeney dug himself. Axel Andersson is a legit prospect, currently playing in the AHL for Anaheim’s affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. At 21, he could make the jump to the NHL soon. The 2020 first was used to select RW Jacob Perrault. Perrault, 19, has already made it to the AHL and has looked good, with 34 points in 46 games over the past two seasons for the Gulls. He even pulled off the Michigan earlier this season. Looking back, this trade just keeps getting worse for the B’s and the blood is all over Sweeney’s hands.

Grade: F

Danton Heinen for Nick Ritchie

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A year and a half removed from this deal, neither player remains on the team that acquired them. Ritchie, a former first round pick of the Ducks, had an interesting tenure in Boston. He played just three regular season games for the Bruins before the season was suspended due to COVID-19. He had just one point in the Bruins’ playoff run in the bubble. In the 2020-21 shortened season, Ritchie showed some promise, scoring 15 goals in 56 games. However, he again disappointed in the playoffs, scoring just one goal in 11 games. This offseason, he signed a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs, where he’s scored just one goal in 29 games. Danton Heinen’s career has gone downhill since his 47 point rookie season with the B’s in 2017-18. However, after signing a one-year deal with Pittsburgh this offseason, he has already topped his goal total of seven last year, with eight in 27 games for the Penguins. A very meh trade for both parties.

Grade: C

2022 3rd Round Pick for Mike Reilly

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Originally, this deal flew under the radar for a lot of Bruins fans. They had their hearts set on bigger names and put the Reilly acquisition on the back of their minds. However, Reilly has been excellent in his role since joining the Bruins. He had 8 assists in 15 regular season games last season and followed that up with 4 more in 11 playoff games. After signing a 3-year $9 million deal to remain in Boston this offseason, he picked up a couple of healthy scratches early in the season, but is seemingly back in Bruce Cassidy’s good graces. At just 28, he should be a solid left-handed defenseman for Boston for the remainder of his deal. Obviously, the draft pick is yet to be conveyed, but you have to like Reilly for the value they got.

Grade: B+

Anders Bjork, 2021 2nd Round Pick for Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar

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Undoubtedly the best player Sweeney has acquired during his tenure in Boston, former Hart Trophy Winner Taylor Hall lit it up after being dealt to the Bruins last season, with 14 points in his eight regular season games. He quieted down a bit in the playoffs, with 5 points in 11 games, but the dynamism of his game was evident throughout the brief playoff run. Sweeney made him a priority this offseason, signing Hall to a 4-year, $24 million contract. So far this season, like many, Hall has been up and down. However, with a player of his quality, you expect him to be a consistent contributor on the second line. A move for a legitimate second line center could be exactly what Hall needs. Don’t forget about Curtis Lazar. He’s been a valuable and versatile fourth line guy, killing penalties and playing valuable defensive zone minutes. Anders Bjork was always incredibly frustrating to watch for Bruins fans. His potential was there, he just seemed unable to harness it. His struggles have continued in Buffalo, with just 10 points in 40 games in his short tenure with the Sabres. The Sabres used the 2021 second round pick to select forward Aleksandr Kisakov, who is still in the infancy of his career, playing in Russia’s Junior League.

Grade: A

Dan Vladar for 2022 3rd Round Pick

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With the emergence of Jeremy Swayman and the signing of Linus Ullmark this offseason, Dan Vladar was the odd man out of the goaltenders room. Surprisingly, Vladar played just five games for the Bruins last season and his final stats weren’t all that impressive. Vladar ended the year with a .886 save percentage and a 3.40 goals against average. Sweeney decided to ship him to Calgary in return for a third, the round Vladar was originally drafted in. So far for the Flames, Vladar has played in 7 games, where he’s posted an outstanding .928 save percentage and 2.10 GAA. Still a very small sample size for the 24 year-old netminder, which makes the trade difficult to judge.

Grade: C

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