The Bruins were active in the week before the trade deadline, and chose to break the gridlock on big time forward by trading for Rick Nash the day before. Overall, their decisions have been smart ones: loading up for the playoffs in a year where the East seems to be wide open, although a couple of depth moves are obvious mistakes.
IN: Nick Holden (D)
OUT: Rob O’Gara (D), 2018 3rd Round Pick (BOS)
Nick Holden is not exactly a sexy pickup, especially considering the Bruins have been reported to be involved in the chase for Ryan McDonagh. Despite not having that brand name appeal, Holden is a solid depth defenseman. He is having a better year than the last, despite the Rangers being worse. Holden has above average relative expected goals impacts. This means that, relative to his team, the weighted shot quality (a combination of volume, position on the ice, and factors such as rebound shots and rushes) is improved when Holden is playing. In fact, Holden is better than Carlo, McQuaid and Kevan Miller when it comes to both relative corsi (shot attempts) and expected goals. Furthermore, Holden is better at drawing and not taking penalties than all three of those guys. Another thing to note about Holden is that he has been absolutely buried in defensive assignments by Alain Vigneault: he is in the second percentile in the NHL for offensive zone starts. Considering his positive impact on shot differential, expected goals and penalty differential, there is an argument to be made that Holden should be playing every night.
The Bruins had to give up Rob O’Gara and a third rounder in this year’s draft to get Holden. O’Gara got a cup of coffee in the NHL last year and played a handful of games at the start of this season while the Bruins’ defense was banged up. The sample size is too small to get any reliable information from shot metrics, but just from the eye test O’Gara looks to be a bottom pairing, stay at home type of guy. There’s nothing wrong with that, but its not exactly much to give up, particularly when you are chasing a cup. And then there’s the third-round pick: you’d be happy to get any kind of NHLer out of a third rounder on average.
This was a good trade for both teams. The Bruins acquired a defenseman who could is most likely an upgrade for their top six, while the Rangers shed an expiring contract and gained a prospect and a pick for their rebuild.
IN: 2018 3rd Round Pick (FLA)
OUT: Frank Vatrano
Again, this appears to be a trade that benefits both teams. Vatrano really had no place on the current Bruins roster. He was the 13th man on a team with considerable depth in the minors, and even more on the way from the NCAA. Vatrano has shown he loves to shoot the puck and probably has the makeup to be a 20-goal scorer given enough ice time. The Panthers desperately needed a middle 6 winger by the looks of their depth chart before this trade. Vatrano has very good relative shot metrics. He improves both the quality and quantity of shots for his team when he is on the ice. However, he was a very sheltered forward at even strength this year, with some of the most generous offensive zone deployment in the league. After acquiring Florida’s pick, the Bruins managed to improve their third-round pick (which went to NYR) this year, moving it up roughly ten spots depending on where they finish.
IN: Rick Nash (50% Retained)
OUT: Matt Beleskey (50% Retained), Ryan Spooner, 2018 First Round Pick, Ryan Lindgren (D), 2019 7th Round Pick
This is the big one. The Bruins made it clear they are going for it. Rick Nash is a perfect fit for David Krejci: a guy who can really score. Krejci hasn’t had a winger like this since Nathan Horton. Nash scores more than a goal per 60 minutes of ice time, which is among the elite goal scorers in the NHL. Furthermore, Nash draws penalties and has a positive relative expected goal percentage, meaning his team gets higher quality chances when he is on the ice. A common knock on Nash is his playoff performance. I can’t think of a player that has been unluckier with as many games played in the playoffs as Nash has. For reference, his career shooting percentage is around 12%. In the playoffs, its 5.7%. There is no way that you can attribute this to the quality of his shots. Expect that to turn around. In fact, you can probably apply this to his current regular season as well- he is shooting 9%, but still has 18 goals on the year. He is immediately the Bruins’ most dangerous goal scorer outside of Marchand. As a bonus, the Bruins got half of Beleskey’s contract off the books.
Considering the price of the better forwards at the deadline (a first, prospect and another late pick), the Bruins probably used Spooner as bait for the Rangers to take on the Beleskey contract. This is smart, because the Bruins’ championship window is undeniably the next few years. They need to clear as much dead cap as possible to help Bergeron and friends take a few more cracks at the cup before they get too old. The first rounder shouldn’t be too worrying either- considering that a late first round pick is essentially a second-round pick in terms of absolute value, and the value of draft picks falls steeply after you are out of the top 10. Losing Spooner hurts a little bit, but I would have been surprised if the impending RFA was re-signed this summer with all the depth in Providence that could do his job for less money. Many people have pointed out that Spooner has more points per game than Nash this year, but what they fail to acknowledge is that Spooner has been the most sheltered player in the league this season. He was getting a fantastic amount of starts in the offensive zone. He was also benefitting from a very high on ice shooting percentage, which is unlikely to continue.
Ryan Lindgren shouldn’t be considered a top tier prospect. In his D+2 year he has 7 points in 33 games. Even defensemen generally need to score against weaker competition to become NHLers in the future. That’s not saying that scoring guarantees you to be a NHLer, but it is very rare to see good players not score at lower levels. The inclusion of the seventh-round draft pick is another lottery ticket for the Rangers, who were very explicit about their rebuild.
IN: Brian Gionta (1 year, 700k)
OUT: Cap Space
Ideally, Gionta never plays a game for the Bruins. He is awful. There isn’t much to say about this guy. His team gets outscored and outshot while he is on the ice. It’s fine to have him as the 13th forward and provide a little bit of locker room leadership, but that’s the most you want from him. In case of injury the B’s are better off going with 7 defensemen and 11 forwards. However, its not a big deal either way.
IN: Tommy Wingels
OUT: 2019 5th Round Pick
This is another perplexing one. Wingels isn’t good. He is probably worse than your average fourth line grinder. He should not be playing over any of the Bruins’ regular fourth liners. There is essentially no part of Wingels’ game that is possible to get excited about. I think even spending a fifth is a waste. The lottery ticket is better than the guy who shouldn’t be playing at all. In the end it is relatively inconsequential but still not the smartest decision.
Bruins fans should be very happy with this deadline. They added a legitimate 4-5 defenseman with positive shot impacts, and a top line right wing that is immediately one of their most dangerous goal scorers all while dealing from a position of strength. The Bruins also lost Vatrano, a 13th forward, and effectively traded up in the third round of this year’s draft. The Bruins could afford to use some draft picks to improve their chance at a cup this year because of the number of solid prospects they have, and the fact that they have picked 5 times in the first round in the past three years. However, using one of those on a guy like Wingels was an obvious mistake. Plus, more importantly, going for it is just plain fun. Its been a long time since the Bruins have been legitimate cup contenders, and the East looks like it is wide open. Buying was absolutely the correct choice in this situation.