Bruins didn’t address biggest weaknesses in underwhelming trade deadline

Bruins didn’t address biggest weaknesses in underwhelming trade deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Anyone hoping the Boston Bruins would be aggressive at the NHL trade deadline and address several of their biggest needs ultimately was disappointed once 3 p.m. ET came and went.

The Bruins made two moves. The first was acquiring left wing Pat Maroon from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for AHL defenseman Luke Toporowski and a conditional 2026 sixth-round draft pick. The other was acquiring defenseman Andrew Peeke from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for AHL defenseman Jakub Zboril and a 2027 third-round pick.

These additions do help in some areas.

Maroon brings toughness and a little scoring depth to the bottom-six forward group, along with loads of playoff experience, including three Stanley Cup rings. Peeke has impressive size, he can kill penalties and plays with a level of physicality the Bruins need more of on their blue line.

What these moves do not address is Boston’s need for another physical, defensive-minded left-shot defenseman. Derek Forbort‘s season is “more than likely” over due to injuries, B’s general manager Don Sweeney said Friday at a press conference. Matt Grzelcyk has missed 16 games due to injury but is currently in the lineup. His points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (0.55) is half of what it was last season. Hampus Lindholm has missed the last nine games with a lower body injury but could return Saturday. Mason Lohrei has played well in his most recent callup from Providence, but the 23-year-old rookie still has a lot of room for improvement defensively.

Bringing in a defensive-minded veteran to play on the left side of the blue line would have been an impactful upgrade, but it didn’t happen.

Peeke is a one-dimensional right-shot defenseman. He doesn’t provide much offense. He doesn’t ignite the transition game. He was a healthy scratch for a bunch of games in Columbus this season and, according to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, was a potential buyout candidate in the summer. Instead, the Bruins traded multiple assets for Peeke and his contract, which carries a $2.75 million cap hit for the next two seasons. Unless Peeke proves to be a better fit in Boston and the coaching staff can take his skill set to a higher level, that could become a burdensome contract.

Andrew Peeke, acquired by BOS, is a physical defence-only depth right defenceman. Carved out a role for himself in Columbus despite doing very little with the puck, but lost his spot in the lineup and was a frequent healthy scratch. Bruins think they can sort that out. #NHLBruins

— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 8, 2024

The Bruins didn’t add a middle-six forward who could take some of the scoring burden off the team’s top players. Many of the team’s middle-six forwards have been very inconsistent this season. James van Riemsdyk hasn’t scored in his last 10 games. Danton Heinen has one goal in his last 15 games. Jake DeBrusk has scored twice in his last 18 games. The B’s needed a more consistent scorer, preferably on the wing, and they didn’t get one.

Boston also failed to add a center who excels on faceoffs. The Bruins had the second-highest faceoff win percentage from 2013-14 through 2022-23. Patrice Begeron and David Krejci retired last summer and, as a result, the B’s have fallen to 21st in faceoff win percentage this season. Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha are the only Bruins centers who are winning more than 46 percent of their draws. Winning key faceoffs in the third period and overtime, especially in the defensive zone, has been an issue for this group since the All-Star break.

In fairness to Sweeney, this was a difficult trade deadline for the Bruins to make major moves. They had less than $100,000 in salary cap space. They don’t have a pick in the 2024 NHL Draft until the fourth round. They also don’t own a second- or fourth-round pick in 2025. Boston’s prospect pool ranks near the bottom of the league. So it’s not like the cupboard was overflowing with quality trade assets. The Bruins have been very aggressive at recent trade deadlines, and at some point the bill comes due. It’s not something you can replicate every year.

But despite the circumstances, there’s no question this trade deadline was an underwhelming one for the Bruins.

They are one of the seven or eight teams with a realistic chance to make a run to the Stanley Cup Final. The Eastern Conference is wide open, and if the Bruins play the Toronto Maple Leafs or Detroit Red Wings in Round 1, you’d have to like their chances of advancing.

The Bruins have a good roster. There’s a reason why they sit one point behind the Florida Panthers for the best record in the conference. They are one of only two teams, along with the Rangers, that ranks top 10 in goals scored per game, goals allowed per game, power play percentage and penalty kill percentage. That’s a team worth investing in, but the Bruins were unable to make meaningful upgrades to their roster before the trade deadline.

Whether that failure will cost them in the playoffs remains to be seen.