As the trade deadline approached, the 2020-21 Boston Bruins had two clear needs. They needed depth on defence and a winger to play in the top-six. Some were skeptical Boston could bring in the necessary pieces without totally sabotaging their future. The Bruins managed to pull it off with a few steals in the middle of the night. Boston did the impossible. They made themselves look good now and better off in the next few years.
Hall Highlights Midnight Run by the 2020-21 Boston Bruins
The first move by Boston was not a pretty one. It was, however, the right one. Fans may have seen a notification saying “Bruins trade for defenceman M. Reilly”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t Morgan Rielly from the Toronto Maple Leafs, but rather Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators. Boston sent a third-round draft choice to the Senators for his services. Boston managed to get a capable left defenceman for a mid-round pick. Considering this team started Jeremy Lauzon and Jack Ahcan as a top defensive pairing this past Sunday, Reilly will provide some much-needed support.
How Does he Fit?
Mike Reilly slots in nicely on the second defensive pair in the 2020-21 Boston Bruins lineup. That has been Boston’s biggest weakness this year. Matt Grzelcyk has been the only one who can be a consistent presence in the lineup that naturally plays that side. Now that they have Mike Reilly, the team is afforded a little more flexibility. The coaching staff may be happier to play a rotation of Lauzon and Jakub Zboril on the bottom pairing rather than having to play both of them every night.
Reilly also comes to the team at a reasonable price. He carries a salary-cap hit of just $1.5 million. He is a prototypical Don Sweeney trade deadline target. Reilly is a player that no one had circled on their boards as a trade target. Sweeney has historically overpaid for those guys. This year, he was smart about his offer. Only giving up a third was an excellent move.
Reilly’s play speaks for itself. While he doesn’t have any goals yet this season, he does have 19 assists over 40 games played. In the defensive end, Reilly had a relative Corsi for percentage of 5.3 in 70 games with the Senators. Considering the abysmal state of Ottawa’s group over the last two years, those are some impressive numbers. He is a welcome addition to a defensive group that recently looked like it belonged in the AHL.
Bolstering the Second Line
Is there really anything more you could do to improve a roster than bring in a former Hart Trophy winner at the trade deadline? Probably not this year. Taylor Hall has had a down year. No one can deny that. Having scored only two goals this season could simply be a product of playing for the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres simply did not have enough weapons up front to allow Hall space to work with and generate offence. When the defence is keying in on you every time you step foot on the ice, you are going to struggle. Hall is a great player, but he isn’t a Connor McDavid level player. He is an incredibly talented player, but he still needs other pieces around him. Now in Boston, Hall should have more space on the ice since the defence also has to account for the big three.
While Hall was brought in as a mostly offensive threat, he should also help stabilize the defence. They have had a few rocky games in the back end this season. The Corsi and Fenwick numbers both lend to Hall’s defensive responsibility. He doesn’t sacrifice defence to generate offence. Over the course of his 11 year NHL career, Hall has a career relative Corsi for percentage of 4.5. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Without a doubt, Taylor Hall is the big fish of Boston’s trade deadline dealings. But what cannot be overlooked was the acquisition of centreman Curtis Lazar. While the former first-round pick has not lived up to the expectations set by his high draft position, he still brings something to the Boston Bruins lineup. Grit. While Lazar doesn’t have a high offensive upside, he will help the bottom line bring the aggressiveness we are accustomed to seeing from them. While he won’t light up the scoresheet, he knows how to play the Bruins brand of hockey.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what Boston shipped out in order to build a stronger lineup. Mike Reilly cost them a third-round pick. Hall and Lazar cost a second-rounder and Anders Bjork. Considering the fact that Nick Foligno got Columbus a first-round draft pick, Boston did an excellent job at bringing in strong talent and keeping costs low. Other teams were not so lucky. While Hall’s down year was a contributing factor to the cost being low, he could see a resurgence with the Bruins.
The biggest benefit for Boston is that they did not give up any major prospects this year. That has been their biggest issue in recent years. There are very few big-name prospects coming through the Bruins’ system. Urho Vaakanainen and Johnny Beecher are the two best skater prospects Boston has. That simply is not enough to continue being at the top of the standings for a prolonged period of time. By not giving up either prospect and keeping their first-round pick, Don Sweeney has effectively won the trade deadline. He managed to get this team in great shape for a run at the Stanley Cup without throwing away the future of the team. Now Sweeney can turn his attention to the draft as Boston needs to do everything in their power to get the best prospect available.
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