The 2017 NHL Trade Deadline came and passed on Wednesday at 3 p.m. without much action to write home about. The Bruins (33-24-6) only made one minor move as they traded a conditional sixth round draft pick to Winnipeg (28-30-6) for veteran right wing Drew Stafford (4 goals, 9 assists, minus-2 in 40 games this season for the Jets).
Normally, the Bruins are a bit more active around this time of the year but with the team playing their best hockey of the season (winners of seven out of their last eight games under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy) and possibly in years, you can understand why GM Don Sweeney wasn’t trying to make any big moves.
His team has finally found some chemistry and they are rolling, currently in third place in the Atlantic Division and tied with Ottawa (33-22-6), which has played one fewer game. The 31-year-old Stafford is not a stiff by any means: he was a first round pick by Buffalo in 2004 (13th overall) and in 707 NHL games, he’s totaled 179 goals and 213 assists. Bruins fans will remember that he had some good seasons with the Sabres, including a career-high 31 goals in 2010-11 and 30 assists the following campaign. He has four 20-goal seasons to his name, which in today’s NHL is nothing to scoff at, including 21 goals and 17 assists last year in Winnipeg.
Unlike the NBA, where only a few squads full of stars have a legitimate shot at the title every year, the NHL is much more of a crap shoot which makes for unpredictable and often very exciting postseasons. Boston has 19 games remaining: 12 at TD Garden (including four out of its next five) and seven on the road. With Cassidy behind the bench, they have been a completely different team. If they keep this recent strong stretch of play up, you can bet that nobody in the Eastern Conference will want to see them in the first round.
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For star left wing Brad Marchand (28 goals, 38 assists), this all couldn’t come at a better time for his club.
“We are feeling really good, to come back from a long road trip and get two points (they beat Arizona 4-1 on Tuesday at the Garden) is all that matters," he said. "We’re playing with more tempo and the defensemen are producing because they are activated on the rush. Different guys are stepping up in each game.”
Stafford practiced in Winnipeg on Wednesday afternoon with the Jets so no word on whether he’ll be in black and gold on Thursday (7, NESN) vs. the Rangers (40-21-2) at TD Garden.
It's still not certain as to where he would slot into the lineup, but taking Jimmy Hayes’ (2 goals, 3 assists in 48 games!) spot on the third line with Frank Vatrano (10 goals, 6 assists) at left wing and Ryan Spooner (10 goals, 23 assists) at center would be a logical option. Hayes has been a complete non-factor all season. Stafford will definitely be here by the time that Boston hosts New Jersey (25-25-12) on Saturday night (7, NESN).