For weeks before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline that finally passed on Monday afternoon, it appeared like the Bruins (35-23-6) would deal right wing Loui Eriksson (23 goals, 25 assists) to the highest bidder.
However, the team changed its course at the last second as first-year GM Don Sweeney apparently couldn’t find a trade that he felt would benefit them if they were to lose one of their best players. Instead, he chose to strengthen his current group by acquiring a pair of solid veterans for draft picks and a low-end prospect: right wing Lee Stempniak (16 goals, 25 assists) from New Jersey and defenseman John-Michael Liles (6 goals, 9 assists) from Carolina. Additionally, Boston sent forwards Zac Rinaldo (who was suspended five games by the NHL on Tuesday for an illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette), Max Talbot and Jonas Kemppainen all to Providence while also calling up rookie center Noel Acciari (an undrafted free agent who was on the 2015 NCAA champions from Providence College).
It has been a busy couple days on Causeway Street and the latest edition of the B’s took the ice on Tuesday at TD Garden and held off the Flames (26-33-4) 2-1. All the new guys were in the lineup: Stempniak (16:12 time on ice, 1 takeaway) was on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Liles (16:55 time on ice, 1 shot on goal and 1 hit) was on the second defensive pairing with Adam McQuaid and in his NHL debut Acciari (+1 in 8:31 time on ice with 1 shot on goal, 2 hits and 4-3 on faceoffs) centered the fourth line with Landon Ferraro and the demoted Brett Connolly.
In his postgame press conference, Bruins head coach Claude Julien praised all three guys, saying that Acciari “handled himself well in his first game, he was very gritty.” He also explained how Stempniak and Liles shouldn’t take too long to adjust to Boston’s systems since they played in similar ones on their former clubs. The rookie and Rhode Island native had an impact right away as Ferraro actually scored a goal on the fourth line’s first shift of the contest. “They were great,” Acciari said of his new linemates, “they told me just to play my game. It was such a good feeling to get that goal on our first shift.”
Julien and all the players that talked to the media in the Bruins’ dressing room after the Calgary game,admitting that things would only get harder this week since up next, Boston hosts the two best teams in the NHL. The defending champion Blackhawks (39-20-5) will be here on Thursday (7, NESN) followed by the top team in the Eastern Conference-the Capitals (46-12-4)-on Saturday night (7, NESN). The B’s have struggled all season-long against top competition so they figure to have their hands full against such legit heavyweights. Keep in mind that the Bruins are still two games under .500 (14-16-3) at home.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate