Brandon Share-Cohen The Hockey Writers
Former Bruins That Boston Could Meet in 2020 NHL Playoffs
The 2020 NHL Postseason is about to begin and the Boston Bruins are scheduled to play in a round-robin tournament to determine their seeding for the official first round of the playoffs. While the majority of teams in the postseason will be competing in a play-in tournament, the Bruins will get a chance to get their feet wet without the risk of actually being eliminated before the playoffs ever really begin.
They’ll also get the chance to scout out their competition early.
Given the NHL’s expanded playoff format this season, the Bruins will have quite a few teams to monitor, many of whom have former members of the Bruins on their rosters. These players could eventually meet up with the Bruins at some point in the playoffs, and it felt like a fun exercise to take a look at some familiar faces and check in with what they’ve been up to.
So, which players who used to play for the Bruins are playoff-bound?
There are two players currently on the Arizona Coyotes who would likely be in the team’s lineup barring any sort of injury should they make it to the Stanley Cup Final to play against the Boston Bruins.
The first and more notable of the two players is Phil Kessel. The veteran winger spent the first three seasons of his career in Boston after being selected fifth overall by the Bruins in 2006.
After a breakout 2008-09 campaign that saw Kessel score 36 goals and 60 points in 70 games, the Bruins would ship the 6-foot, 202-pound forward to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for two first-round draft picks and a second-round draft pick. Remember these two first-round picks (coming in 2010 and 2011 respectively) as they’ll be important later on.
Kessel would end up being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins after six very good seasons with the Maple Leafs (and a ton of scrutiny from media). He’d go on to spend four seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, having a career-year during the 2017-18 season and even winning two Stanley Cups in the process.
Related: Phil Kessel – Biography
He was traded to the Arizona Coyotes during the 2019 offseason and would score 14 goals and 38 points in 70 games as a member of his new team.
The second of the two players on the Coyotes is Carl Soderberg. The Swedish center spent two-plus seasons in Boston after coming over from the SEL during the 2012-13 season. He’d score 29 goals and 94 points as a member of the Bruins in 161 games.
As a pending unrestricted free agent with his rights set to expire on July 1 of 2015, the Bruins would trade the rights to Soderberg to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. That pick would end up being used on Swedish-forward Oskar Steen.
Soderberg would spend four seasons with the Avalanche, recording a career-high 51 points in his first season with the club and a career-high 23 goals in his last season with them. Soderberg would be traded to the Coyotes during the 2019 offseason. He’d score 17 goals and 35 points in 70 games in his first season with the team.
Remember those two first-round picks the Bruins acquired in exchange for Kessel? One of them was used to select Dougie Hamilton who now plays for the Carolina Hurricanes.
If there’s any player who can sympathize with Kessel for how he’s been portrayed by media throughout his career, it would be Hamilton.
The ninth pick from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Hamilton has developed into exactly the player many thought he would coming out of the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL. A confident two-way defender who can score and play effectively in transition, Hamilton is one of the very best players in the NHL.
He’d show glimpses of this potential in his first two seasons in the NHL, but it wasn’t until his final year with the Bruins that he’d really take that next step and show everybody around the league what he was capable of doing. He’d score 10 goals and 42 points in 72 games that season and truly looked like the heir-apparent to Zdeno Chara in Boston.
A contract dispute that lined up with a bad salary cap situation for the Bruins would end up seeing Hamilton traded to the Calgary Flames for what many deemed at the time to be insufficient value in return.
Though Hamilton was once again traded by the Flames following his third season with the team – an ending that once again came with no shortage of media speculation and discussion, he maintained and even improved upon his level of production from his final season with the Bruins.
In Carolina, Hamilton is on an incredibly deep team defensively. Despite this, though, he’s been able to solidify himself as an elite player, scoring 14 goals and 40 points in just 47 games this season and shining as an analytical gem.
Since leaving the Bruins, Hamilton has compiled 74 goals and 216 points in 423 games and he’s up to 96 goals and 299 points in 552 games in his career.
Hamilton is dealing with an injury as the NHL finally looks to get under way for their postseason. While it’s unfortunate timing, the good news for the team is that this injury appears to be something other than a re-aggravation of his broken leg and it should only limit him for a few weeks and not a few months.
One player who may not be likely to face off against the Bruins in the postseason but who still could find himself in some playoff action this year is goaltender Malcolm Subban.
Though Subban may not be the starter in Chicago, he could find himself in action for the Blackhawks in the postseason if Corey Crawford is unable to play.
Subban was traded to the Blackhawks in a deal that saw Robin Lehner shipped to the Vegas Golden Knights at the NHL’s Trade Deadline in February. Since that deal, he’d only play in 70 total seconds with the team prior to the season being paused on March 12.
In 66 games in the NHL, Subban has compiled a 30-23-7 record with a 2.97 goals-against average, a 0.899 save percentage and a negative GSAA (goals-saved above average) in every season of his his career.
Though Crawford remains the team’s starter, he also only just returned to the Blackhawks after testing positive for COVID-19. Crawford may be ready to go now and he’s going to be the team’s first option, but with injuries and ailments hampering Crawford in recent years, there’s definitely potential for Subban to see ice time for the Blackhawks should they eventually make it to the Stanley Cup Final.
If the Bruins are going to meet up with Subban in the postseason, it would have to come under those circumstances.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Sometimes, the best deals are the ones that teams don’t make. For the Bruins, moving on from Riley Nash was the right decision, though it may not have been entirely clear at the the time.
When the Bruins signed Nash to a two-year, $1.8 million deal, they knew they were getting an effective bottom-six player who could compete for a job given the resume he put together in his time with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Nash not only fulfilled those expectations but exceeded them altogether. Playing primarily in a third-line role during his time with the Bruins, Nash would break out in his age-28 season with the Bruins and would score a career-high 15 goals, 26 points and 41 points in 76 games.
Playing in a top-line role when Bergeron was missing and helping the team remain competitive despite the absence of their best player, Nash earned the admiration of the entire Bruins’ fan base for his ability to step up and contribute.
Unfortunately, the Bruins couldn’t afford to pay Nash the $2.75 million annual salary he would receive from the Blue Jackets on a three-year deal, learning from their experience with Chris Kelly so many years prior.
This would prove to be the right decision as Nash would score just eight goals and 36 points in his first 142 games in a Blue Jackets’ uniform.
His second season was far more successful than his first was, but Nash is clearly not playing at the same level he was in his final year as a Bruin.
Nash would play in three games against the Bruins in the playoffs last season and there’s a good chance the Bruins and Blue Jackets could once again meet up this year in the postseason.
The other first-round pick acquired in the Kessel trade was used to acquire Tyler Seguin. Unfortunately for Bruins fans, everybody knows how that one ended up.
It’s no secret that the Bruins are one of the best teams in the NHL and haven’t necessarily struggled without Seguin on their roster. At the same time, though, losing a player of Seguin’s caliber for multiple pieces that are no longer on the roster is a hard pill to swallow.
Since leaving the Bruins, Seguin has scored 223 goals and 514 points in 538 games and has developed into a far more responsible two-way player than he was as a member of the Bruins.
The Dallas Stars are in a similar boat to the Bruins heading into the playoffs as they’ll be competing for position in a round-robin tournament rather than playing in a five-game elimination series when things start back up. Both the Bruins and Stars have turned themselves into successful teams since the Seguin trade, but the Bruins have done so in spite of the deal with the Stars have done so largely thanks to the deal.
Seguin will always be one of those players who simply got away. Various circumstances may have played into the situation, but that won’t stop it from being discussed for years and potentially decades to come.
Of all the players on this list, Matt Benning spent the least time in a Bruins’ uniform. In fact, the sixth-round pick of the Bruins never actually wore a Bruins’ uniform in Boston or in Providence.
It’s rare for players taken in the sixth round of the NHL Entry Draft to develop into full-time NHL players. The chances of becoming a regular NHL player when taken even in the first round is so low that hitting on a player outside of that range is an impressive feat for a team’s scouting department but also for the player who overcame draft day expectations.
This was the case for Benning as he was taken 175th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Though he would spend three years at Northeastern University, he would never sign a contract with the Bruins and would ultimately sign a two-year entry-level deal with his hometown Edmonton Oilers instead.
Benning has scored 15 goals and 61 points in 248 games at the NHL level dating back to the 2016-17 season and he’s proven just about everyone wrong along the way. Though he may not be the most discussed defender in the NHL, he’s still got a lot to be proud of so far.
If the Oilers play against the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, Benning could play against the Bruins, though this one wouldn’t mean as much as some of the other match-ups on this list.
The Bruins southern hub of Sunrise, Florida is alive and well. A team that features three former Bruins’ players, the Florida Panthers are set to play in a best-of-five series against the New York Islanders and are considered to be a sleeper team in this postseason.
The case of Frank Vatrano and the Bruins is an interesting one. The story of an undrafted, undersized player from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts finding his way onto his hometown team in Boston was just the perfect Cinderella story.
Vatrano would break onto the scene in 2015-16 with 36 goals and 55 points in 36 games with the Providence Bruins while also scoring eight goals and 11 points in 39 games in Boston during that same season. He’d earn himself a more permanent role in the NHL over the next two seasons, but he’d be limited to just 69 games and limited opportunity in that time.
His scoring touch also never consistently developed during his time in Boston and the team would ultimately opt to trade him to the Panthers for a third-round pick in 2018, a value that was and should still be considered good given the situation .
In Vatrano’s first full season with the Panthers in 2018-19, he’d score a career-high 24 goals and 39 points in 81 games and looked like the player the Bruins were hoping he could become given his production in Providence.
He’d score 16 goals and 34 points in 69 games this season and has proven to be a good piece for the Panthers while signed to a fair-valued $2.53 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season.
Brett Connolly was set up for failure in Boston before he ever even played in a game for the Bruins.
A Bruins team looking to acquire right-shot scoring help would move two second-round picks to acquire Connolly, the sixth-overall pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft who seemingly needed a change of scenery at 22 years old.
Unfortunately, the two second-round picks that the Bruins moved for Connolly were always going to be linked to Johnny Boychuk trade that left a bad taste in the mouths of Bruins’ fans from the offseason, leaving many to feel sour on Connolly before he ever really got an opportunity.
To make matters worse, Connolly would suffer a fractured finger just two days after the trade and would miss six weeks before ever even dressing for the team. He’d return to play five games for the team and would record two assists in his debut for the Bruins.
Still, his goal production was never enough to justify the return the Bruins paid to acquire him during his tenure with the team. He’d score a total of nine goals and 18 points in 75 games with the Bruins and though he looked like a very capable middle-six forward, many wanted the Bruins to cut ties with Connolly as they couldn’t separate the value spent versus the production received.
It was a short-sighted move by the Bruins to let go of Connolly as he’d score 15 goals in each of his next two seasons with the Washington Capitals before scoring 22 goals in 2018-19 and then 19 goals this past season with the Panthers.
Noel Acciari was a player who simply priced himself out of a contract with the Bruins.
It may seem silly to say that about a contract that carries a $1.66 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season, but that’s simply too much for a team in the Bruins’ situation to justify spending on a fourth-line player.
Still, losing Acciari hurt the Bruins as he was a fan-favorite and a favorite of his teammates given how hard he played with each and every shift. The word wrecking ball was used to describe Acciari on more than one occassion.
Acciari would score 18 goals and 31 points in 180 games with the Bruins and would be a mainstay on their fourth line throughout that time. He’d break out in a major way with the Panthers though as he’d score 20 goals and 27 points in 66 games with the team while maintaining his physical presence and ability to take away the puck far more frequently than he turned it over.
A three-minute uptick in ice time likely helped Acciari in producing more goals, but nobody could have seen this type of production from him. It’s a feel-good story for a player who truly deserved it.
The verdict is still out on this trade from the perspective of the Minnesota Wild. For the Bruins, though, the decision to trade Ryan Donato for Charlie Coyle probably won’t be second-guessed any time soon.
Donato was another feel-good story that could have gone very differently in an alternate timeline. A Boston-native and the son of former-Bruin Ted Donato, Ryan would get drafted by his hometown team and then play under his father at Harvard while also getting to represent the United States at the Olympics all by the age of 21 years old.
He’d leave Harvard and sign his entry-level contract with the Bruins for the tail-end of the 2017-18 season and he’s score an impressive five goals and nine points in 12 games. He’d only play in three postseason games for the Bruins that season, however, and he’d have to wait for the 2018-19 season to show why he was such a highly-touted prospect coming out of Harvard.
Unfortunately, Donato would only score six goals and nine points in 34 games for the Bruins and would slowly fall out of favor with the team and with the fans of Boston who, admittedly, could have given up on Donato early.
In Donato’s first 22 games with the Wild, he’d score four goals and 16 points. He’d bounce back this pat season, though, scoring 14 goals and 23 points in 62 games. The numbers may not jump off the page, but he’s still only 24 years old and has a lot of time ahead of him to prove that he can be the player everybody though he would be.
For the Bruins though, acquiring Coyle cannot be second-guessed. The team certainly didn’t second-guess their decision either as they’d lock him up for the long-term as well.
New York Islanders
This one was touched upon earlier, but the Islanders got a legitimate top-pairing defender for the cost of two second-round picks.
The Bruins were in a cap-crunch for the final few years of Peter Chiarelli’s tenure with the team. Because of this, some difficult decisions were made, though none of them seemed to compare to the decision to trade Boychuk away from a team that seemed primed for a solid playoff run that season.
Boychuk would be traded to the Islanders where he would get an opportunity to shine on their top pairing. At the time, the deal looked like an absolute steal for the Islanders who would also sign Boychuk to a seven-year, $42 million deal in March of 2015.
The contract doesn’t look great for the Islanders now as Boychuk has dealt with injuries over the last few seasons. At 36 years old with two seasons remaining on his deal, the Bruins may have ultimately dodged a bullet with this deal, though it’s also unknown how they may have done has they kept him on the team.
Still, one of the picks received in the deal was used to draft Brandon Carlo. For the Bruins, things could have been better, but they certainly could have been worse as well.
New York Rangers
While the Bruins have a plethora of defensive depth on their team, that depth could have been even better had they never traded away Ryan Lindgren. Given their situation, though, this move may have been best for the 22-year-old Lindgren in the end.
Lindgen’s departure from the Bruins was the product of the team having too much depth as far as left-shot defenders were concerned, as well as the team looking to move on from Matt Beleskey’s contract and acquire Rick Nash.
While Lindgren showed promise as a defensive-defender a the University of Minnesota, he’d never actually suit up for the Bruins in similar fashion to Benning. The difference between Lindgren and Benning, however, is the Bruins never traded Lindgren.
For a young player taken in the second-round by an NHL franchise, it has to sting to be traded before ever getting to sign a contract with the team, much less play and prove their worth to the franchise.
Still, Lindgren landed in a good situation as the Rangers were a rebuilding team looking for young players who could help accelerate their rebuild. The 6-foot, 191-pound defender would spend time in the AHL to start for the Rangers but he would play in 60 games this past season and is on his way to the postseason in New York.
Given the Bruins current defensive depth, it would be unlikely for Lindgren to find any ice time and he’s getting a chance to play over 16 minutes per game with the Rangers as a result of the trade.
Vegas Golden Knights
A pair of former Bruins playing in Vegas, there’s certainly a difference in the impact that both players have made for the Golden Knights since joining the team.
When the Bruins traded away Seguin to the Stars, they actually did receive a fairly decent return at the end of the day. While many may not have been sold on it at the time, the trajectory of Smith’s career would likely play a big role in the long-term opinion of that trade.
Well, Smith has become a legitimate top-six player in his career with four 20-goal seasons and five 50-plus point seasons under his belt.
Unfortunately, only two seasons of his career would be spent with the Bruins that saw him score 33 goals and 91 points in 163 games, including 20 goals and 51 points in his first season with the team.
He’d be traded, along with the contract of Marc Savard, to acquire Boston-native Jimmy Hayes. Unfortunately, that trade didn’t quite work out as the Bruins would have hoped it would.
Smith would spend two seasons in Florida, scoring 25 goals and 50 points in his first season with the team before regressing in his second season, similarly to how he did for the Bruins. The Panthers would trade Smith, fresh off of a five-year, $25 million contract extension from a season prior, to the Golden Knights for a fourth-round draft pick.
This was part of a larger deal that basically meant the Panthers would leave Jonathan Marchessault unprotected for the Golden Knights to take, so long as they also took Smith due to salary cap issues. Marchessault would score 27 goals and 75 points in 77 games that season and Smith would score 22 goals and 60 points in 67 games.
Smith has scored 68 goals and 167 points in 212 games with the Golden Knights and is up to 144 goals and 354 points in 577 games in his career thus far.
It’s hard to think of Holden as anything less than added insurance during his time with the Bruins. A team that was dealing with an almost comical number of injuries for a few years made the right decision in making a trade to acquire someone like Holden who could come in and be added depth for a long run.
He’d play in 18 games in the regular season with the Bruins, scoring one goal and five points and averaging 19 minutes of ice time. When the postseason rolled around, however, he’d play in two games and average only 12:26 of ice time as many expected to be the case when he was picked up.
Since signing with the Golden Knights after his time in Boston, Holden has played in 122 games, scored nine goals and 29 points and average 18:35 of ice time. He’s only played in one postseason game thus far, though.
The Bruins moving on from Blake Wheeler just three years into his NHL career is almost never talked about as a mistake, and rightfully so, but that doesn’t mean Wheeler didn’t become an elite-level talent in the NHL over the next decade.
The Bruins would trade Wheeler (and defender Mark Stuart) to the then-Atlanta Thrashers in a deal that saw the team receive Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik.
The Bruins would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season, the franchise’s first since 1972, and many would chock that up as a victory for the team despite the fact that Wheeler would be one of the most dominant players in the NHL following that trade.
Since the deal, Wheeler would score 214 goals and 641 points in 710 games with the Thrashers/Jets franchise. He hasn’t averaged fewer than 20 goals since the 2013-14 season and would record 91 points in consecutive seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The captain of the Jets has somehow largely flown under the radar for years but fans around the NHL seem to be taking notice of just how good he is, especially after the last few seasons he’s had.
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