By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Drew Stafford has a chance to make meaningful contributions to the Bruins roster after being acquired at the NHL trade deadline. In Winnipeg, he appeared to be in a place where he couldn’t do that anymore.
Stafford will, at the very least, have a shot at legit ice time as the right winger on one of the Bruins’ bottom two lines. He certainly has a chance to be more productive than Jimmy Hayes, Riley Nash, and Matt Beleskey have been when called upon.
There’s also a chance that Stafford has fallen off the proverbial cliff – but at age 31, he may have a little something left in the tank. The winger’s pedigree was certainly worth the risk – or lack thereof – for Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who only had to send the Jets a conditional sixth-round pick for Stafford’s services.
Speaking to reporters about the Stafford trade after Wednesday’s trade deadline, Sweeney said that Stafford has a chance to benefit from a better situation in Boston than he had in Winnipeg.
“In talking with [Stafford] today, with a player [like rookie Patrik] Laine coming into their lineup, maybe some situational opportunities were a little different for him,” said Sweeney. “Certainly, [there’s] another breakout player in [Nikolaj] Ehlers. Drew’s had a pretty consistent scoring record up until this year – and hopefully, he’ll jump right back in and be somewhat invigorated coming here.”
SEE ALSO: Kalman: Stafford Trade May Be Sweeney’s Last Easy Decision For A While
It’s hard to believe that Stafford’s drop-off in production at age 31 is permanent. In the first 10 seasons of his NHL career, most of which were spent with the Buffalo Sabres, Stafford averaged 0.57 points per game. In 2016-17, his rate has dropped to 0.33 points per game.
[graphiq id=”3sRnZpHRMUJ” title=”Top Point Scoring Seasons for Drew Stafford” width=”600″ height=”551″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/3sRnZpHRMUJ” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]
And as Sweeney alluded to in his presser, Stafford’s sharp decline coincided with the arrival of dynamic rookie right winger Patrik Laine, who was the second overall pick in last year’s NHL Draft. The 18-year-old has scored 31 goals in just 56 games – a 45-goal pace over the course of an 82-game season. He also was not going to come close to captain Blake Wheeler for ice time at right wing, and the aforementioned 20-year-old Ehlers has emerged as a more reliable option on the left side.
Stafford averaged over 17 minutes of ice time in his first 104 games with the Jets; his ATOI has plummeted to 13:18 this season. That number isn’t likely to change very much with the Bruins, but Stafford also has a chance to have a more consistent role in the bottom-six. And, again, all the Bruins need is for Stafford to be “invigorated” enough to score more than Hayes, Nash, or Beleskey.
If the Bruins can make a marked upgrade at a roster spot that has contributed very little this season, and give up virtually nothing for it in the process, then this move can be chalked up as a win. A modest win, but a win nonetheless, for a GM that desperately needed one at the NHL level.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.