BOSTON (CBS) — For all but three or four teams every year, the NHL Draft is about the future.
The Bruins used the draft to both pick players they think are going to help them in the future and also to ship out players that prove their immediate plan is to worry more about their fortunes beyond the upcoming 2015-16 season.
Already Bruins coach Claude Julien, who spoke Friday night in Sunrise, Florida, after the Bruins made three picks in the first round, was comparing the upcoming season to his first year, 2007-08, when the Bruins were young and scrappy and had to fight their way into the playoffs in the last week of the regular season. That makes you wonder if the Bruins really plan on parlaying their assets into a high-level player or two that could make up for the losses of Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic, or they’re going to use what scant space they have under the NHL salary-cap ceiling to shop for Glen Metropolit-level free agents to really bring back that ’07-08 feeling.
If you’re the type of Bruins observer that likes prospects and would rather the Bruins have a better chance at competing for a championship in 2018 rather than 2016, this draft weekend was for you.
On first glance, the Bruins made out pretty well in the deep draft. They made three picks in the second round after making three on the first night. They added six forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender.
On defense, they opted for size (including 6-foot-5 Brandon Carlo). That’s a far cry from the Bruins’ recent Lilliputian batch of defense prospects that worked out well with Torey Krug, but not so much with David Warsofsky, Matt Hunwick, Steve Kampfer and others.
They also added forwards with goal-scoring pedigrees and a goaltender who’s only 17 and is already 6-5 (Czech goalie Daniel Vladar of the Chicago Steel in the USHL). All their picks are 18 years old or younger, which wouldn’t be so surprising if the Bruins in the later round in recent years hadn’t reached for 19-and-20-year-old guys that had been passed over a time or two after becoming draft eligible.
The amateur side of the Bruins’ management seems to have its act together. However, the pro side either doesn’t have a plan or is waiting a little longer into the offseason to reveal the road ahead. More than the fact that the Bruins missed the playoffs, the Bruins’ decision to strip their roster now proves they were wrong to add at the trade deadline and should’ve gotten maximum value in March for Carl Soderberg, Dennis Seidenberg and anyone else teams would have taken off their hands.
Here are some grades for the Bruins’ activities over draft weekend:
Traded Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for picks 15, 45 and 52.
I’ll dissect the picks a little later. The trade, though, for a team that’s always talking about the Stanley Cup, is a major failure. The Bruins twice lucked out (when Toronto traded its pick to Boston and when the Maple Leafs went in the tank to make the pick the No. 9) to land a franchise defenseman and then they traded him on the cusp of full maturity for draft picks that may or may not pan out as well as Hamilton. General manager Don Sweeney had all summer, and most of the leverage, to work something out, and he pulled the cord in late June.
Traded Milan Lucic to Los Angeles for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and pick 13.
The Bruins got decent value for a 27-year-old forward who failed to live up to expectations two of the past three years. Of course, when motivated and put on the right line, Lucic is a rare game-changing talent that will be difficult to replace. Even if you didn’t like Lucic, you have to admit now the Bruins have a gaping hole to fill in their top six.
Pick 13 could pay off in the long run and Miller might be able to be a solid offensive presence on the blue line after some more seasoning. Jones is an upgrade in goal, but he’s a restricted free agent who might want to be paid more than the Bruins can afford behind $7 million goaltender Tuukka Rask. Jones’ best value to the Bruins might be as a trade chip now or during the season.
Re-signed Adam McQuaid for four years at $2.75 million per season.
Giving McQuaid a raise of nearly $1.25 million when you’re trying to create cap space is foolish. McQuaid is a solid physical third-pair defenseman who’s good in the room. If he loves Boston so much, he should’ve stayed for less money. Otherwise, the Bruins should have moved on and relied on Kevan Miller, Zach Trotman and others from the farm system (or a bargain-basement free agent) to fill the void. McQuaid is limited in what he can do for the Bruins. He failed in a top-four role last season, and now has the burden of being overpaid.
Picked Saint John (OHL) defenseman Jakub Zboril at 13.
The consolation prize for not being able to trade up into the top 10 and grab one of the three best defensemen in this draft. It sounds like he needs to work on his defensive game but he has the physicality part and the offensive side of the game down. We won’t see him for a couple years in New England.
Picked Swift Current (WHL) left wing Jake Debrusk at 14.
A little bit of a reach here by the Bruins, but they love those sons of former NHL players. Debrusk is a late bloomer who was picked in the seventh-round of the WHL draft. Obviously his work ethic is top-notch to get his stock where it was heading into the draft. However, he’s one of two players the Bruins could’ve taken later had they used their assets to trade down and add pieces for the present. Again, we won’t see him in with a spoked letter for a couple seasons.
Picked Sault Ste. Marie right wing Zack Senyshyn at 15.
The second of two forwards the Bruins could’ve selected later by trading down or even waiting until their pick at 37 in the second round. But the Bruins loved him enough to just grab him here. He scored 26 goals in a secondary role on a loaded team. He compared himself to Chris Kreider and the Bruins better hope he lives up to that in a bigger role this season and beyond, or the Hamilton trade will look even worse.
Picked Tri-City defenseman Brandon Carlo, Omaha (USHL), center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and Rouyn-Noranda defenseman Jeremy Lauzon in the second round.
Carlo (6-foot-5) and Lauzon (6-foot-1) are the type of defensemen that you want to have around. You can teach positioning, hockey instincts and other areas. It helps to start out with some size. Carlo might be able to make an impact on the Bruins sooner than guys picked ahead of him. Karlsson is a two-way player that Boston will be able to keep close tabs on at BU.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.