The NHL’s March 21 trade deadline push began in earnest this weekend with the trading of Flyers superstar Claude Giroux to Florida.
But, just prior to that move, another Atlantic Division team acquired an important roster piece Saturday when the Boston Bruins landed defenseman Hampus Lindholm from the rebuilding Anaheim Ducks.
The complete trade, according to Sportsnet, is Lindholm to the Bruins for Boston’s first round pick this year, the Bruins’ second-rounder in 2023, a second-rounder in 2024, and defensemen John Moore and Uhho Vaakanainen. To make the deal work under the salary cap, Anaheim also is retaining half of Lindholm’s prorated $5.2 million salary. It is a hefty haul for new Ducks GM Pat Verbeek, who continues to remake the team in his own way. But, more importantly in an on-ice sense, it underscores the fact that Bruins management sees its competitive window closing, and thus is attempting to make one final deep playoff run with its current core.
The 28-year–old Lindholm has some wear-and-tear on him, but he still was second on the Ducks in ice time this year, with an average of 22:32 in 61 games. He easily makes Boston’s back end better, and eases the strain put on young D-men Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. It’s not easy to acquire a higher-end blueliner this time of year, but Sweeney knows as well as anyone that 36-year-old center Patrice Bergeron will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and veteran winger Brad Marchand will be 34 years old in May. In sum, two-thirds of the line that drives the Bruins’ success could be gone or diminished in quality next season. They’re in win-now mode, and Lindholm definitely helps in that regard.
There’s a real possibility Bruins GM Bob Sweeney will move around enough money to sign Lindholm long-term, but as per CapFriendly.com, Boston has signed 17 players for the 2022-23 season, and only $13.6 million in cap space. It won’t be easy, or cheap, to keep Lindholm. With Lindholm on course to be a UFA this summer, the market for him should be fierce. And so, until then, Lindholm should be seen as a pure rental for the rest of this year. But don’t kid yourself – Sweeney isn’t going to pay as big a price as he has in this deal if he didn’t think he could get Lindholm’s signature on a contract extension.
As mentioned above, the Lindholm trade precedes the bigger trade that’s sending Giroux from the Flyers to the Panthers, and we shouldn’t forget Florida’s earlier move this week to land defenseman Ben Chiarot from Montreal, as well as the trade this week that sent forward Brandon Hagel from Chicago to the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champion-Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers and Lightning are as all-in as any Atlantic team, and fellow Atlantic rival Toronto is expected to make a significant move or two. The stakes couldn’t be higher for this competitive division, and the Bolts, Panthers and Maple Leafs may not be done just yet.
That said, Bruins fans should be pleased with Lindholm’s acquisition. Boston Icons Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask may be gone, but Sweeney and ownership clearly feel there’s time for one more playoff push with this group. Adding a smart, experienced hand of Lindholm’s caliber sends a message to current Bruins and the rest of the league: you’ll have a hard time getting Boston out of the playoffs. Boston had the NHL’s fifth-best defense before this Lindholm deal, and they just got that much tougher. And with less than 48 hours left until the deadline arrives, they’ve taken one major piece off the market.