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Matt Porter | On Hockey

Without a boost, Bruins could fall to the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Division

Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat was part of the biggest trade of NHL Draft day, going from Chicago to the Ottawa Senators for the seventh and 39th pick this year and a third-rounder in 2024.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

MONTREAL — Maybe the Bruins will sign Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to one-year deals at shockingly short money.

Maybe they’ll ride a boost of new-coach energy from a rejuvenated Jim Montgomery, who’s grateful for a second chance.

Maybe Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk will return and play as if they never had major surgeries.

Maybe the Bruins aren’t about to lose the grip on a playoff spot they’ve held the last six years, and in 13 of the last 15 seasons.

Or maybe that’s all merely more fantasy, on the night on the NHL calendar where every team, even the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche, is guilty of dreaming a little too big.


Right now, it looks this way for the Bruins: They are in danger of falling to the middle of the pack, appearing like a team going the wrong direction, as a few other Atlantic Division teams seem ready to cycle out of their down years.

On a night when the Senators made the biggest move of the offseason so far, pulling two-time 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat from the Blackhawks on Friday, and the Red Wings, Sabres, and Canadiens continued to add to their sizable collections of young talent … the Bruins, who dealt their first-rounder to Anaheim in the Hampus Lindholm trade last February, remained on the sidelines.

“You look at some of our players, it’s hard to say we’re going to tear this down,” team president Cam Neely said before the draft opened. He pointed to David Pastrnak — in the last year of his contract, and yet to be signed to a long-term extension — Marchand, Lindholm, McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Linus Ullmark, and Jeremy Swayman long-term core pieces. “We’ve got guys we feel we can build around right now,” Neely said, “and hopefully keep this train rolling.


“But,” he added, “when you go through what we did from 2011 all the way to ‘22, when you’re in that window and firing off assets and picks, you know you’re going to pay for it. And that’s coming. But hopefully we can find a way to build around those guys … we still feel we have a competitive team, we just have to find the right pieces to help supplement the roster.”

That hasn’t been an issue for the non-playoff Atlantic teams, who have taken their lumps and are making the moves to make Boston sweat.

Ripping off a Chicago team diving headfirst into rebuild mode, Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion stole DeBrincat for the seventh and 39th overall picks this year, and a third-rounder in 2024. To put that return for Chicago in perspective, DeBrincat has 160 goals to his name over the last five years. Pastrnak has 181.

Part of the reason for the low cost: The sides did not talk about a contract extension beforehand, according to reports. Dorion now assumes the burden of trying to sign DeBrincat, who has a year left at $6.4 million, and will be a restricted free agent. His qualifying offer next summer would be $9 million.

The Senators are building for sustained success, with captain Brady Tkachuk (22), Tim Stützle (20), Drake Batherson (23), Josh Norris (22), Thomas Chabot (25), and Alex Formenton (22), all of whom ranked among their top seven scorers. They have exciting 19-year-old defenseman Jake Sanderson coming. In the coming months, they might break ground on a new arena downtown.


Tampa, Toronto, and Florida look like the class of the division. They are the obvious playoff-caliber teams.

None of that guarantees what the Bruins have in this generation — years of playoff runs, three Cup Final appearances, and one Cup — but it’s something.

The Red Wings’ stock of talent is similarly enviable, and at some point, GM Steve Yzerman is going to shift his automobile into contention mode. Yzerman has made seven top-15 picks in the last six drafts, Calder Trophy-winning defenseman Moritz Seider (sixth in ‘19) and high-energy, high-IQ Austrian center Marco Kasper, chosen eighth on Friday.

The Sabres felt a buzz at the end of last season, after dealing Jack Eichel to Vegas, and on Friday pulled high-scoring Matthew Savoie out of the WHL Winnipeg at ninth overall. Things are looking up there.

The last-place Canadiens have the longest way to go, but they had a heck of an evening.

In front of an electric crowd reminiscent of a pro wrestling event, new general manager Kent Hughes — Bergeron’s agent in a previous life — turned the No. 1 pick into Slovak winger Juraj Slafkovsky. That was a surprise call over his long-assumed top choice, center Shane Wright (No. 4 to Seattle). If Slafkovsky pops, he’s got the size and hands to be the next Evgeni Malkin. If not, he’s looking like a Valeri Nichushkin.

Given the feeding frenzy in this town, he’d better be closer to the former, and have a good head on his shoulders. He took notice of a few boos from the upper deck.


“Hockey is their passion, as well as mine,” said Slafkovsky, named MVP of the 2022 Beijing Olympics after leading Slovakia to its first-ever bronze with seven goals in seven games.

“Maybe some of them didn’t like me but I will do everything I can to play good for this team and maybe one day they’ll like me.”

Hughes wasn’t done, shipping 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Romanov and pick No. 98 to the Islanders for the No. 13 choice, then flipping that and the No. 66 pick to the Blackhawks for center Kirby Dach.

Dach, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft, and Slafkovsky are each 6 feet 4 inches. The Canadiens also have Josh Anderson (6-3, 225). They don’t want to be pushed around forever.

Montreal, which lustily booed Gary Bettman in a pre-draft opening ceremony even though he was trying his best to speak French, would hardly let Martin St. Louis talk. They saluted the newly installed permanent coach with a thunderous ovation, serenading him with their trademark “Ole, Ole!” chant.

“It took me 47 years to be at my first draft,” said St. Louis, the 2018 Hall of Famer who was once passed on by every NHL team coming out of the University of Vermont. “And it was worth the wait.”

Montreal won’t wait that long for its next Cup, will it? Will Buffalo? Detroit? Ottawa?


Now, what about Boston?

Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.