SUNRISE, Fla. — After ordinary drafts, the Bruins return to Boston with surplus jerseys and hats. They are insurance for those years when things go cuckoo.
This was an extraordinary draft.
After dismissing Dougie Hamilton and dealing Milan Lucic, general manager Don Sweeney’s pockets were overflowing with draft assets. Sweeney had three first-rounders: his own, No. 13 from Los Angeles, and No. 15 from Calgary. He also gathered three second-rounders, two courtesy of the Hamilton trade.
On Friday, the Bruins believed some of those picks would allow them passage into top-defenseman land. Their dreams of drafting Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, or Zach Werenski didn’t come true.
Instead of strutting out of the party with a big prize, the Bruins limped out with a goodie bag filled with three consolation prizes: Triplets 2.0 in Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zachary Senyshyn.
On Saturday, the Bruins did not deploy their three second-rounders as trade collateral. They went full fire hose on picks instead. The total from the weekend: 10 selections, or more handouts of Black and Gold jerseys than at the nearest Dick’s. Only TLC has more kids and counting than the Bruins.
“I think we accomplished a lot,” said assistant GM Scott Bradley. “We lost two great players in Dougie and Looch. But the future looks good. What we’ve done in the last two days, we’re excited and looking forward to the future.”
Every team wants prospects who turn into good young NHL players. They are critical to success. High-end contracts require entry-level deals to balance out the bucks equilibrium.
The Bruins filled their prospect pool to the brim. They put themselves in good position to build future rosters. If the players develop properly, the Bruins could also use them as trade chips in years to come.
“It’s a rare opportunity to take advantage of those numbers of assets,” John Ferguson, executive director of player personnel, said of the 10-pick haul. “Clearly, we’re using the draft to build going forward. It’s probably a two-plus-year process. Those are assets that can be used as currency and used in other deals. It’s a great number of assets we’ve collected in the last two days. Lot of skill at different positions, and frankly some real good future depth up and down the lineup.”
If some of these players hit, they could complement 19-year-old David Pastrnak in several seasons. Pastrnak’s older teammates, however, will not have such luck.
Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Tuukka Rask, the three pillars of the Bruins’ core, are currently down Hamilton and Lucic, two previous members of the secondary tier. The 10 teenagers who became Bruins property will be unable to help the current group.
Colin Miller and Martin Jones, the defenseman and goalie the Bruins acquired from the Kings in the Lucic trade, are closer. Miller, who capped his second pro season by winning the Calder Cup, projects to be a good two-way NHL defenseman. Jones, Jonathan Quick’s backup, has performed well in limited action. Jones, who will be a restricted free agent on Wednesday, could be Rask’s No. 2 or be flipped for reinforcements up front and on defense.
Those two areas, following the exits of Lucic and Hamilton, are not at proper competitive level. Even if Loui Eriksson or Brett Connolly switch sides, the Bruins need another left wing. If Eriksson moves to the left, the top three right wings are Connolly, Pastrnak, and Reilly Smith — not exactly a bulletproof group.
The back end is down a mobile, creative, three-zone defenseman. Unless you’re the Flames, it’s nearly impossible to add such a player at a reasonable cost. While trading Hamilton with one hand, Sweeney used the other to extend a four-year, $11 million contract to Adam McQuaid.
Hamilton is good at moving pucks and scoring points. McQuaid, Hamilton’s former roommate, is good at defending his teammates, playing physically, and hurting himself in every possible way.
Free agency opens on Wednesday. Forget about shopping for help. No teams view free agency as a primary team-building opportunity anymore. The good players are already signed and spoken for. The Bruins will have to improve their 2015-16 roster via trade.
“There were a number of things that were discussed here today about players on other teams’ rosters,” Ferguson said. “There’s going to be teams that are going to make decisions on whether or not they go to arbitration with players, whether or not they can fit salary-wise. There are seeds of those that will be picked up in the next few days that were planted here these last couple days.”
That the Bruins discussed concepts on future trades is not necessarily promising. Their trading on Friday ripped apart their dressing room. They received market value for Lucic. They did not reach that standard with Hamilton, a shortcoming compounded by retaining nearly half of Lucic’s $6 million average annual value.
A lot of teams traded to improve their teams over the weekend. Buffalo acquired Ryan O’Reilly and Robin Lehner. Former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli traded for Cam Talbot, Griffin Reinhart, and Eric Gryba in Edmonton. Carolina upgraded in goal by landing Eddie Lack from Vancouver while shipping out ex-Bruin Anton Khudobin to Anaheim for James Wisniewski.
The Bruins improved for the future with their trades and subsequent picks. So far, they’ve done nothing of the sort for 2015-16.