In case you haven’t heard, the Boston Bruins announced Tuesday that David Pastrnak will miss at least two weeks after undergoing successful surgery on his left thumb. The star winger injured his thumb late Sunday night while walking to transportation after a team sponsorship dinner.
The first question, of course, is whether Pastrnak will return at full strength and be able to help the Bruins as they battle for playoff seeding. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney expressed optimism that Pastrnak will return in relatively short order, but it’s impossible to forecast how certain players will rebound from certain injuries.
The next question is how Pastrnak’s injury will affect Boston’s strategy ahead of the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline.
It’s no secret that Boston’s biggest needs are a top-six forward and help on the third line. And during a season ticket holders event Sunday morning, Sweeney made no secret about his desire to improve in those two areas. But the Bruins GM also indicated he might not be as willing to make a deal as aggressive as the one that brought Rick Nash to Boston last year.
“My feeling is that we would like to try and add without necessarily giving up what we know is a big part of our future,” he said. “We committed assets last year to take a swing where we felt we needed to address an area of need and we will try and do a similar thing this year. I can’t guarantee that’ll happen. This time of the year, prices are generally pretty high, but we’re going to try. We’re going to try because I think we still need it.”
Those comments were made before Pastrnak injured his thumb. With the 31-goal scorer now on the shelf, it’s fair to wonder whether the Bruins will be more aggressive in their pursuit of top-end talent before the deadline.
However, Sweeney insists his strategy hasn’t changed.
“We were already looking and making calls to see whether or not we could add to the group,” Sweeney said during a press conference Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena. ” … It doesn’t change my approach at all. I’ve been having calls for a month now at least, if not longer. … We’ve been looking to do something, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”
As for specifically targeting a rental player, such as Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, the Bruins seem a bit hesitant, given the ultimate return in the Nash trade. In parting with a first-round pick and a legitimate blueline prospect in Ryan Lindgren, the Bruins anticipated being able to retain Nash.
But the star power forward suffered a severe concussion toward the end of last season, and took extended time during the offseason to gauge whether he wanted to continue his career. The 34-year-old ultimately retired in January, and the Bruins still haven’t filled his spot on the second line.
“I’d like to invest in somebody that’s going to be with us, but I’d like the best player to impact our lineup, as well,” Sweeney said. “Might sound like it’s a bit ambiguous, but I think, in all honesty, I’m not overly enamored (with a rental). I thought we had a chance to sign Rick Nash. … We could use him right now.”
Sweeney also said he doesn’t have a “preference” in pursuing a top-six forward or third-line help.
Deal or no deal, the Bruins are in a tough spot with their most prolific scorer sidelined for the foreseeable future. As they’ve done all season, the players on the ice will just have to step up.
“We’re going to get a hell of a player back at some point in time,” Sweeney said. “I think we’ve done a really good job — (Patrice Bergeron) has missed 20 games, (Zdeno Chara) has missed 20 games, (Charlie McAvoy) has missed close to 30 games — our guys have stepped up.
“It puts pressure on us, no question. An area where we’ve struggled to be consistently one of the better 5-on-5 goal-scoring teams — that hasn’t resulted this year. So we’re going to have to continue to play really tightly defensively, which we’ve done, and our goaltending is going to have to continue being good.”
Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images