SUNRISE, FLA. -- After the Boston Bruins failed to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, ownership handed general manager Peter Chiarelli his pink slip.
Team president Cam Neely made it clear that one of the reasons Chiarelli lost his job was due to the organization’s lack of prowess during the annual NHL Draft. Neely said the next GM needed to do a better job.
Enter Don Sweeney.
The team’s former assistant general manager, Sweeney has been the Bruins’ GM for just over a month and he’s looking forward to calling the shots at this weekend’s draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons on June 15, and since then GMs across the league have been busy preparing for the draft. Phone calls have been made and e-mails and text messages have been sent as everyone is trying to figure out the landscape before the hockey world arrives here Thursday.
The Bruins enter the 2015 NHL Draft with seven picks. Unless Sweeney decides to make a few trades and improve the Bruins' draft position, Boston will select at No. 14 (first round), No. 37 (second round), No. 75 (third round), No. 105 (fourth round), No. 135 (fifth round), No. 165 (sixth round) and No. 195 (seventh round). Sweeney said he is not set on drafting a player due to a certain need, but instead wants the best player available at No. 14.
Sweeney said late last week that he's already engaged in good talks with GMs around the league, joking that everyone is playing nice in the sandbox despite his rookie GM status.
"Everybody's doing the same thing in terms of seeing what player movement may or may not be available and what draft positions are up for grabs or [possible] jockeying that may exist," Sweeney said. "Everybody is sort of in the same boat and taking inventory at this point in time," Sweeney said. "Not necessarily going to comment whether things are close or far away, but just have had a lot of conversations."
With the No. 14 overall pick, Sweeney believes that the 2015 draft class is deep enough that the first player the Bruins pick could have an immediate impact on the organization. A year ago, the Bruins selected forward David Pastrnak in the first round (No. 25 overall) and the teenager played a significant role for Boston during the second half of last season, proving he could handle the competition at the NHL level. Sweeney is confident there's another player out there this June that could make similar contributions.
"David’s a great indicator that anywhere in the draft, and as deep as the draft is, you can find guys that will surprise you," Sweeney said. "We feel very comfortable that there’s going to be a tremendous player at 14 and throughout the draft. The draft is deep and the first round is very exciting for everybody to be anticipating making choices."
That choice could be for Sweeney to make a deal and improve the team's draft position. He said he will evaluate every option and won't turn down anything if there's an opportunity to improve his team.
"We are comfortable because we feel very good about the list in general," Sweeney said. "We know the type of player, and the quality of player, that will be there. We’ve had talks moving in both directions, to be honest with you, and I think every general manager is going to have talks to see what may or may not transpire."
Sweeney also said Thursday that he would consider trading away a player’s rights “possibly before” the draft.
“My position on Adam McQuaid is I would love to have Adam McQuaid back with our group,” Sweeney said.
Despite cap constraints, Sweeney said he has communicated that with McQuaid’s agent.
Also on Sweeney's docket is trade talks, and speaking with agents of the team's restricted free agents. He spoke with RFA defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s agent, J.P. Barry, Wednesday night and the sides will continue talks this weekend.
Sweeney said he will exhaust discussions in an attempt to come to an agreement.
“Dougie’s a real important part of our organization and we’ve made no bones about the fact that I want him to be a part of that and we’re going to explore every opportunity to do that,” Sweeney said.
“I’ve had real good talks with Ryan’s group, and we’ll find a deal to be done there. I’ve started talks with Brett’s group, as well,” Sweeney said.