What can we learn from Don Sweeney's busy trade deadline history?

What can we learn from Don Sweeney's busy trade deadline history? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has been one of the busiest trade deadline execs in the NHL since he replaced Peter Chiarelli in 2015.

The results have been quite positive, too.

Sweeney has pulled off more than 10 trade deadline moves during that span. Many of them have worked out, evidenced by his team's seven consecutive playoff appearances. None of the prospects or roster players he has traded away became stars. He has traded a ton of draft picks, including five of the Bruins' last seven first-round picks (including 2024), but that's often the cost of doing business for contenders trying to make upgrades at the trade deadline.

Last season was one of Sweeney's most aggressive trade deadlines. He brought in three respected players -- a top-four defenseman, a middle-six forward and a bottom-six forward. The Bruins fell shockingly short of expectations with a first-round playoff upset, but that failure was on the players. Sweeney put together an elite roster.

What can we learn from Sweeney's previous moves as the 2024 trade deadline on March 8 approaches?

First, here's a recap of Sweeney's trade deadline history as GM.


  • Acquired: Lee Stempniak, John Michael-Liles

  • Sent out: Anthony Camara, 2016 third-round pick, 2016 fourth-round pick, 2017 second-round pick, 2017 fourth-round pick


  • Acquired: Drew Stafford

  • Sent out: 2018 fifth-round pick


  • Acquired: Rick Nash, Nick Holden, Tommy Wingels, 2018 third-round pick

  • Sent out: Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner, Matt Belesky, Rob O'Gara, Ryan Lindgren, 2018 first-round pick, 2018 third-round pick, 2019 fourth-round pick, 2019 seventh-round pick


  • Acquired: Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson

  • Sent out: Ryan Donato, 2019 second-round pick, 2019 fourth-round pick, 2020 fourth-round pick


  • Acquired: Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase

  • Sent out: Danton Heinen, David Backes, Axel Andersson, 2020 first-round pick


  • Acquired: Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, Mike Reilly

  • Sent out: Anders Bjork, 2021 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick


  • Acquired: Hampus Lindholm, Kodie Curran, Josh Brown

  • Sent out: Urho Vaakanainen, Zach Senyshyn, John Moore, 2022 first-round pick, 2023 second-round pick, 2024 second-round pick


  • Acquired: Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Tyler Bertuzzi

  • Sent out: Craig Smith, 2023 first-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick, 2024 first-round pick (top-10 protected), 2024 third-round pick, 2025 second-round pick, 2025 fourth-round pick

What trends have emerged from Sweeney's moves?

He has made at least one deal before the trade deadline in each of his eight years as Bruins GM. He has acquired multiple players in seven of those eight trade deadlines. On two occasions, he acquired both a forward and a defenseman who played meaningful minutes.

The timing of these trades has often come near the deadline, mostly within a week and many within 24-48 hours.

Sweeney made the Tyler Bertuzzi trade one day prior to the 2023 deadline. He acquired Taylor Hall and Mike Reilly in separate deals within 24 hours of the 2021 deadline. He pulled off the Hampus Lindholm deal two days before the 2022 deadline.

Sweeney added Marcus Johansson on deadline day in 2019, as well as Charlie Coyle five days before. His blockbuster deal for Rick Nash came one day before the deadline in 2018.

Hampus Lindholm
The Bruins signed Hampus Lindholm to an eight-year extension shortly after acquiring him via trade.

It's not a huge surprise that Sweeney has made many of these trades within a week of the deadline. Sellers often hold out as long as they can in an effort to extract the most assets from contenders.

Sweeney also has sought players who can be extended beyond the season in which they were acquired. He re-signed Hall and Reilly. He inked Lindholm to an eight-year extension a couple days after trading for him. Coyle signed a six-year extension about nine months after being acquired. Pavel Zacha was acquired in August of 2022, not before the trade deadline, but he's another example of a player brought in via trade who ultimately signed an extension.

Sweeney has acquired plenty of rentals during his B's tenure. But it's much easier to give up premium draft picks and prospects for veteran players when they're not rentals. This strategy has become fairly common in today's NHL, and it's one reason why fewer and fewer elite players are hitting free agency. Sweeney has been at the forefront of this trend for a while.

So, what about 2024?

It's going to be difficult for Sweeney to continue some of the trends we've seen from him at previous trade deadlines. For starters, he doesn't have a 2024 first-round pick. The Bruins don't even have a pick until the fourth round in 2024. They don't own second- and fourth-round picks in 2025.

!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(a){if(void 0!["datawrapper-height"]){var e=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var t in["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<e.length;r++)if(e[r].contentWindow===a.source){var["datawrapper-height"][t]+"px";e[r].style.height=i}}}))}();

The Bruins also lack salary cap space. They have about $112,500 of room, per CapFriendly. Only the Islanders and Senators have more cap space right now. The B's don't have the benefit of having a player with a good-sized cap hit on LTIR. There are few options to create space, and none of them -- outside of trading a meaningful player off the roster -- would create much room. Teams that retain salary in trades often seek extra compensation for doing so, and as mentioned above, the B's lack significant draft capital. Boston's prospect pool is not highly regarded and ranked 30th out of 32 teams in The Athletic's updated analysis.

We should expect Sweeney to at least try to make a move or two in the coming weeks.

This year's Bruins squad is worth investing in. They enter Tuesday leading the Florida Panthers by one point atop the Atlantic Division standings and own the best record in the Eastern Conference at 33-12-11. There's no dominant team in either conference to fear come playoff time.

Making substantial moves seems unlikely for the Bruins this season given their lack of premium draft capital and prospects, plus a severe lack of cap space. But Sweeney has been in similar positions in the past and still made good upgrades to his roster, so it'll be fascinating to see what he does before March 8.