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Bruins Add Stafford to the Mix at Deadline

Drew Stafford joins a group that has gone 7-1-0 in its last eight games

by Caryn Switaj @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - Heading into the NHL's 2017 Trade Deadline, Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was not anxious to complete a deal just for the sake of doing something. 

 

"You realize what the team needs and how well they're playing, [and ask] 'Do you have enough depth?'" Sweeney said on Tuesday night, prior to Wednesday's 3:00 p.m. EST deadline. "But it's always been with an eye towards the commitment to what we've put in place moving forward."

 

Sweeney continued to explore options on deadline day, and one presented itself that he and his staff felt would help the team - a team that has gone 9-3-0 in its last 12 games and 7-1-0 in its last eight.  

On Wednesday just before 5:30 p.m., Sweeney announced that the Bruins acquired forward Drew Stafford from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

 

One condition is based upon if the Bruins make the playoffs, and another if Stafford plays in a certain amount of games and Boston wins - the highest the pick could move up is to the fourth round. 

 

"We're fortunate that we were able to add Drew to our lineup," Sweeney told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday evening at Warrior Ice Arena. "I felt that it was an area that we could add, and I was going to look to do that without pulling away into the things that we'd been committed to doing."

 

"Excited about a player that has the ability to play up and down the lineup, has scoring attributes, has some size and strength, and hopefully will be a good complement to our group."

 

The 31-year-old Stafford is in his 11th season in the NHL and has appeared in 40 games with Winnipeg this season, recording four goals and nine assists for 13 points. The 6-foot-2, 214-pound forward has skated in 707 career NHL games, compiling 179 goals and 213 assists for 392 points. He has also suited up in 24 playoff games in his career, posting four goals and five assists for nine points. 

 

Stafford played his first nine NHL seasons with Buffalo (2006-15), where he was drafted 13th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. 

 

"I think he can play probably anywhere on the right side," Sweeney said of the right shot forward. "Good shot, strength, can get to the net, and has power play acumen, has a good shot, so hopefully he can contribute in all those areas."

 

Stafford is set to fly into Boston on Thursday. He will not be at pregame skate, but will arrive prior to the Bruins' game against the New York Rangers at TD Garden. 

 

"That is a coach's decision, in terms where he decides to play him, if he decides to play him, and with whom he decides to play him," said Sweeney. "I think he has some versatility - we talked about, as a group, over the past couple of days, but that will be a coach's decision."

 

The former Jet has had a down year offensively in Winnipeg. He put up 21 goals and 17 assists for 38 points in 2015-16 with the Jets. 

 

"You'd have to ask Drew when he gets here [why his numbers have dropped off]," said Sweney. "In talking with him [on Wednesday], I think with a player like [Patrik] Laine coming into their lineup, maybe some situational opportunities were a little different for him, another pretty good player in [Nikolaj] Ehlers, and Drew had a pretty consistent scoring record until this year, so hopefully he'll jump right back in and be somewhat invigorated."

 

Stafford is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. 

 

"Going to be somewhat performance related and where our other young players fit in along those lines," said Sweeney, in regards to Stafford joining the team on a short-term basis. "And we have some other players that are likely to come on line here in the next little while and we're going to evaluate them as well, where Drew fits in, but we're staying in the moment and he's excited about the opportunity."

 

Video: Bruins acquire Drew Stafford from Winnipeg

 

Pleased With Response

 

The Bruins' recent play certainly played a role in Sweeney's decision making. 

 

"I'm very happy with how our team has responded here, and I think that adding to the group continues to send the message that the group has played well," said Sweeney. "And it's a nice response and it's not a big surprise that our core players are leading that charge."

 

"They want to win, and they want to feel like they're being supported, so that's what the task was at this particular time, without taking away from or breaking down as I've always said, the commitment piece of what we want to do now and moving forward."

 

With 19 games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins sit in third place in the Atlantic Division in a playoff spot above Toronto. 

 

"Our players have played well," said Sweeney. "We've had some players that responded to some situations they've been put in. Our core players are not surprising me in the roles that they've taken in the last little while and hopefully going forward."

 

"So, again, trying to commit to them and a winning approach that we're always going to maintain here, but understanding the striking deals that you describe are pretty difficult without sacrificing some of the things we've committed to."

 

Under Interim Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have posted a 7-1-0 record that could very well have been 8-0-0 if the Bruins had not allowed a late goal in Anaheim on their recent road trip. The team has been playing with pace, and producing results. 

 

"Success is definitely defined by the results, and the results have been pretty good," said Sweeney. "Let's hope that that continues. Again, it's the players that have stepped up. The coaches have prepared and there's been some changes and tweaks in things, but it's been a nice response."

 

"It's nice to see the players - they get the credit for the most part with the coaches support. But, Bruce has been good. It's been a nice start for him. A really nice start."

 

Other Considerations 

 

During the press conference, Sweeney was asked if he was involved in any deals regarding a backup goaltender. 

 

"Again, had some discussions along those lines, acknowledging that Anton [Khudobin] has played better in his last two starts and where we are [on Wednesday], he's backup, so hopefully he continues to play that way," said Sweeney. 

 

Sweeney was also asked if he looked to improve the left side on defense. 

 

"Well, not necessarily. John-Michael Liles went in and played. Kevan's flip-flopped, I think he's done a pretty admirable job, to tell you the truth, of being able to flip-flop," said Sweeney. "Our D has played well, and I hope they continue to be healthy and play well. We're not going to shy away from the fact that I explored situations that might help our team and will continue to do so. But, I think our D has played well."

 

College Free Agents

 

Around this time of year, as college teams fall out of the playoffs, NHL team generally look to pick up college free agents. 

 

"From the college free agent standpoint, that's an ongoing process, we're always involved in that, but, we do have some players that we're going to make decisions on, or they're going to make decisions in the coming weeks," said Sweeney. "And we have flexibility to be able to do that - to add those players contractually and bring them into the fold if that's we decide to do and that's what they decide to do. We're excited about it."

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