BOSTON - The National Hockey League announced today, May 16, that Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney has been named a finalist for the 2019 NHL General Manager of the Year Award. Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell and St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong are the other two finalists for the award. The winner is selected in a poll of NHL General Managers at the end of the regular season and will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 19.
Sweeney has overseen the construction of a team that finished the 2018-19 regular season in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 49-24-9 record (107 points) and has advanced to the Eastern Conference Final for the eighth time since the round was introduced in 1982. With a win Thursday night over Carolina, the Bruins would advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the last decade and the first time since 2013.
Over the last year, Sweeney has made several moves to add key pieces to the team's strong core group of players. His depth signings helped keep the Bruins near the top of the NHL standings throughout the season despite losing 253 total man-games due to injury, including Patrice Bergeron (16 games), Brandon Carlo (9 games), Zdeno Chara (19 games), Jake DeBrusk (14 games), Matt Grzelcyk (14 games), Marcus Johansson (10 games), Torey Krug (17 games), Sean Kuraly (10 games), Charlie McAvoy (27 games), Kevan Miller (44 games), Joakim Nordstrom (10 games) and David Pastrnak (16 games).
Sweeney's work began at the end of the 2017-18 season, when he signed two young players that would contribute to this year's team. Forward Karson Kuhlman was signed to a 2-year contract on April 10, 2018, and defenseman Connor Clifton was signed to a 2-year contract on May 3, 2018. Kuhlman, 23, skated in 11 regular season games with the Bruins, notching three goals and two assists with a plus-five rating, while adding two assists in six postseason games. Clifton, 24, skated in 19 regular season games, tallying one assist with a plus-five rating, and adding one goal and two assists in 11 postseason games.
At the opening of free agency on July 1, 2018, Sweeney made several signings to bolster the team's depth: goaltender Jaroslav Halak was inked to a 2-year contract with annual cap hit of $2.75 million, defenseman John Moore was signed to a 5-year contract with annual cap hit of $2.75 million, forward Joakim Nordstrom was signed to a 2-year contract with annual cap hit of $1 million, and forward Chris Wagner was inked to a 2-year contract with annual cap hit of $1.25 million. Halak helped keep starting netminder Tuukka Rask fresh by appearing in 40 regular season games, recording a 22-11-4 record with five shutouts (T-6th in NHL), a 2.34 GAA (6th in NHL, min. 30 starts) and .922 save percentage (8th in NHL, min. 30 starts). Moore was a regular contributor on the team's back end, skating in 61 regular season games, posting four goals and nine assists. Nordstrom was an integral part of the team's penalty kill unit, while also chipping in offensively with seven goals and five assists in 70 regular season appearances. He has added two goals and two assists in 15 games this postseason. Wagner, a Walpole, MA native, was the recipient of NESN's 7th Player Award, given annually to the Bruin who exceeded fan expectations, after tallying a career-high 12 goals and six assists with a team-high 247 hits and a plus-two rating in 74 regular season games. He has also chipped in two goals in 12 postseason games.
On July 2, Sweeney retained restricted free agent Sean Kuraly by signing him to a 3-year contract with annual cap hit of $1.275 million. Kuraly responded with the best season of his career, posting eight goals and 13 assists with a plus-six rating in 71 regular season games. The 26-year-old has also continued his strong postseason play with two goals and three assists in 12 playoff games.
Prior to the start of the regular season, Sweeney dealt longtime Bruin Adam McQuaid to the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Steve Kampfer and a 2019 fourth-round pick. Kampfer saw action in 35 games this season, producing his best offensive year since 2010-11 with three goals and three assists. He also scored the opening goal in a Game 1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
Sweeney made two additional moves at the 2019 trade deadline to help add to the team's depth and skill. On February 20, 2019, he acquired forward Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Ryan Donato and a 2019 conditional fifth-round pick. Five days later, he acquired forward Marcus Johansson from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 2019 second-round pick and 2020 fourth-round pick. Coyle tallied two goals and four assists in 21 regular season games with the Bruins but has exploded offensively in the postseason with six goals (T-5th in NHL) and six assists for 12 points (T-11th in NHL) with a plus-nine rating (3rd in NHL). Likewise, Johansson chipped in one goal and two assists in 10 regular season games but has taken on a larger role in the postseason with three goals and six assists for nine points in 14 games.
Sweeney has been in the Bruins front office since 2006 and was officially named the team's General Manager on May 20, 2015. Since taking over that role, the Bruins have compiled a 143-75-28 record, ranking third in the NHL in wins (143) and points (314), sixth in goals (756), first in goals allowed (632), third in power play (23.7%), first in penalty kill (83.2%), and tied for fifth in faceoff win percentage (51.6%).