BOSTON - The Bruins added more versatility to their forward group at Monday's trade deadline with the acquisition of Marcus Johansson from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 fourth-round pick.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney noted Johansson's flexibility as one of his most attractive assets, with the 28-year-old bringing the ability to play all three forward positions and scoring touch to the top nine.
"It's something that we felt coming down the stretch that we still could use that," said Sweeney, who also negotiated that New Jersey would retain 40 percent of Johansson's remaining salary. "I'm proud of our guys. What a hell of a trip they had against real tough teams to play against on the road, and we come back from that and we're in decent position, but we've got a long way to go."
Johansson, an unrestricted free agent at season's end, appeared in 48 games with the Devils this year, totaling 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points - inlcuding 12 points (six goals, six assists) over his last 13 games. Originally a first-round pick (24th overall) by the Washington Capitals in 2009, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Sweden native produced his best offensive season in 2016-17 with 24 goals and 34 assists for 58 points in 82 games with the Caps.
"He has produced," said Sweeney, who confirmed that Johansson would be in the lineup on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. "He can play in different roles. He's a three-position player, as well, primarily playing more on the left side, but he has played a lot of center - he was drafted as center.
"If [coach Bruce Cassidy] felt more comfortable moving Charlie [Coyle] once [David Pastrnak] comes back to wing for production…those are things that the coach now feels like he has those clubs."
Video: Sweeney discusses trade acquisitions
Sweeney said that he has been pleased with the play of young wingers Peter Cehlarik and Karson Kuhlman in top-six roles - both were assigned to Providence on Monday afternoon - but that the team needed more depth, especially with the news that Pastrnak (thumb surgery) would be out for at least two more weeks.
"It's not an indoctrination of Cehlarik and/or Kuhlman that we have roster flexibility," said Sweeney. "They've done a great job and worked their way into being a big part of our group. But I think overall, we all acknowledged internally that we could use a little more depth."
Pastrnak skated on Monday for about 15 minutes without a stick, marking the first time since his thumb procedure that he took the ice. Still Boston's leading goal scorer (31) after missing the last six games, the winger will be in a cast for at least the next two weeks, before transitioning into a splint.
"Then it's a matter of comfort," Sweeney said of a potential return. "When he's able to be the most comfortable. He won't have any restrictions at that point in time…he's a tough kid that wants to play hockey. You already saw him skating today. The first thing he said to me is, 'I'll be back sooner than anyone expects.'
"And I think he'll be perfectly fine. It'll be a little bit different just because he's had a procedure done, but he'll get past it. He'll be fine. I spoke with the doctor today, and he feels great about where David's at."
After surrendering a first-round pick at last season's deadline as part of the package for Rick Nash, Sweeney admitted to being hesitant at moving another first-rounder, as well some of the Bruins' top prospects, saying it was "really important" to hold onto those assets. At the same time, Sweeney felt inclined to add secondary scoring, which he was able to do by moving lower picks and nothing off the current roster.
"We were in on a bunch of things to explore what we would have liked to improve our club for now and moving forward, without necessarily handcuffing ourselves and continuing to keep a long-term vision in place," said Sweeney, who acquired Coyle from Minnesota last Wednesday for Ryan Donato and a conditional fifth-round pick. "But we're also trying to win…we also were looking for a player that would be excited to join our club…and I think he's happy with knowing where our club is at currently and the fact that he goes right into a competitive atmosphere."
Video: B's add Marcus Johansson
Sweeney was not concerned that there would be any tension between Johansson and Brad Marchand, who was suspended five games last season after an elbow to Johansson's head during a January game at TD Garden. Johansson suffered a concussion on the hit.
"In the moment it's not great, not great for the player," said Sweeney. "March felt bad about it. He wasn't trying to hurt the player, and he paid the price for that…I've seen a lot of tough guys have a beef then go out and have a beer afterwards, so I think it'll be perfectly fine, and March will be the first one to welcome him aboard. That's the teammate he is.
"I think [Johansson's] quick line was, 'I'd much rather be playing with Marchand than against.'"
With Johansson and Coyle now in the mix up front, and his team fresh off a 4-0-1 Western Conference road trip and in the midst of a 13-game points streak, Sweeney said he is "excited for our guys and where they're at," while acknowledging that there is plenty of work to be done over the final six weeks of the regular season to solidify playoff positioning.
"We have to try to get in," said Sweeney. "When we came off the trip, we knew it was a really tough trip, and the guys did really well, and now we have a really tough homestand. It doesn't make it any easier playing San Jose at home [Tuesday] and facing Tampa at the other side of it.
"Fifteen games in 30 days, it's going to be a grind, and I think every team feels that way… but our guys are in a position to try and win. And it's a tough task, a long road ahead."