Sweeney’s first draft as Bruins general manager was a whirlwind. On the opening day of the draft, Sweeney made two major trades (Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton were moved) and selected three players (Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn) in the first round.
The second day was not much quieter, as Sweeney made seven more picks over the draft’s final six rounds to bring Boston’s total to 10.
There is no telling what will happen this year in Buffalo, but with one draft under his belt Sweeney feels he has a stronger grasp on what to expect.
“You’d like to say you learn from experience and your feet are on the ground and you feel like you have a better lay of the land,” Sweeney said Thursday night at his pre-draft media availability in Buffalo.
“The last few days we’ve been in and out of meetings, on and off the phones to find out what’s available, and exploring every different option. But we’re excited about the draft.
“That’s what we’re here for, to continue to build.”
Sweeney knows what he wants to accomplish this weekend and hopes that when he returns to Boston on Saturday night the organization will be in a better position to succeed into the future.
The Bruins have seven drafts picks, including two first-rounders (14th and 29th), a second, two fifths, a sixth, and a seventh.
“My job is to build the best hockey team that I can possibly build for this year and going forward, having an opportunity to win each and every year,” said Sweeney.
“We have to be very cognizant if we have the opportunity to improve our team and be that – as I described – competitive team that’s in position to be in the playoff race and win.
“That’s the only goal we have – that’s it.”
The second-year GM acknowledged he hasn’t “hidden the fact that we would like to explore adding a defenseman.”
“We have two first-round picks, so I’m exploring all opportunities with them,” said Sweeney. “I feel very good about making two selections if that’s the direction we go, if the acquisition cost [for a defenseman] is too high.”
While not completely ruling out a deal for a veteran blueliner, should the right one come his way, Sweeney is confident in the abilities of the Providence defensive corps to provide help to the big club at some point – specifically mentioning Brandon Carlo, Rob O’Gara, and Matt Grzelcyk.
“It’s just a matter of whether or not it lines up,” said Sweeney. “We’ve had targets, we’ve had people that we think are going to improve our hockey club and there are plenty of them still available.
“Whether or not they land, I can’t sit here and tell you tonight with absolute certainty that one of them is coming our way, but we’re in talks with several of them to see.
“I’m not going to chase it, because I think that our younger players are going to push. But again, we’re going to look to improve in every way, shape, or form we can.”
Ultimately, that is what this weekend is all about.
“We’re in a competitive business, in a market that wants to win,” said Sweeney. “I can tell you that nobody wants to win more than I do in anything that I do, but I’m not going to put the team in a bad situation going forward if it all possible.”
Sweeney has been in talks with Loui Eriksson’s agent, J.P. Barry, regarding a new contract for the winger, who can become a free agent on July 1. The Bruins GM expects to have another discussion with Barry in the near future to see if there has been any progress towards a deal.
“We’ll take one more stab at it to see if he thinks the internal landscape is as green as we think it is, as opposed to what the outside may look like,” said Sweeney.
“Obviously he’s on the cusp of maybe exploring things and may see otherwise. I told you all along that my position was we really value Loui and what he brings to the table and we’d like to find a fit, but it may not happen.”
Sweeney said he has not had any conversations about trading Eriksson’s rights to another club.
Sweeney also revealed he has spoken with veterans Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles, both impending free agents who were acquired at last season’s trade deadline.
“I’m in discussions with Lee, his group,” said Sweeney. “I’ve been in talks with John-Michael’s group as well. We’re just kind of fitting the pieces together on the other things that we’re exploring and where we want to go.”
Defenseman Zach Trotman and goalie Jonas Gustavsson will be heading to the open market.
“Zach Trotman will be a group six [free agent], he will not be returning, will be going to market. Whether we explore that after the fact, possibly,” Sweeney said.
“I’ve spoken to [Gustavsson’s] camp – we’ve got obviously a strong internal candidate in Malcolm [Subban] in that regard. But we’re going to look at all the possibilities for goaltending.”
Sweeney said Torey Krug (right shoulder), David Krejci (left hip), and Matt Beleskey (left hand), who all had surgery earlier this offseason, “are progressing very well, very well.”
According to Sweeney, there has been no decision made on who will take over for Bruce Cassidy as the head coach in Providence, but progress is being made. “This is a tough time period, but we’ve had discussions with several quality candidates, so we may have some closure on that in a short period of time,” he said.