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Bruins GM Sweeney says team not rebuilding

by Matt Kalman / NHL.com

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Tuesday they are not in rebuilding mode.

During the past week the Bruins traded forward Milan Lucic and defenseman Dougie Hamilton for draft picks and prospects. Lucic's 44 points were third on the Bruins this season, and Hamilton's 42 points led Boston defensemen.

"I don't think it's a rebuild. We didn't strip this down," said Sweeney, who was promoted last month from assistant general manager to replace Peter Chiarelli. "We have a tremendous core group of guys that are going to obviously carry an even heavier load here in the short term while these other kids can come in and start to take footing. ... I've always referenced that we need patience in terms of development and then we also, we can't be impatient in terms of the integration."

Sweeney made another trade Tuesday, sending goaltender Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks for a first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and the rights to forward prospect Sean Kuraly.

Jones had been acquired along with defenseman Colin Miller and the 13th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft from the Los Angeles Kings for Lucic on Friday. That same day the Bruins traded Hamilton to the Calgary Flames for the 15th pick of the 2015 draft and two 2015 second-round picks. Hamilton signed a multiyear contract with the Flames on Tuesday.

With the 13th, 14th and 15th picks Friday, the Bruins selected defenseman Jakub Zboril and forwards Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn.

The nine players Boston selected at the draft aren't expected to be part of the attempt to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time in eight seasons. That’s where Sweeney said he is going to rely on reinforcements from the farm system, as well as through trades and free agency. The free agent signing period begins Wednesday at noon ET.

The Bruins are approximately $7 million below the $71.4 million salary-cap ceiling with restricted free agents Brett Connolly and Ryan Spooner left to sign, according to war-on-ice.com.

With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci set as the top two centers, goaltender Tuukka Rask signed long term, and five of seven defensemen from 2014-15 still on the roster, Sweeney probably will focus on adding help on the wings. The Bruins were 22nd in the League in scoring (2.55 goals per game) but have some pieces they're hoping can mature.

Right wing David Pastrnak scored 10 goals in 46 games as an 18-year old rookie, and 24-year-old Reilly Smith had 13 goals in 81 games after scoring 20 in 2013-14. Spooner had five goals and eight points in the final 12 games of the season, and Connolly, who was acquired March 2 from the Tampa Bay Lightning, was the sixth pick in the 2010 draft and is 23.

Still, Sweeney said he will look outside the organization for help.

"I would definitely look at players that have the ability to score some goals that maybe ... are jumping into that next level of scoring and they might not have had a full body [of work], or players that have had a full body," Sweeney said. "And there's a lot of players both in UFA [unrestricted free agency] and I think in the trade market that can be explored. And we're going to do whatever we have to do continue to explore to improve our club both internally and externally in terms of evaluating who may be able to jump up."

Sweeney said the Bruins also could be active on the trade market.

"I do believe that the trade market is one that teams are pursuing from a hockey-trade perspective," he said. "I just think every team tries to look at their own players and possibly re-sign their own players. And when you get in situations and player movement becomes a part of that. Obviously the cap is a big function in all of this; at times makes it more restrictive. But I do believe, in talking with a number of general managers, that the trade market is one that people are pursuing, yes."

Sweeney has shown his willingness to make changes, and that's not going to change going forward.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm going to deliver or promise something because that's not how it works," he said. "We're looking at every different level, to the trade, to the free agent market, to improve our club. And if it doesn't materialize as of tomorrow, then I'm sure criticism will come again. I understand that. That's part of the chair that I'm now sitting in."

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