On Friday, June 19, General Manager Don Sweeney took time to answer questions from the press about his vision of the draft and the team before he and his staff headed off for the NHL Awards followed immediately by the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
To say that Sweeney has been kicking back would be a mistake. He’s been working the phones—like every other general manager in the league—trying to get a feel for the view of the draft and the landscape before him. And while some media were hoping he would let something slip about potential player movement, in true GM fashion, he held things close to the vest. He did say that there had been some good talks and that he and his staff, along with management of the other teams were taking inventory—even mentioned that both Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Stan Bowman of the Chicago Blackhawks were already working the phones, despite their seasons having just ended.
Obviously the Boston Bruins are up against the cap ceiling this season and that will play a role in some of the choices that Sweeney and his staff will have to make about those players whose contracts are up. In addition to Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, who found out on breakup day that their time with the Bruins had come to an end, there are a number of other free agents waiting to hear if they will be moving; among them forward Carl Soderberg and defensemen Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski.
A couple of recent signings that were announced on Thursday, June 18, with the two-way contracts for forward Tyler Randell and defenseman Tommy Cross—both of whom played with the AHL affiliated Providence Bruins this past season—could be a clue as to how the club is planning on dealing with a couple of their free agents.
Sweeney did indicate that he had been in contact with the agents of all three of the free agents mentioned by name: Bartowksi, McQuaid and Soderberg. And though he would love to keep everyone, he pointed out that it was a given that not all three of them would be back when the season begins. Also mentioned when talk of Soderberg came up was Joonas Kemppainen who the Bruins had signed to a one-year, two-way contract in May. The 27-year-old, Sweeney mentioned, was a similar player to Soderberg in his skill set and with his maturity and professional experience with the Finnish Elite League that he was ready to show what he can do. Sweeney indicated that Kemppainen will be at development camp in addition to rookie camp so that he has a good sense of the Bruins’ ideology when training camp begins.
When asked about the learning curve as the new General Manager, Sweeney said that he was very fortunate to have support and guidance both internally and externally. He pointed out how the GMs of the other teams had offered him advice and he appreciated that.
“I’ve talked and made trades at different times or been in on trade situations, but again you’re making the call and you’re sort of asking and answering,” Sweeney said. “But I think the general managers have been very helpful in that regard to say ‘Look this is stuff that stays between us’ when you go to talk about players because it is. It’s not just moving pieces along a chess board, it’s real people and you have to understand the privacy involved is paramount in this job.”
Despite his appreciation of the guidance of the other GMs, he has his eyes wide open. When asked if particular GMs had helped him, he kept things general saying that all had been very good. But he knows where each individual GM’s focus is–on their own team.
“I think they’ve all been very very good and maybe they’re playing nice in the sandbox and with my first salvo in terms of looking to see how I’ll react,” he said. “But overall, I think they’ve been very very helpful, every one of them. Doesn’t mean they’re not trying to improve their own team, I’ll tell you that.”
With his deep involvement in past Bruins’ development camps, Sweeney’s perhaps got a better understanding of the depth of the team he now leads. Couple that with the many different roles he has had in the organization over the years, and the new General Manager has an institutional knowledge that could prove essential as management makes their choices at the 2015 Entry Level Draft this weekend.