The Boston Bruins aren't waiting for deadline day to gear up for the stretch run.
The NHL's top team acquired defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from the Capitals on Thursday, sending forward Craig Smith along with a 2023 first-round pick, a 2025 second-rounder and a 2024 third the other way.
To make the salary work, the Minnesota Wild got involved in the trade, securing a fifth-round pick to retain a portion of Orlov’s salary.
In short, it’s another “rich get richer” trade in an increasingly terrifying Atlantic Division bracket, as this comes shortly after the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Ryan O’Reilly. Let’s delve deeper into the details of a trade highlighted by the addition of Orlov, an underrated defenseman.
Meanwhile, the Capitals finally added some future pieces for a blueliner on an expiring contract.
Again, the big takeaway here is the Bruins landed Orlov, a 31-year-old defenseman who is better than many people likely realize. That seems to be the theme of responses to this move: if the asking price is so high for a defenseman with arguably inflated value in Vladislav Gavrikov, why not instead seek Orlov?
Dmitry Orlov is better than Vladislav Gavrikov pic.twitter.com/UXvpceCBhf
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) February 23, 2023
While Orlov is respectable in his own end, he brings an interesting wrinkle by potentially giving the Bruins an extra dynamic element.
Do not sleep on Orlov offensively or in transition. Really is one of the most prolific and effective puck-movers out there.
The defensive impact this season is sketchier but he has a solid track record. #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/LwJdRO06hQ
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 23, 2023
The Bruins already possessed what was likely the best defense in the NHL. Now they add someone who was already playing big minutes, but can now feast on slightly (or much) easier assignments. If injuries strike, Boston is unusually well-suited to handle losses.
Speaking of underrated, Hathaway may also bring more value than one might first assume:
— EvolvingWild (@EvolvingWild) February 23, 2023
The Atlantic Division playoff bracket looks like a beast. The Bruins might face a relatively scary first-round threat in the Panthers or Penguins, while the Maple Leafs and Lightning appear destined to meet once again. Whoever reaches the Eastern Conference Final may have endured two slugfests before having to duke it out with the Rangers or Hurricanes. Yikes.
Capitals see writing on the wall? Wild retain salary in another trade
However, a smart team will take stock of an outlook beyond limping into the playoffs. The Capitals approach this offseason with a lot of question marks on defense — they still have seven blueliners on expiring deals listed on their main roster at Cap Friendly, and that’s after trading Orlov — so it makes sense to shed at least one option. That thought only becomes more pertinent if Orlov demands an extension approaching six years.
As of this writing, the Capitals possess two first-rounders (theirs, plus the Bruins’ pick) in the 2023 NHL draft. They lack their third and sixth-rounders, but overall enter a generally well-regarded draft with a nice volume of selections. It’s plausible they could stock up more, too.
One would assume the Capitals would bring some of those defensemen back, particularly pending RFA Martin Fehérváry, who is just 23. That said, other veteran blueliners could yield some picks or prospects, including Erik Gustafsson (30 years old), Trevor van Riemsdyk (31), and Nick Jensen (32).
Craig Smith, 33, is in the last year of a deal that carries a $3.1M cap hit. While he got lost in the shuffle on a deep Bruins team, it’s not out of the question that he could help Washington — or maybe even someone else?
The Wild retained $1.275 million of Orlov’s salary after retaining $1.875M to help make the O’Reilly trade happen. For their trouble, they’ve added a fifth-rounder in 2023 and a 2025 fourth-round pick. It’s not the sexiest way to weaponize salary cap space, especially for a team with some ambitions, but it’s better than squandering it altogether. Time will tell if the Wild add a help-now player via trade, or just stick with the retention route.