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The Martin Jones trade was not a mistake for Bruins

May 20, 2016, 3:35 PM ET [41 Comments]
Ty Anderson
Boston Bruins Blogger •Bruins Feature Columnist • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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Just about everything went wrong for Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney in his first year as the architect of the Black and Gold. Although the amount of blame he shoulders varies.

First, Dougie Hamilton didn’t want to be here. He was traded for three draft picks. Then the Bruins’ bid to move up in the draft to draft a defenseman to replace Hamilton crumbled pick after pick (it’s clear Noah Hanifin was their first choice). Sweeney intentionally traded a third-round pick for Zac Rinaldo. He moved Reilly Smith (and the Marc Savard contract the Bruins repeatedly stashed on the long-term injured reserve) for the maddeningly inconsistent Jimmy Hayes. Forward Lee Stempniak, who worked out in Boston in the offseason, turned down the club’s offer of a professional tryout, and ended up in Boston two draft picks later at the trade deadline.

Some of these things were Sweeney’s own doing, and others were merely out of his control.

But the criticism hasn’t ended just yet, as one of the pieces Sweeney moved out of town this summer, Martin Jones (part of the three-piece return the Bruins received from the Los Angeles Kings in the Milan Lucic to L.A. trade), is still playing -- and playing well -- for the San Jose Sharks.

In his first year with San Jose, the 26-year-old Jones won 37 of 65 starts, and posted a .918 save percentage and 2.27 goals against average. He parlayed that successful regular season into a postseason run that has put the Sharks just two wins away from their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in club history (only the 2004 Sharks have come as close as this group), and with a .927 save percentage and 1.89 goals against average this spring, Jones has been more than a passenger.

And with back-to-back shutouts and just one goal against on 71 shots against this series, Jones is yet another piece that Sweeney and the Bruins should not have traded out of Boston, you’ve heard.

The reality of the situation is that Jones, who was traded out of L.A. as a restricted free agent ready to become an NHL starter following an impressive two-year stretch as a bit player for the Kings, was never in Boston’s plans. At any point. Jones was always a trade chip for the Black and Gold, and the move would have been facilitated sooner had the Bruins been able to pull something off on draft night.

For that young defenseman, too. Had one of the draft’s big three defensemen taken in the top eight -- Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, or Zach Werenski -- fallen to San Jose’s No. 9 pick, Jones likely would have been moved to San Jose then and there for that pick. But Hanifin went to the ‘Canes at No. 5, Provorov went to the Flyers at No. 7, and Werenski went to the Jackets at No. 8, so that plan never materialized.

So the Bruins, with Jakub Zboril becoming the best available d-man and there at No. 13, instead waited a few days and opted to move Jones for a 2016 first rounder and prospect Sean Kuraly.

Still, the Bruins found a way to flip a goaltender with 16 wins in just 34 career games at the NHL level in two years (a goaltender that actually appeared to take a step back in his second year in the league, too), into a first-round draft pick and a solid NCAA prospect (Kuraly had 19 goals and 29 points in 40 games in 2014-15). Without a crystal ball, that’s an easy trade to make for any general manager.

And this ignores the fact that the Bruins already had an elite netminder in Tuukka Rask.

Did Rask have a great 2015-16 season? Of course not. I think he’d be one of the first to tell you that this was a rougher season. Rask finished the year with 31 wins in 62 starts, and a .915 save percentage (his lowest in any year as a starting netminder). He was also unavailable for the final game of the regular season due to a sickness that left him incapable of skating in anything close to game action.

But you were not moving Rask, a Vezina winner and a goaltender that took you to the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, for a guy with 34 games of big league experience. At that point, with Lucic and Hamilton already gone, that’s insane, and potentially franchise-altering. And not in the good way, either.

(Hell, before the playoffs started, you still might not have an interest in making that trade.)

The reality is that Jones is hot right now, and Rask is at home. And has been for almost two months. But Jonathan Quick, the guy Jones sat behind for two years, is back at home out of the playoffs, too. His season lasted two weeks longer than Rask’s did. It’s a tough look for either team depending on how you skew it. But that skew also dispels the notion that these goaltenders are not as accomplished as Jones, after just one season as a starting netminder. Which is completely, 100 percent wrong.

Put Rask behind a defense like San Jose’s and the Bruins might still be playing. In fact, if you do, they absolutely are and Rask is leading the charge, something he proved with a ‘13 playoff run that included an even more impressive Conference Finals series against a high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins group.

Unfortunately for the Bruins and No. 40, that’s something Rask cannot prove this year.

But that’s not because of the Jones trade.

Ty Anderson has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, has been a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter since 2013, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com.
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