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GM Don Sweeney shows measure of support for surging Bruins by trading for Drew Stafford

March 2, 2017 GMT

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney managed to get out of yesterday’s trade deadline without giving up any prime prospects or picks while also giving his team a little reward for the stretch run.

While it looked as if he might stand pat, Sweeney made a last-minute acquisition, getting right-shooting winger Drew Stafford from the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2018.

Stafford is in the last year of a deal that has a $4.3 million cap hit. The 31-year-old has just 4-9-13 totals in 40 games this season for the Jets. He had a decent 2015-16 season with 21 goals. The former first-round draft pick had his best season with the Buffalo Sabres in 2010-11, when he notched 31-21-52 totals in 62 games.

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In 24 career playoff games, he has 4-5-9 totals.

“We’re fortunate that we were able to add Drew to our lineup,” said Sweeney. “We felt that it was an area where we could add and that I was going to look to do that, without pulling away any of the things that we’ve been committed to doing. We’re excited about a player that can play up and down the lineup, that has some scoring attributes with some size and strength and hopefully he’ll be a good complement to our group.”

If Stafford plays 50 percent of the Bruins’ remaining 19 games and the B’s make the playoffs, the sixth-round pick becomes a fifth. The pick then is elevated to a fourth-rounder if they win a playoff series.

Asked where he thought Stafford would slot in to the lineup, Sweeney said: “That will be the coach’s decision where he decides to play him, if he decides to play him and with whom he decides to play him.”

One of the most obvious potential spots for Stafford would be on the third line, which would bump out the slumping Jimmy Hayes. Stafford could also add more of a scoring element to the fourth line and could also bolster the power play.

Wherever he ends up, we probably won’t find out tonight vs. the Rangers. Sweeney said that he will travel from Winnipeg to Boston during the day and won’t be at the morning skate.

As for Stafford’s drop in production this season, Sweeney surmised that it had something to do with the Jets’ high-end youth movement.

“In talking with him today, with a player like (Patrik) Laine coming into the lineup, there may be have some situational opportunities that were a little different for him,” Sweeney said. “They have another good players in (Nik) Ehlers. Drew’s had a pretty consistent scoring record until this year. Hopefully he’ll jump right back in.”

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The B’s were believed to have interest in backup goalie Jaroslav Halak, an Islanders property in the AHL, but in the end decided to trust the turnaround Anton Khudobin has displayed. Halak was not moved.

Sweeney said he believed the team deserved some show of support after winning 7-of-8 games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy.

“I’m very happy with how our team’s responding and I think that adding to the group continues to send the message that the group has played well,” said Sweeney, who could still add college prospects Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson when their Boston University season concludes. “It’s a nice response (under Cassidy). It’s not a big surprise that our core players are leading that charge. They want to win and they want to feel like they are being supported.”

All the teams in the hunt for the Atlantic Division playoff spots made some moves. The Canadiens got bigger and nastier with forward acquisitions Steve Ott and Dwight King and defenseman Brandon Davidson; the Florida Panthers picked up Thomas Vanek; and the Ottawa Senators acquired Viktor Stalberg, Alex Burrows and Jyrki Jokipakka. The Toronto Maple Leafs got Brian Boyle and Eric Fehr.

But Sweeney was more focused on his own business.

“You don’t want to be reacting to what’s going on around you,” he said. “We laid out a plan and were pretty committed to it. Last year, we felt the team had done a good job up to that point and wanted to add to it. This year we had a similar situation. Hopefully, we have a different result.”

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