How Bruins' trade for Orlov, Hathaway significantly improves their roster


Don Sweeney has done it again.

The Boston Bruins general manager has been very active at the NHL trade deadline during his tenure with the Original Six franchise. Many of these in-season moves -- Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson in 2019, Taylor Hall in 2021 and Hampus Lindholm in 2022 -- have worked out tremendously.

His latest blockbuster deal has all the makings of another home run.

The Bruins acquired defenseman Dmitry Orlov and right wing Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals on Thursday in exchange for right wing Craig Smith, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick. The Capitals are retaining 50 percent of Orlov's salary. The Minnesota Wild also are getting a 2023 fifth-round pick from the Bruins for retaining an additional 25 percent of Orlov's salary. Boston acquired the rights to forward Andrei Svetlakov from the Wild, too. He's currently playing in Russia.

OK, where do we begin?

One important trade deadline objective for the Bruins needed to be bolstering the talent and depth of their blue line. This group was already one of the best in the league before this trade, but you can never have enough quality defensemen in the playoffs. Another objective needed to be improving the bottom six forward group, specifically adding some scoring depth and physicality.

This trade satisfies both needs.

What does Orlov bring to the Bruins?

Orlov is a better defenseman than rumored Bruins trade target Vladislav Gavrikov of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 31-year-old veteran plays a tough, physical style of hockey at 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds. He will be able to take on difficult defensive assignments against quality competition for 20-plus minutes per game. He can play both the left and right side of the blue line, which gives B's head coach Jim Montgomery good versatility to use. Orlov's puck-moving ability should help him make a seamless transition to Montgomery's uptempo style of play.

The Russian defenseman has tallied 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in 49 games this season. He's been fairly consistent offensively with 27-plus points in six of the last seven seasons. Orlov also will be able to contribute to both special teams units in Boston. He averaged 1:16 of power play ice time and 1:45 of penalty kill ice time for the Capitals. His addition to the lineup could take some shorthanded ice time away from Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort in an effort to keep those guys as fresh as possible for the playoffs.

It wouldn't be surprising if Orlov gets some time next to Charlie McAvoy on the Bruins' top pairing. That would be a formidable duo and allow Matt Grzelcyk to slide further down the lineup and face some more favorable matchups.

Orlov is very good at the small details of the game, things like zone entries, zone exits, creating scoring chances off the rush, making accurate passes up ice, etc. In fact, he ranks in the top percentiles at 5-on-5 in many different micro stats, as shown in the graphic below by JFresh Hockey.

Orlov also is no stranger to the playoffs. He appeared in 74 postseason games with the Capitals and played a meaningful role on their 2017-18 Stanley Cup-winning team. Orlov played 24:11 per game for Washington during that title run. 

The Bruins have a lot of options on the back end. Here are some projected pairings with Orlov joining the fold.

  • First pairing: Dmitry Orlov--Charlie McAvoy
  • Second pairing: Hampus Lindholm--Brandon Carlo
  • Third pairing: Derek Forbort--Matt Grzelcyk
  • Extra: Connor Clifton

This trade gives the Bruins better defensive depth than they've had in several of their recent playoff runs.

What does Hathaway bring to the Bruins?

Hathaway is one of those guys you hate when he's on the opposing team, but you love him when he's on your team. He's a tough, two-way player at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds who constantly gets under opponents' skin and isn't afraid to mix it up all over the ice. 

It's not going to take long for his power forward-style of play to draw cheers from Bruins fans. His 198 hits led the Capitals and are 42 more than the Bruins' leader, Connor Clifton, with 156.

In fact, Hathaway ranks fifth in the league in hits since the beginning of the 2018-19 campaign.

Hathaway is capable of giving the Bruins some much-needed scoring depth in the bottom six. He has scored nine goals with seven assists in 59 games. One of those goals was a game-winner for the Capitals in their Feb. 11 matchup versus the Bruins at TD Garden.

The fact that Hathaway has scored almost 10 goals despite having the lowest offensive zone faceoff percentage (18.25) in the league among players with 500-plus minutes at 5-on-5 is pretty impressive. He doesn't start many of his shifts in the attacking zone and yet he still finds a way to contribute offensively.

Craig Smith had a disappointing season for the Bruins with just four goals in 42 games. Hathaway is an upgrade over Smith at right wing.

Did the Bruins give up too much?

Orlov and Hathaway weren't cheap. 

The Bruins have now traded away four of their last six first-round picks (including this year's selection). They don't have a second-round pick until 2026. It's not the most ideal scenario for a team whose prospect pool came in 30th out of 32 teams in The Athletic's latest rankings released last month. 

But to get two quality players you need to give up some valuable assets. The Bruins are the best team in the league and have a glorious opportunity to win another Stanley Cup with their veteran core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand

Some of the contenders in the Eastern Conference have made impactful trades in recent weeks. The Maple Leafs recently acquired veteran forwards Ryan O'Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues, and the early returns on that trade have been positive for Toronto. The New York Rangers acquired top-six winger Vladimir Tarasenko from the Blues earlier this month. The Carolina Hurricanes have around $ 10 million in salary cap space to make an upgrade. The New Jersey Devils have quality picks and prospects to make moves, and the Tampa Bay Lightning could add to their roster as well.

The arms race in the East is heating up and the Bruins couldn't afford to get left behind, even with a roster that didn't have any glaring weaknesses prior to this trade. 

Orlov and Hathaway could both leave in the summer. If that happens, the Bruins will have given up a few valuable draft picks for rentals. But that risk is worth it when you consider the Bruins' chances of winning the Stanley Cup might not be this good again for a while.

Contract details for Orlov and Hathaway

Both Orlov and Hathaway are eligible to be unrestricted free agents in the offseason. Orlov has a $ 5.1 million salary cap hit, but 75 percent of it is being retained by the Capitals and Wild in this trade. Hathaway has a $ 1.5 million cap hit. 

The Bruins are going to be tight against the salary cap this summer. After making this trade, they now have 10 players able to become free agents in the offseason, most notably David Pastrnak (UFA), Bergeron (UFA), Krejci (UFA), Clifton (UFA) and Jeremy Swayman (RFA).

The B's will have plenty of decisions to make in the summer, but that's a problem for another day. The focus is, and should be, winning a championship this season.

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