Report: Bruins nearly got Eric Staal at NHL trade deadline

Matt Kalman
July 30, 2019 - 4:35 pm

Shocking news came out of Minnesota on Tuesday, when it was revealed (first by Michael Russo of The Athletic) that the Wild were firing general manager Paul Fenton.

Fenton had been on the job for one season and was still calling the shots as recently as the NHL Draft in June and the start of free agency July 1. He gave unrestricted free agent forward Mats Zuccarello, 31, a five-year contract worth $30 million.

Well now he’s out and the Wild are searching for a new GM.

But one interesting tidbit in Russo’s initial report revealed that the Bruins nearly made a second deal with the Wild before last season’s trade deadline. You remember days before the deadline Boston and Minnesota completed the Charlie Coyle-Ryan Donato swap.

Russo writes:

“Fenton also nearly traded Jason Zucker at the trade deadline to the Calgary Flames on the same day he signed Eric Staal to a two-year extension rather than trading him to what sources said was the Boston Bruins. It also got out in June that Zucker would have been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins had Phil Kessel waived his no-trade.”

There were rumors that Staal, who had a modified no-trade clause with a 10-team no-trade list didn’t want to come to Boston. And his decision to sign a two-year extension worth a $3.25 million cap hit at 34 years old may reflect the fact that he didn’t want to leave Minnesota, where he’s revived his career and accumulated 65, 76 and 52 points the past three years, respectively, since he went to the Wild before the 2017-18 campaign.

But imagine if Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and president Cam Neely had gotten into Staal’s ear about coming to be the final piece of the puzzle. One has to figure the price was similar to what Boston wound up sending to New Jersey for Marcus Johansson (a second- and fourth-round pick). Obviously the Bruins wouldn’t have gotten Johansson, and instead would’ve had the left-handed shooting center to plug in the middle of their third line. Coyle would’ve been a wing either on his former Minnesota teammate’s right side or on David Krejci’s right side. The lineup certainly would’ve looked different and definitely would’ve had a little more toughness to push against the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.

But the chemistry between Coyle and Johansson was a big reason Boston got as deep as it did in the postseason, so undoubtedly Sweeney and Neely have few regrets about what might’ve been. According to, Staal's current contract extension doesn't include a no-trade clause, so there's hope for a Bruins-Staal union down the road.