Up next in our NHL Awards series is the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award. This award is voted on by all of the general managers across the league, five NHL executives, and five media members. As the name states, this award is given to the General Manager who is deemed to have had the best year.
Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins is the most recent recipient, winning the award at the end of the 2018-2019 season.
Our nine person BSH panel once again consisted of Kelly, Ryan Q., Jason, Kyle, Drew, Mike, Maddie, Kurt, and myself, Brad. Six names were brought up for contention, and the finalists were Chuck Fletcher (Philadelphia), Julien BriseBois (Tampa Bay), and Don Sweeney (Boston).
With a total of six first place votes, the panel voted that Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher should receive the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award.
Maddie: I think, just about no matter what, Fletcher was in a good position to at the very least be in the GM of the Year conversation. I mean, the team was a runaway freight train hurtling straight for last place in the league when he took over in Philly, if he could at the very least get this team back into the playoffs, he was going to be getting some pretty high praise. And, even with that considered, he really went above and beyond.
The additions he made heading into the season, by and large, were stellar. Tyler Pitlick has been a great depth option. Kevin Hayes has been little short of a revelation. Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen have been great stabilizing pieces to support some of the more offensive minded players of the defense corps. He got young stars Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov signed to pretty team-friendly contracts before the start of the season. He didn’t bury Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost in the AHL for the whole season on principle, because they needed seasoning, and rather gave them a real chance to contribute to the Flyers’ success. And all of this worked together to take the former disaster team and get them not just into the playoff mix, but in extremely close contention for first in the division. And that really is no small feat.
That’s a big key — disaster squad turned contenders. All of Fletcher’s off-season moves were questioned to varying degrees, and every single one of them worked out in year one. The turnaround the Flyers saw, largely due to his additions and subtractions, makes him a prime candidate for being named GM of the year.
BriseBois, our runner-up, had little cap space to work with over the Summer yet still found ways to make improvements. The additions of Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon both worked out favorably, and he then also signed restricted free agent superstar Brayden Point to an extremely team-friendly three year contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $6,750,000.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs gave up their first round draft pick to get out of the final year of Patrick Marleau’s contract, the Lightning were able to get out of Ryan Callahan’s contract for essentially nothing. While the situations weren’t the same (Callahan was eligible for long-term injured reserve, while Marleau was not) it was an important, and inexpensive, move that allowed the Lightning to gain future cap space by not having to use LTIR.
With that accrued cap space and his team firmly in win-now mode, BriseBois was willing to part ways with not only his own team’s first round draft pick, but also the Vancouver Canucks’ first round draft pick, that the team had acquired in the J.T. Miller trade. As the NHL’s trade deadline neared, he used the picks to land forward, and defensive stud, Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils, and forward Barclay Goodrow from the San Jose Sharks.
A lot of work done for a team so close to the salary cap ceiling.
Sweeney, the reigning General Manager of the Year, finishes in third. Overall, there’s fewer moves to talk about here, but really, the Bruins didn’t need to make changes. On the heels of a crushing loss in the Stanley Cup Final, Sweeney opted to keep his team together as much as possible; the only notable departure being Marcus Johansson.
He signed both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo to team-friendly deals, and kept the league’s best one-two punch in goal by re-upping Jaroslav Halak. In November, he signed Charlie Coyle to a six-year contract extension with a pretty fair AAV of $5,250,000. Ahead of this season’s trade deadline, Sweeney used the team’s first round draft pick to acquire forward Ondrej Kase, and rid the Bruins of the David Backes contract, albeit with $1,500,000 in retained salary. It was another great season for last season’s winner.
Along with our three finalists, other General Managers who received a first, second, or third place vote include Joe Sakic (Colorado), Jim Rutherford (Pittsburgh), and Ken Holland (Detroit).
Previously in BSH NHL Awards: