There’s a strong chance something will happen with Loui Eriksson before I even get to publish this, so here are a few quick thoughts about the winger who may or may not be traded by the Bruins before Monday’s deadline. If and when Eriksson does get traded, I’ll get more into the ramifications for the Bruins. Until then, here are a few thoughts.
The Bruins should extend Eriksson, but reports suggest that both parties are far off in terms of both contract term length and price, though DJ Bean, via Twitter, reported this evening that talks are continuing and progressing. The team and player are understandably working in each of their own self interests, which is fine, as the Bruins are typically a team that spends to the cap and doesn’t want the burden of an aging, expensive player who will most likely require a no-trade or no-movement clause.
Meanwhile, Eriksson, 31 in July, ought to maximize what’s possibly his last guaranteed NHL contract. If there’s no middle ground to be found, the Bruins should try to maximize the soon-to-be free agent’s value, hopefully bringing in at least a first round pick, other picks, and a prospect, or even as part of a larger package for a young top-four defenseman, with some of the Bruins higher picks moving to improve their diminished blueline.
We still have to see what the prices for rental forwards will be at the deadline. When Toronto acquired two future second-round picks for a pair of rentals – third-pairing defenseman Roman Polak and bottom-line forward Nick Spaling – everyone assumed that’s where the bar is set. Eriksson will obviously require much more than that pair netted the Leafs, but the market may not necessarily shake out that way. If teams simply aren’t willing to part ways with a first round pick or a stud prospect for a rental, there won’t be much incentive for the Bruins to move Eriksson.
With Chicago acquiring Andrew Ladd – as well as defenseman Jay Harrison and former Bruins property Matt Fraser – for a late first-round pick and promising prospect Marko Dano, the price for Eriksson should be high. Look for teams like the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues to be interested in Eriksson, who ought to cost a similar package. Many hockey reporters have called Ladd the prize rental of the deadline, but Eriksson is clearly a better player, as his track record is more consistent and more productive overall.
Furthermore, the Bruins’ reason for not wanting to grant Eriksson a long-term deal is primarily due to a promising crop of forward prospects making their way through juniors or the AHL who will soon need a crack at top-six wing duties at the NHL level.
That’s fine reasoning, and there should be a lot of optimism about Frank Vatrano – who had some success in his first NHL stint and is torching the AHL for Providence – and 18-year-old 2015 first-round pick Zach Senyshyn, among others. But prospects, as we Bruins fans know all too well, are hardly a sure thing. Loui, despite being on the wrong side of 30, is much more of a consistent player going forward.
Eriksson will always be underrated, and he’ll always be a guy the Bruins traded for who decidedly isn’t Tyler Seguin. But he’s a remarkably well-rounded player, who easily shifts from right wing to the left side and back again, based on the current roster’s needs. He’s obviously an important piece of the powerplay, where he’s scored eight of his 23 goals this season, and of course, he’s a top-four penalty killing forward.
Eriksson isn’t a burner, isn’t a power forward and doesn’t rely on a sniper’s shot, all skills that are more apt to diminish with age. (Maybe a sniper’s shot won’t diminish, but his ability to create the space necessary to make that shot will.) His hockey smarts and ability to play all over the ice should make him a still very good player well into his 30s.
Sign Eriksson, Don Sweeney. Do it. Do it now, please, pay a little more than you’ll be comfortable with. You’ll know what you’re getting, and Eriksson is a great complementary piece to the core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krecji, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask. Has he been traded yet? I hope not…