Sign or Trade? What do the Bruins do with Loui Eriksson
“Yeah, I think we all know this isn’t good enough. We all know that we need to be better. I think we have to take the responsibility of having to be better,” an angry Claude Julien told me the media Tuesday night after the Bruins looked lost in a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks. “I don’t think we’ve got the focus or commitment of the whole group. I’m not saying anything that nobody knows here. I think it’s pretty obvious” Julien would go on to say.
“In this league and with the team that we have, the record that we have, it’s just not good enough. It needs to be better.”
The Bruins weren’t perfect Thursday night, their first contest since Tuesday’s forgettable outing, but as Julien had preached, they were better. Most of that was thanks to Loui Eriksson.
Erikkson scored three times on a game-high five shots, his third career hat-trick and first since New Year’s Eve of 2009 when he was a member of the Dallas Stars.
“It’s definitely nice to get that. Like I said, it’s been a while since I had one so it was definitely nice to get the hat trick and, of course, to win the game,” said Eriksson who now leads the Bruins with nine goals. “That’s the most important thing so it was definitely nice.”
Eriksson’s goals came in all different ways. His first was a pass below the hash marks that played pinball and wound up bouncing off a Wild defender’s skate and into in the back of the net. Next was a result of driving to the net paying off as a loose puck found the skate, then stick, of Eriksson, his fifth power play tally of the season. Capping off the hat-trick was the beautiful execution of a tick-tack-toe pass with David Krejci.
Whether Julien’s message about being better was heard by the team remains to be seen, but it’s clear at least one Bruin in Eriksson got the message.
Loud and clear it appears.
“I think we had a much better team game. We were playing a little bit smarter and harder, we managed the puck a little bit more, and I think we had a pretty good game so hopefully we can keep building on the good things we’re doing and get it for the next game and then get ready for that.”
Unfairly, for as long as Eriksson is in a Bruins uniform he will be linked to Tyler Seguin. You know Seguin, that guy who was drafted second overall by the Bruins only to be traded to Dallas in a deal centered around Eriksson. With 85 goals since leaving Boston and many ups and downs from Eriksson, many still scratch their head wondering why Seguin no longer calls Boston home.
“Yeah, there’s been a lot of talk about that through the years and it’s nothing I try to think about. Of course he’s a great player, he’s playing real well,” Eriksson said about comparisons to Seguin. “We’re a little different as players and I’m just trying to focus on my game here and try to get better and try to help my team as much as I can.”
Julien doesn’t want to hear about the comparisons any more either, one can’t blame him. “He’s not the same player as Tyler is, and the comparisons are not right. We shouldn’t be comparing those two players. They’re two different players.”
Speaking of trades, where do the Bruins and Eriksson go from here?
Skating in the final season of a six-year contract, Eriksson is a pending unrestricted free agent this summer. Hitting unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, Eriksson is due for a nice little raise. Will he get it in Boston?
With a current cap hit of $4.25 million per season, Eriksson should fetch around $5-6 million in his next deal. As Don Sweeney looks to mold the Bruins into his vision of the team, it’s still unknown how and if Eriksson fits in that vision. Now fully healthy for the first time as a Bruin, Eriksson has been the Bruins most consistent forward this season and has found success playing on a line with Krejci.
The Bruins won’t be taking home the Stanley Cup this season, let’s be honest. Can they make the playoffs? Sure. Can they steal a first round series against a better team? Absolutely. Could they get a good return by trading Eriksson before seasons end? No doubt about it.
As the season continues to unfold and teams realize what their true needs are, rental players become more valuable.
If Sweeney and company either a) realize they won’t be able to afford Eriksson’s asking price or b) decide Eriksson is not part of their future, they should immediately start the bidding war. There are more than a handful of teams out there that would love to acquire a top-six forward as the playoff push heats up.
Keep firing them in, Loui. One way or another it’s benefiting you and it’s benefiting the Bruins.
When was the last hat trick at TD Garden you ask? Just over two weeks ago. And who was that by? Tyler Seguin.