Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Loui Eriksson’s low number for his contract extension would be either 5 years, $32.5 million ($6.5M per year) or 6 years, $36 million ($6M per year). Based on Darren Dreger’s tweet above, that seems like the baseline for Eriksson and his agent. If that’s what it would take, I can’t figure out why the Bruins wouldn’t keep their 2nd line left winger.
The fact that the Tyler Seguin trade was a horrible trade has overshadowed in important fact: Loui Eriksson is a damn good NHL hockey player. Don’t just look at his line of 23-25-48 in just 63 games this year, because you’ve no doubt already heard the accompanying stat of his 17.2% shooting percentage this season. That shooting percentage is admittedly a great point for the argument that says the Bruins should lean towards trading Eriksson, which I call the Danny Ainge argument: His value as an asset is being overrated right now in his contract year when he’ll turn 31 right after free agency opens next year, so sell high on that asset.
What that argument overlooks is how awesome Eriksson’s complete game is, not just his heightened scoring numbers this season. Check out his fancy stats (“Advanced stats” is boring, I’m primarily going with “fancy stats” going forward, but I refuse to write it as “#fancystats.”) over the course of his career. The first 45 games of this season that he’s played are all that Behind the Net gives us, but his individual fancy stats are listed here, and they also paint a pretty picture. Eriksson has a Corsifor% of over 53% with just a few more offensive zone faceoffs than defensive zone faceoffs, has played both right and left wing this season, and has played the most minutes of any Bruins forward this season.
Last summer, the Bruins let Carl Soderberg walk because they couldn’t pay 3 centers the total dollars that they deserved on the open market. Soderberg has proven to be a worthwhile acquisition for the Avalanche, but he was not thought of as nearly the player that Eriksson is thought to be now. Soderberg may play the more valuable position of center, and he was about 15 months younger during free agency than Eriksson will be this summer but you know you’d take Eriksson for the next few years, even with his significant concussion history. Soderberg got 5 years, $23.75 million ($4.75M per season) from Colorado. If you can get Eriksson for 2 extra years and $1.25 million more per season, that’s a much better contract when stacked up against Soderberg, especially with the cap likely rising by about $3 million.
The counterargument that I understand the most involves the Bruins’ cap situation. Don Sweeney signed Adam McQuaid to a deal that pays him $2.75 million for the next few years (WHY????????!!!!!!!!!!!!), and Dennis Seidenberg is still getting checks for $4 million a year through 2018. Marchand — and maybe David Pastrnak — will likely be extended this offseason, and Krug, Trotman, and Morrow will all be RFAs this summer. Having said that, Chris Kelly’s deal finally comes off the books this season, and the Bruins have Tuukka, Bergeron, Beleskey, and Krejci locked up for several seasons after this one at reasonable prices, and they also have Chara and Hayes locked up for the next 2 seasons after this one at a relatively low total sum, and they have many young players who could make a jump to the NHL on cheap ELC deals in the next few years, led by their trio 2015 1st round picks. They can afford to pay Loui Eriksson.
Make no mistake about it, signing Loui Eriksson to either $6 or $6.5 million per year will make the Bruins pass on a few other players in the next few seasons. These deals aren’t done in a vacuum. But you pay for the studs and figure out how to get a decent cast of role players without overpaying any of them. Loui Eriksson is a stud, and his asking price is not too high by any means. Unless the Bruins can get way more than expected for Eriksson — which is unlikely such a deal probably would have happened given the flurry of trades that have already happened — the Bruins should keep their star winger.