Back on February 29, I wrote why the Bruins should have extended Loui Eriksson at the trade deadline, rather than trading him or letting him walk into free agency. My main line of argument was the numbers that Loui Eriksson was looking for, according to Darren Dreger:
Eriksson is a damn good player, and $6~ million is not too much for a player of his caliber. That’s the short version of my opinion on Eriksson. For the rest of it, read the piece that I linked to in the first paragraph. For now, let’s move on to what happens with Eriksson in the summer.
The Bruins have missed the playoffs, and the Bruins are headed for a much worse fate in regards to Eriksson. The Swedish winger will now command more than what he was asking for in February according to Dreger, and the Bruins are damned if they sign him and damned if they don’t. If the Bruins pay up for Eriksson, he’ll likely command $7 million per year, especially if he’s content with only 5 years on the deal. Or, he could push for a 7 year deal from another team or an 8 year deal from the Bruins, which would take him up until right before his 39th birthday.
Given that the Bruins just endured a horrendous and downright pathetic collapse, they might try to overturn much of the roster (and coaching staff/front office, which I’ll write about soon). If so, that would include letting Eriksson walk. It’s possible that they could trade his free agency rights to another team, but why would Eriksson signal to another team that he’d be willing to sign a contract before free agency? If he’s made it through this season without signing an extension, wouldn’t he want to make it to free agency? I don’t see the B’s trading his rights before June 1 unless some other team is convinced that Eriksson is the missing piece and they’re willing to overpay him.
The Bruins are stuck between deciding to re-sign Loui Eriksson for way more than they could have paid a few months back and letting a stud right winger walk. My bet in on the latter, because the B’s front office will be looking to make changes for the sake of making changes. Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate changes that have to be made with the Bruins, but almost all of the holes that need filling are on defense. When Eriksson gets offered a ton by another team, Cam Neely and Don Sweeney will pass.
And make no mistake about it, Loui Eriksson will get a humongous offer from some team. People will point to last summer as a sign that NHL GMs have finally figured out not to spend too much money in free agency in a sport with a hard salary cap, but the example of last year doesn’t really apply. Check out the list of NHL free agent signings last summer. Do any of those guys bring as much to a team as Eriksson? Artem Anisimov and Justin Williams are great players, but I’d rather have Loui in a heartbeat. Brandon Saad signed a deal for 6×6, but restricted free agents are always underpaid in comparison to UFAs.
The Bruins had a chance to pay Eriksson the same money that Brandon Saad gets, and they missed it. Now, they’ll watch as he plays for a cup contender next year. Or, they’ll re-sign him to a contract that either lasts too long or takes up a little too much cap space. Either way, they’re screwed, and it’s all because they hedged their bets at the trade deadline instead of paying a great player what he’s worth.