So much for taking it easy on the Fourth of July.
While most Bostonians were lounging by the beach or hanging out at a cookout with a cold one, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and Co. were busy engineering the biggest blockbuster trade of the NHL offseason thus far.
That deal sent Tyler Seguin, once considered the key to the B’s future, and third-line grinder Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a talented — yet unfamiliar — package of players.
The prize of that package is Loui Eriksson, a 27-year-old Swedish winger who has quietly put together an impressive seven-year career down in the Lone Star State. He is listed as a left wing — the position he primarily played in Dallas — but Chiarelli said in a conference call soon after the announcement that Eriksson will play on the right side for Boston.
This works out perfectly for the Bruins, who have lost their top three right wings in Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr and now Seguin in the weeks since the season ended. There have been rumblings that the 41-year-old Jagr may be brought back for another season, but the acquisition of Eriksson — and the cap relief it brings — now allows the team some freedom to sign a big name from elsewhere in free agency (Daniel Alfredsson, anyone?).
Also, as Chiarelli mentioned, Eriksson seems to be a guy that will fit in well with head coach Claude Julien‘s system. He certainly has a scoring touch, having tallied more than 25 goals in each of his last four full seasons, but he is also regarded as a solid two-way forward who is comfortable playing the puck in all three zones.
For all of his speed and talent with the puck, the knock on Seguin around Boston was his seeming unwillingness to play the physical game. Not every forward needs to be a wrecking ball like Milan Lucic, but not being afraid to engage opponents or fight hard for a puck in the corner is part of the reason Seguin’s former linemates, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, have enjoyed such success in recent years.
It is now undoubtedly clear that next year’s Bruins squad will be, for the first time since winning the Cup in 2011, truly a new team. The departures of Horton, Seguin, Peverley and defenseman Andrew Ference — all mainstays from that championship roster — will open spots for new blood to break into the B’s lineup.
Ference’s void will likely be filled by Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski after both impressed in the most recent run to the Stanley Cup Final (2011 first-round pick Joe Morrow, who came over from Dallas with Eriksson, will likely open the season in Providence). The other two pieces in the trade, wingers Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser, are NHL-ready, though, and will contend for spots on the third or fourth line during camp.
But the Bruins should not stop here. With free agency opening Friday morning and a new salary cap now in effect, teams will be scrambling all weekend to scoop up players. The B’s are said to be among the finalists for Alfredsson, and New Jersey’s David Clarkson and old friend Michael Ryder could be intriguing targets, as well.
Chiarelli has promised to be active this offseason, so stay on your toes. The fireworks aren’t over yet.