By the time the clock strikes 3 p.m. Monday in Boston, Loui Eriksson could be the property of a team that does not wear a spoked-B on its chest.
Or he could be owner of a brand-new contract — one that would extend his Bruins career beyond this season.
Or he could be in the exact same position he was in when Monday began: focused on continuing his strong play for the Black and Gold as the team and his representation remain hard at work on forging a new deal.
In other words: With mere hours remaining before the NHL’s trade deadline, the future of one of the Bruins’ best players remains very much undecided.
Rampant trade speculation has surrounded Eriksson, the 30-year-old winger who is in the midst of his best season as a Bruin, for months now, beginning even before the B’s dropped the puck on their 2015-16 season. Yet through it all, he’s done nothing but produce, tying for second on the team in both goals (23) and points (48) while being the only player to appear in each of Boston’s first 63 games.
Before Sunday night’s 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, general manager Don Sweeney shared the latest: Eriksson and the team had yet to come to terms on an extension, but they planned to continue negotiations as the deadline grew nearer. Sweeney & Co. also have engaged in “several discussions” with teams about potential trades involving Eriksson and, according to the GM, would be open to keeping him even if the sides cannot reach an agreement by Monday afternoon.
That third option sounds like the least desirable from a long-term perspective — Eriksson, an unrestricted free agent on July 1, is a valuable asset; why would the Bruins want to risk letting him walk for nothing? But it’s also true that removing Eriksson almost certainly would make Boston’s current roster worse, and with the B’s in a strong position to secure a return to the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s understandable why the organization might want to keep arguably its second-best two-way forward around for the stretch run.
“He’s an impactful player in our hockey club,” Sweeney said. “(If he is not traded), I would have continuing negotiations with him as such. You know we value him — we’ve offered him a significant contract. There’s a gap there that exists at times with players, and we’ll see where it goes. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop between now and then as to whether or not something will materialize. Bottom line: You have to do what’s best for the organization and move forward.”
Sweeney’s job is to do what’s best for the organization. We’ll soon find out whether Eriksson will continue to be a part of it.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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