With the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline rapidly approaching (Feb. 29), there is one player currently on the Bruins that will serve as the barometer for what Boston (31-20-6) becomes this spring: veteran right wing Loui Eriksson (20 goals, 25 assists, plus-11). By now, hockey fans around New England can basically recite his upcoming contract status (he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer) but also endlessly debate if the 30-year-old is worth the big deal that he is almost sure to be offered by some desperate team. With so much uncertainty about his near future, one thing is for sure about the soft-spoken Swede: he’s having a really good season in a contract year (surprise, surprise).
Eriksson scored the overtime goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory at Columbus, his fourth game-winner of the 2015-16 campaign (tying him with Patrice Bergeron, one behind Brad Marchand’s team-leading five). Always underrated since he doesn’t have any eye-popping skills, this is the sixth time in his career that he’s scored 20-plus goals - nothing to sniff at in today’s low-scoring NHL. In his 10th season, he has developed a new part to his impressive all-around game (power-play goals) and he is second on the team with eight (one behind Bergeron). His durability the last few years has gone unnoticed too but he played 81 games in 2014-15 and right now he’s one of only two Bruins (Ryan Spooner being the other) who have so far played in every contest.
“I’m finding ways to score goals and it’s always nice to have that feeling,” noted Eriksson. “I just need to keep building on that. I’m trying to play a little bit more in front of the net again and it seems like the puck is finding me so I’ll have to keep doing that.”
He has goals in four straight games and five goals in his last six overall.
Logically, the B’s have three choices as far as what they can do with Eriksson:
1. Trade him in the next few weeks in order to bolster a weak defensive corps and/or strengthen their farm system with more young players (prospects and draft picks).
2. Keep him and see if the club can go on a run in the postseason. It isn’t that far-fetched when you consider that they are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference and there appears to be only one dominant team in the Capitals.
3. Sign him to the long-term deal that the front office has reportedly already talked about (somewhere in the range of 3-4 years worth $5-6 million per year). Keep in mind that his fellow countryman Carl Soderberg received a laughable five-year deal worth $4.75 million per year from Colorado last summer. Who in the world (besides the Avalanche) thinks that Soderberg is better than Eriksson at anything when it comes to hockey?