Bruins

Bruins seem certain to deal Eriksson by deadline

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Bruins seem certain to deal Eriksson by deadline

The wheels are beginning to turn for the Boston Bruins as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches.

Loui Eriksson has been the main topic of conversation in recent weeks -- and most of the year, actually -- because he’s enjoying a monster season and his contract is about to expire. Eriksson is second on the Bruins with 39 points and is on pace for 26 goals and 68 points . . . which would be his best year in Boston.

It's also his contract year. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

But there’s no denying Eriksson is trusted by coach Claude Julien and the Bruins in every conceivable situation. During his time here he's made centers better, whether it was Carl Soderberg over the previous couple of years on the third line or Ryan Spooner over the last month.

Eriksson's been a key net-front presence on the Bruins’ dominant power play and a valued penalty killer on a unit that’s been climbing up the charts all season after a slow start. There's a lot to like about his game.

But, seeing as he'll be one of the NHL's premier free agents when the market opens July 1, that's a double-edged sword. Especially since it's never felt like he's has any allegiance to Boston and won't be inclined to give the B's a hometown discount. Not only that, but his agent -- J.P. Barry -- has a history of getting maximum compensation, both in terms of money and years, for his clients in free agency.

In fact, in his short time as Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney opted to trade two other Barry clients -- Soderberg and Dougie Hamilton -- rather than fork over top dollar.

There’s every reason to believe that scenario's going to play out again with Eriksson prior to the deadline, given that he’s seeking the same five- to six-year deal at $6 million annually that he’ll easily get on the free market. The Bruins are very hesitant to make that kind of money and time commitment to a 30-year-old with a concussion history who's slowed in the skating department.

Sweeney has said the Bruins will do everything they can to sign Eriksson to a deal that makes sense for the team, but has already shown he won’t hesitate pulling the trigger on a trade if a workable contract can't be agreed upon.

“We’ve been in discussions with Loui, and the first priority will be to try to get him signed,” Sweeney said on the NESN pregame show Thursday night prior to the loss to the Vancouver Canucks. “Obviously he’s a player entering (unrestricted free agency) and he’s trying to gauge what (his value) may be, and we’re trying to do the same. He’s been an important player for us.

“He’s having a very good [contract] year, and he helps us each and every night. He’s a valuable player to us, and we’d like to be able to find a deal. If that doesn’t take shape here in the next little while, I obviously have to do due diligence and explore whether or we can continue to improve our team [in a trade], and keep looking forward. That’s the job that I continue to have.”

The Bruins have already started that due diligence. According to a source, executive director of player personnel John Ferguson Jr. was at the Sharks-Wild game last Saturday. Minnesota's Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Matthew Dumba all fit the profile of the type of young, improving defensemen the Bruins are seeking in trade, and the Wild need to add a talented offensive winger like Eriksson as they battle for a playoff spot in the West.

Brodin ($4.167 million cap hit) and Scandella ($4 million) are both signed at least through 2019-20 to reasonable contracts. Dumba, on pace for 9 goals and 19 points, is a 21-year-old restricted free agent looking at a raise as a talented third-pairing defenseman on the Wild.

Anaheim assistant GM Dave Baseggio was in town for the Bruins-Blue Jackets game on Saturday night, and the Ducks are still looking to wheel and deal after sending Carl Hagelin to the Penguins. There’s been plenty of speculation about Cam Fowler being on the move as a left-shot defenseman, but Sami Vatanen is a player who would make more sense given the Bruins' needs on the right side. The 24-year-old will be a restricted free agent after this season, and is on pace for 11 goals and 39 points this season. Vatanen isn't the biggest guy in the world at 5-foot-10, 183 pounds, but he fits the profile of exactly what the Bruins are looking to add to a D-man corps in need of some reinforcements.

Ferguson scouted the Predators and Jets over the last couple of weeks, as well, and the sense is the Bruins are much more interested in big, right-handed Jacob Trouba than Dustin Byfuglien, as they should be.

Normally, a rental like Eriksson would fetch a first-round pick and a prospect from a contender. But the B's need to do something bigger than that, and that's what Sweeney's shooting for.

Could a package of Eriksson, a first-round pick and goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban sweeten the pot enough for Minnesota to surrender the defense help the Bruins need? Would a package like that be enough for Anaheim or Winnipeg? And if the Ducks and Jets feel their goaltending depth is adequate enough, would they accept another prospect in Subban's place?

The sense here, as it’s been all season, is that the Bruins are going to deal Eriksson to the highest bidder. He’s been a good player over the last three years, but his biggest assist of the season might just be what Sweeney and the B’s land for him at the deadline.  

Hagg Bag: Plenty of suggestions to improve Bruins' offense

Hagg Bag: Plenty of suggestions to improve Bruins' offense

The Bruins are off to a 5-1-1 start to the regular season, and the Perfection Line has accounted for 14 goals in those seven games. The Bruins are coming off a shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning where their power play struck for three special teams goals and they went toe-to-toe with one of their biggest divisional opponents.

Still, there’s also the sneaking feeling that this team isn’t anywhere close to playing its best hockey and that they need more help up front if they’re going to enjoy a diverse offensive attack. Right now, they are relying on their Perfection Line way too much, and that’s where the fans come in with their trade and prospect insertion ideas.

As always the Hagg Bag mailbag is full of real tweets sent to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hashtag, real messages to my NBC Sports Facebook fan page and real emails from real fans to my @jhaggerty@nbcuni.com email address.

Now, on to the bag:

Dear Haggs,

The Bruins have been trying to find a right winger to play with Krejci it seems like for centuries. With Taylor Hall being an unrestricted FA at the end of this year and no long term deal with NJ in sight for him and with the Devils struggling mightily, NOW IS THE TIME TO POUNCE! The Bruins have a plethora of young players who would fit the Devils young core “rebuild”. Pairing Hall with Krejci and possibly Kuhlman I think would put this team over the top in the East this year. Even if it’s a rental deal for Hall, this is the type of player the Bruins NEED. Would love to hear your thoughts on a deal built around Heinen and Bjork and more for Hall??

Would love to hear your thoughts on this if they can make the cap room work.

Justin Forman

JH: Obviously, the Bruins would and should be interested if Taylor Hall becomes available, just like the rest of the 30 other NHL teams – well, maybe 29 since I don’t Edmonton would be in the running for him either – because he’s a Hart Trophy-level talent. Two seasons ago, he had 39 goals and 93 points and realized the potential that’s always been there since he was drafted No. 1 overall by the Oilers back in 2010.

Unfortunately, the cap gymnastics and asset requirements to get him are just one part of the problem. There’s also the issue that Hall is pretty much a left-wing, left-shot forward on a Bruins team that has plenty of left-wing, left-shot forwards already stocked on the roster. Now, one could make the argument that Jake DeBrusk would be one of the pieces going back to New Jersey in exchange for Hall, and that would create a space for him on the second line teaming in a dynamic pairing with David Krejci.

It's interesting to be sure, but it also still wouldn’t address the Bruins issues on the right wing behind David Pastrnak. The Bruins might even be able to afford Hall after this coming season with dead money (Seidenberg and Hayes buyouts) and a possible David Backes buyout clearing significant cap space, and a real question as to whether 42-year-old Zdeno Chara will be back again next season.

Would a package of DeBrusk, Jakub Zboril and a draft pick be enough to land Hall should the Devils decide they’re not going to be able to re-sign him? Interesting thought, but I think we’re a long, long way from that happening.

Yes or No....(LW)DeBrusk to Vegas for (RW) Tuch. Line you’d create Bjork-Coyle-Tuch #Haggbag

--Mike C (@mcolesr)

JH: Yes. I would do that 100 times over. No offense to DeBrusk, who scored 27 goals last season, but Alex Tuch is 23, 6-foot-4, 200-pounds and is coming off 20 goals and 52 points last season while also playing on the right side. I like DeBrusk as a player, but I also wonder how much better he’s really become the past three seasons. I might start to consider him in trade talks given how many other left-wing-types the Bruins have in their organization. That doesn’t even count that Tuch went to Boston College and the local college hockey thing is a big check in favor of any players in the eyes of Bruins management.

 
Was at the game – [Mike “Sarge” Riley] is fine but should stop doing Jim Martin’s “wooooo” after announcing Bruins goals. Doesn’t work for the guy

--Mark (@bostoncig)

 
JH: Dude, the Bruins use a recording of Ric Flair from a past wrestling event at the Garden. They always have. Hang your head and feel shame, Mark.


You have full casting control over the next Spider-man movie and a Bruins player has to appear. Cast someone as a villain or any other character.

--Dave Green (@DavidMGreen)

JH: Great question, Greenie. Man, I wish Claude Julien was still the head coach. He would have been a pretty great Vulture, or even better as a French-Canadian Kingpin. How about Zdeno Chara with a mustache as Kraven the Hunter? I think he’d be pretty believable wearing that African hunting safari get-up. Jake DeBrusk is probably the best Peter Parker candidate on the roster, but I don’t think anybody on the B’s roster gets to be Spider-Man.

Haggs,

Haven’t we been saying this same thing for a few years now? It might be time to take some of these youngsters and move them for a legit 2nd line RW. Eventually you gotta stop saying give the kids a shot when the problem is the same 2-3 years later.

--Bryan Deyermond (@Bryan_BSF)

JH: Yes. I think it might be that time. We’ll see, though. They may be able to make another Marcus Johansson deal at the deadline to get them through another season while giving up a minimal cost. But I do believe they need to bring in another dynamic top-six forward, preferably a right wing, if they want to get over the hump to again be a Stanley Cup Final team the next few years.

They certainly have enough young guys to spare a few in a trade. But I also think they should probably take a look at a healthy Anders Bjork up in Boston before they go the trade route.

 
#HaggBag How impatient are you getting waiting for The Rise of Skywalker trailer Lucasfilm is supposed to be coming on Monday Night Football?

--Alissa Boops You (@curvymermaid617)

JH: I am very, very impatient. I sense a good feeling in the Force with JJ Abrams in charge of this movie with a chance to undo some of the bad feelings perpetuated among the Star Wars fan base following The Last Jedi. I didn’t hate that movie per se, but there was enough I didn’t like about it that I left wondering what the point of the movie was aside from trying to go in a different direction from so much of the Skywalker saga before it. I just think it was a big misstep. I mean, anybody that thought Princess Leia Poppins was going to be this big emotional scene was truly mistaken.

Hey how many 5v5 goals do they have?? Just saying....Bruins have a 5v5 problem in general

--Rob Petrella (@RobPetrella)

JH: The Bruins have 19 goals this season in seven games. They have scored eight PP goals, so that means the B’s have only 11 5-on-5 goals in seven games and they have only four players besides the Perfection Line that have scored 5-on-5 goals this season. In other words, they are again struggling in even-strength play after being a bottom-third even-strength team last season as well. They need more scoring talent up front if they want to become a better 5-on-5 team and therefore be a better, more well-rounded team come playoff time. It all points toward the Bruins needing an upgrade among their top-six forward group, and it will be interesting to see how Don Sweeney goes about doing it this season.

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Bruins rule David Krejci, Joakim Nordstrom vs. Maple Leafs Saturday

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Bruins rule David Krejci, Joakim Nordstrom vs. Maple Leafs Saturday

BRIGHTON, Mass. — With a big home-and-home series against the Toronto Maple Leafs set for the next couple of days, the Bruins opted to give their veteran core group the day away from the ice on Friday morning at Warrior Ice Arena.

It was a maintenance day for Patrice Bergeron (lower body), Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak after scoring 14 of the last 17 goals for the Bruins over the last six games, and both Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug spent the day off the ice as well. Joakim Nordstrom (upper body) and David Krejci (upper body) were also missing from the Warrior Ice Arena sheet at Friday’s practice — and neither of those players will travel to Toronto for Saturday's game.

“We have Backes as an extra that sat out with Nordstrom being out,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, of the expected replacement in the lineup. “He could slot in there. We may decide to get somebody from Providence if we want a different look down there. [Anders] Bjork has been playing well down there, [Brendan] Gaunce has been playing well down there and [Peter] Cehlarik. Those are the names that I have heard amongst other, so those are potential guys.”

Bjork, of course, has been tearing it up since the start of the season with three goals and six points in five games after being one of the last cuts in Bruins training camp. The Bruins wanted to leave him in the AHL for a spell to regain his offensive mojo and it seems pretty clear that he's done that while deserving another NHL look. 

The Bruins would prefer to keep him on the left side as they've done all season, and that would easy enough if they swung Heinen to the right side as he's done on multiple occasions over the last few seasons. 

While the message wasn’t spelled out by Cassidy following practice, it felt pretty clear given who was on the ice working and who was given a day to rest and recuperate. The Bruins focused on net-drive drills and taking the puck hard to the paint in practice as a reminder for the forwards to simplify their games while looking to produce some much-needed secondary scoring.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Friday’s practice with Jaroslav Halak getting the start on Saturday night vs the Leafs:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk Charlie Coyle Karson Kuhlman
Danton Heinen Par Lindholm Brett Ritchie
Chris Wagner Sean Kuraly David Backes

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

Cassidy laments lack of secondary scoring vs. Tampa>>>>>

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