BOSTON –In his typically quiet, solid and unassuming fashion, Loui Eriksson has enjoyed his three years with the Boston Bruins.
The Swedish winger was ready for a change when he was dealt from the Dallas Stars to the Bruins, and he’s progressively improved his game as he’s become more comfortable each year with the Black and Gold. Eriksson said following Monday’s practice that he’s enjoyed his time in Boston, and that his growing family has as well.
“My family and me, we like it here in Boston. We have a big family and another baby on the way. So there's lot of things going on right now,” said Eriksson, who is expecting his fourth child with wife Mikeala. “We like it here. Boston is a really good city and a fun team to play for. That’s how I’ve been focusing. All I can do is go out there and do my best, and play good. It’s all I’m trying to do before the deadline…so just keep on playing.”
“I’ve never been in a situation like this before, so it’s a little different. But all I can do is focus on my game, playing my game and focusing on what I can do for the team.”
When asked if Eriksson would take less money to stay in a city like Boston that he seems to like, the Swedish winger deferred to the agent, J.P. Barry, that he has negotiating on his behalf. The 30-year-old is on pace for a 25-goal, 65-point season while playing big minutes on the wing, excelling in every situation and customarily making life better for whichever center he’s paired with on a nightly basis.
In other words, the solid, smart two-way forward is exactly the player Boston thought they were getting three years ago before concussive hits from John Scott and Brooks Orpik knocked him pretty far off track. It may not be a total coincidence that Eriksson is tapping into this performance just as his contract is up with the Bruins, and he’s facing a potential date with unrestricted free agency on July 1 that should net him a 5-6 year contract in the neighborhood of $6 million per season.
That is big money and huge term for a player on the wrong side of 30 years old with a concussion history, and one that hasn't exactly been a burner in the skating department either. It’s also foreign territory for a guy like Eriksson that signed a six year contract with the Stars back in 2009, and hasn’t experienced this kind of uncertainty and unknown while playing out an NHL season.
Eriksson and the rest of the Bruins are trying not to allow his future to become a distraction as he’s become the focus of a number of trade rumors, and some interesting scenarios with Western Conference teams that could involve young, prospective top pair D-men.
One thing is certain: Eriksson is almost certain to be dealt ahead of the trade deadline if the Bruins can’t come to terms on a contract extension, and will net the Bruins at least a first round pick and a prospect as a straight rental player.
Claude Julien isn’t going there, however, and doesn’t want any uncertainty about Eriksson’s future to pull away at the team’s preparation during the post-All-Star break portion of the schedule.
“I’d like to keep Loui…period,” said Julien. “Just like the guys that have left us I would have loved to have kept. Those are things as a coach…would I like to have Looch and would I have liked to have those other guys…Hamilton. Sure. But we couldn’t keep them for different reasons.
“So we have some good players that leave for reasons that we can’t control, so you need to have the confidence in the upper management that they’re going to make the right decision. I can’t do anything about it. I can only coach what I have right now, and I enjoy having [Eriksson]. I think he’s a great player, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
While trading Eriksson away midseason would certainly send a mixed message to a Bruins team currently in playoff contention, it would all depend on what GM Don Sweeney could get back in return for his valuable two-way winger. That remains to be seen if Eriksson’s camp and the Bruins can’t come to an agreement in the next couple of weeks.