Silly Season has been upon us for a little while now. The time when people presumably ‘in the know’ Tweet bullshit and hope for a bullseye. Sports radio Statlers and Waldorfs conjure up trades that video games would reject to keep the phone lines lit up (shoutout to my boys Mike and Tony). Fans get so delusional and/or hopeful that they actually think said trade proposals have even a sniff of an iota of happening. I’d say about 98% of what is said or written turns out to be nothing. Certainly, I understand why fans and other bloggers dig them and like having fun with them. It’s just not my bag.
Besides, there’s only four guys you really need to be following because they basically break every deal, with the exception of the local beat guy occasionally pulling a rabbit out of their toque: Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun, and Elliot Friedman. So expect one of those four to tell us sometime over the next 72 hours that the Bruins traded Loui Eriksson to Parts Unknown for the Moondogs, Rex and Spot. Or something like that with the common denominator being that the Bs sell high on a pending UFA who is about to make monster money that the team is better off letting somebody else pay.
I’m certainly a fan of Loui and this season is the most he’s looked like the player we all hoped we were getting. He’s not great at one thing but he’s really good at bunch of them, making him versatile asset for his coach. But he’s also looking at a payday somewhere likely in the neighborhood of 5-6 years and $32-$39M this summer. Eriksson will turn 31 just a couple weeks after free agency opens so this is his last kick at the ‘get (over)paid!’ can and he has an agent who’s an expert at maximizing his clients’ earning potential. That’s a lotta dough for a winger that has cracked 30 goals once and will be in his mid-30s soon enough, a notorious drop-off point for players. The Bruins will also need some loot for Brad Marchand’s big raise after next season as well as paying RFA Torey Krug and whoever else they decide to keep this season. There’s also the fact he’s had (at least) two major concussions and thus is susceptible to a third. Look, he’s a nice player and we really got a look at what he can do this year. But he’s not irreplaceable and if declines to take a hometown discount (the only way he stays), then the Bruins should get what they can for him.
The first big domino fell last night when the hungry, dynastic Chicago Blackhawks paid a pretty price to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2-4 month rental/reunion with 2010 Cup winner Andrew Ladd. If Ladd (17-17–34 in 59 GP) commanded a 1st, a highly-touted prospect in Marko Dano, and a conditional pick if Hawks win the Cup, then Eriksson (23-25–48 in 61 GP) should snag a bounty better than that (Jay Harrison and Bs castoff Matt Fraser went straight to Rockford). But this doesn’t mean the Bs are just going to be sellers.
(Of course, the Bruins could always pull a Joel Goodsen, decide the East is wide open, let him play out the season, pay the freight for a top D-man, and make a genuine run. But I just don’t see Don Sweeney taking that route.)
Even though the defense has been like a season-long amusement park ride, the team brass might just feel that while the team isn’t a true contender, a conference final vs. Washington is hardly an oasis given the parity in the Wales. They have Tuukka Rask and a pretty good offense so adding a high-end defenseman could be the difference between winning two rounds and golfing before the Derby (not to mention the playoff revenue). Between current assets plus whatever a Loui trade would yield, the Bs would have plenty of pieces to make a run at a guy who could make a difference.
So look for the Bs to buy and sell over the next few days. They’ll sell Loui to one of the teams he approves that can also meet the trade demands. They’ll buy to shore up the back-end to help not only this year but going forward. And, ideally, they’ll grab some forward depth as well because you can never have too much going into the playoffs.
On my wish list*? Winnipeg’s pending RFA Jacob Trouba. The Jets already have Tyler Myers and Dustin Byfuglien, both right-shot D-men, signed through ’19 and ’20, respectively. Though trading Ladd hypothetically means they have more money to re-up Trouba this summer, the 9th overall pick in the 2012 draft can’t be too thrilled with being slotted as the third-pair defenseman for the foreseeable future. I don’t know if the Jets are shopping him or not but the Bs ought to kick the tires on him. Trouba arrived on the scene with a rumble two seasons ago but has been somewhat eclipsed by Myers and Big Buff. While he’s not a player who will put the Bs “over the top” this year, he’s a guy that can be a cornerstone on D for years to come and would be a big pick-up. (*—wish list means just that, so don’t go saying you read on Barstool that the Bs were getting Trouba).
Regardless of who they bring in or ship out, you can expect the Bruins to be in headlines soon enough because standing pat this year isn’t really an option.
One other note, “Soul On Ice: Past, Present And Future” aired on NHL Network Wednesday night and will re-air this Sunday at 7PM. It’s a doc about the history of black hockey players and was well-done and very informative. Of course Willie O’Ree, who wrote this excellent piece in The Players’ Tribune, was covered. The fact that he hid the blindness in his right eye and went on to have a pro hockey career is incredible. But I was also moved by the stories of Mike Marson and Val James (first black American in NHL). These guys came 14 or so years after O’Ree but time didn’t matter as they suffered horrific indignities as well (the scene from a minor league game in Virginia where James was playing will make you sick). As always with hockey players, the parents are key to making it all work and they impart much wisdom here (particularly Malcolm and P.K. Subban’s parents). Definitely worth a watch for the hockey history and eye-opening.