At the risk of disturbing @MikefromWoburn, we need to talk about what the Bruins need to do regarding Loui Eriksson’s expiring contract. For those of you who don’t know Loui is signed through the end of this season at $4.25 million. He’s having his best season as a Bruin (by far) and is due a sizable pay increase by almost any metric. Here are the questions … should the Bruins pony up for their favorite RW, should the Bruins use the productive contract year to trade the player for assets that can either help now or in the future, or should the Bruins use what’s left of the veteran and let the chips fall where they may in free agency?
You’re going to hear from Mike in a little bit about why it makes sense to trade Loui. Sparknotes version: his stock will never be higher than it is right now, the B’s organization is in transition and could use some more (young) assets, and the contract Loui is looking at signing will seem like an overpayment almost no matter what (which I’m going to try and refute below). My opinion is that the Bruins have a little over a month to decide if this team is going anywhere important this season. If the answer is no, the Loui question is easy: thank him for his service and jettison him at the deadline for whoever wants to get stupid. If the Bruins, who have been a pleasantly surprising up and down team, decide they are a solid back end player away from making a run at the (other than Washington) wide open Eastern Conference, holding on to Loui makes some sense. So let’s say the B’s brass think they have a shot at a playoff run (which is far from certain). They decide that Loui is staying and they’d like him here for the future. An in season signing saves them some cash in the long run, and they risk letting the player walk for nothing if he gets to free agency. So what would a reasonable contract look like for Loui Eriksson?
Let’s play a game.
Player A is a RW: 45 GP 15 G 24 A 39 Pts at age 28
Player B is a RW: 45 GP 15 G 23 A 38 Pts at age 30.
Who would you rather have? What if I told you that player A was signed for $7.25 million per season, and player B was signed for $4.25 million. Player A is Bobby Ryan, Player B is Loui Eriksson. Look at those numbers and you can see on the surface why Loui’s team will be looking to cash in for a big salary bump. The Bruins will come to the table with some of their own tales, however. The cautionary tales of David Clarkson and Dustin Brown who received enormous deals after big seasons only for teams to realize in short order the aging players couldn’t possibly live up to the deals (forget for a moment that Toronto was somehow able to trade Clarkson and his albatross contract).
Here are some comparable deals for players with comparable age/stats signed post lockout.
Patrick Marleau: Deal starting in 2014-2015 at age 34. $6.6 Million cap hit for 3 years. (Look for Loui to be looking for a bit more term given that he is 30 not 34).
Sedin Brothers: Deal starting in 2014-2015 at age 35. $7 million cap hit for each for 5 years. Daniel Sedin in the year prior to signing his deal, logged 73 games, 16 G, 31 A 47 Pts. He’s currently performing at a 19-22-41 clip.
Dustin Brown: Deal starting in 2014-2015 at age 29. $5.8 million cap hit for 8 years. His stats prior to signing? 79 games, 15 G, 12 A 27 Pts Here Brown was rewarded for a pair of Cup winning seasons, but a trained eye would notice he was years removed from his 60 point season. He’s now signed incredibly long term, and his current season? 45 G, 4 G 10 A 4 pts (counter argument from Loui’s camp is his season is trouncing the Brown contract year).
Thomas Vanek: Deal starting in 2014-2015 at age 29. $6.5 million cap hit for 3 years. His stats prior to signing? 23 G 36 A 59 Pts between two teams. His current season? 14 G, 14 A 28 Pts.
For some reference for how Loui is performing among RWs this season, here are top cap hits for RW and their current stats:
The B’s have a little time to figure out which direction they want to go, but they have to know signing Eriksson will impact their ability to manage the cap in future season as it is possible Kelly’s salary coming off the books could go mostly to Loui (somewhere in the 5.8-7.5 million range depending on term). I’d be foolish to not mention the Bruins cap trouble was in large part to extending too much money, too much term, and too many protections to bit and fringe players but Loui is far from fringe. Chiarelli’s best moves were his early lock ups of his actual core players (Bergeron’s deal was roasted when he signed at it but look at it now!). I don’t envy Sweeney, though. So let’s just say this: Don’t laugh as you start to hear people drop 6 and 7 million into conversation. Similarly, don’t laugh when fans advocate for trading the asset now, because locking in that chunk of cabbage for a player who hasn’t consistently approached 20 goals leaves a bad taste in our mouths (especially after Chiarelli era). As I mentioned earlier, and Mike will surely mention after reading this, Loui’s stock will never be higher, and the B’s could use some assets.
Here’s my best shot at a handicap. B’s are alive in playoff race and are a couple brain farts away from competing for top spot in the Atlantic. Keep Loui, improve the team at the deadline IF you can sign him for 3-4 years around 6-6.5 AAV. If we’re talking 7 and we’re talking 5 years, it is time for a real conversation about a package the B’s could put together for an investment in their D corps for the future.