Cross Checks: Loui Eriksson

BOSTON -- After Jarome Iginla signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche at the start of the free-agent period on July 1, the Bruins suddenly had a vacancy at right wing on their top line.

General manager Peter Chiarelli quickly endorsed Loui Eriksson for that role to play alongside center David Krejci and left wing Milan Lucic. Eriksson brings a different skill set than Iginla did, but Chiarelli is convinced Eriksson can handle it.

During a Thursday afternoon conference to introduce the Bruins’ newest assistant coach, Joe Sacco, head coach Claude Julien also said he believes Eriksson can perform on the top line.

“Loui Eriksson is a player that can be even better than he was last year,” Julien said. “I think we started seeing that at the end of the year, and he could be a replacement for Jarome as a possibility.

“But at the same time, Chris Kelly will be coming back, so are we going to look for somebody to be a third-liner, or are we going to look for somebody who’s going to be replacing Iggy? There are a couple of things here that we have to resolve, but at the same time, we do have some young players in Providence that are going to deserve a look. So, when training camp starts, I think a lot of those decisions will probably be taking place.”

Kelly suffered a herniated disk in the fourth-to-last-game of the regular season at Minnesota. He did not play in the playoffs and eventually had offseason back surgery. He’s expected to be healthy for the start of training camp Sept. 18.

Kelly has the ability to play both center and the wing. For the majority of last season, Boston’s third line consisted of Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Eriksson.

After Iginla’s departure, Chiarelli also said he’s happy with the team’s second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith, so it’s likely that trio will remain the same. The Bruins’ energy line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton no longer exists, since Thornton signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

Heading into camp, the Bruins have six players -- Ryan Spooner, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Bobby Robins, Alexander Khokhlachev and David Pastrnak -- for two forward positions.

Overall, the salary-cap-challenged Bruins have been relatively quiet this offseason, but Julien believes the organization will be ready for the 2014-2015 season.

“Well, right now I think there’s still some time and there’s still some things that can be done and there’s no doubt we’re still working on a few things,” Julien said. “But nonetheless, we don’t feel like we're in a real tough situation.”

Iginla, Eriksson fitting in with Bruins

September, 11, 2013
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins have been a close group for the last few seasons, and it didn't take long for newcomers Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson to fit in.

The Bruins acquired Eriksson, along with prospects Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow, from the Dallas Stars in exchange for forwards Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley on July 4. The next day, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli signed Iginla as a free agent.

Now, two months later, both Eriksson and Iginla are ready to go in Boston as training camp officially began Wednesday morning with players’ physicals.

“I’m feeling good and ready to get going here,” Eriksson said.

After the trade, many Western Conference coaches described Eriksson as one of the most underrated players in the NHL, saying that he would fit perfectly into the Bruins’ style of play.

“That’s been going on for a couple of years, actually, with that underrated [classification],” Eriksson said. “I’m just glad to be here and I’m going to show them I’m a good player and it’s nice to come and play in this town. I’ve heard a lot of good things, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

With the team’s first on-ice session scheduled for Thursday, it appears he’ll be playing the right wing along with center Patrice Bergeron and left winger Brad Marchand. Eriksson believes his style of play will compliment his new linemates.

“For sure that would help me a lot,” he said. “[Bergeron] is a good two-way player and he can make really good plays, too. It’ll be good to get going here and try to find some chemistry with everyone here and [Thursday’s] going to be a good skate.”

Iginla seemed comfortable in his new surroundings, too.

Both he and the organization have put aside last season’s trade deadline snafu when Iginla chose the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Bruins.

The future Hall of Famer will start camp playing on the team’s top line with center David Krejci and left winger Milan Lucic.

“I’m looking forward to it. They’ve been a great line and have great chemistry. I love that they play hard and compete hard and do a little bit of everything,” Iginla said. “Krejci’s a very smooth player and he just finds way to score or makes things happen. He’s a great passer and I like to shoot the puck, so you always love to play with a great passer. Looch is the best power forward in the game and as tough as they come, but also a smart player and creates a lot of room for his linemates, so I’m looking forward to that opportunity.”

Prior to his trade to the Penguins, Iginla spent his entire career with the Calgary Flames and was in his 10th season as captain. Coming to Boston, with a Bruins locker room filled with leaders, including captain Zdeno Chara, Bergeron, Chris Kelly and Shawn Thornton, Iginla only wants to fit in.

“I plan on just being myself,” he said. “I definitely don’t come in thinking that they need any leadership or help. They’re a very strong crew and have had a lot of success together and been together a long time and know each other well. I don’t want to be just a fly on the wall; I want to be part of it. The biggest thing is just play hard and compete and that’s what these guys do so well.”

At the heart of Thursday’s blockbuster deal between the Dallas Stars and the Boston Bruins is not just patience but the belief in the overarching power of time to transform potential into productivity.

At the end of the day, the Bruins did not believe enough that time was going to transform Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, into a core member of their team, so they sent the 21-year-old packing to Dallas along with Rich Peverley and prospect Ryan Button in exchange for the undervalued Loui Eriksson and prospects Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and defenseman Joe Morrow, whom the Stars acquired from Pittsburgh in the Brenden Morrow deal at the trade deadline.

Seguin has showed flashes of the promise that saw him in a neck-and-neck race with Taylor Hall for the first overall selection in 2010. He helped the Bruins win a Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2011 and scored 29 goals in 2011-12 but did not fully become part of the Bruins community. Still a boy, he acted like it at times.

There were questions about his focus and commitment. This spring, Seguin scored only once in 22 postseason games as the Bruins were defeated by Chicago in six games in the Stanley Cup finals.

After failing to trade him before the end of the draft, GM Peter Chiarelli was blunt in saying Seguin needed to focus on being a pro.

Now Seguin will get to focus on that task in Dallas, where he will carry a $5.75 million cap hit through 2018-19. Clearly, new GM Jim Nill believes such a transformation can be accomplished. For a team that has missed the playoffs five straight years, Seguin represents an important piece of the foundation with the expectation he will contribute both immediately and down the road.

While Seguin was part of a deep, veteran group in Boston, he will face significant expectations in Dallas. It's hard to believe that Mark Recchi, who is an adviser for the Stars and has a long relationship with owner Tom Gaglardi, did not vouch for Seguin, with whom he played in Boston when the Bruins were Cup-bound in 2011.

Coach Lindy Ruff will likely return Seguin to his natural position at center, a position at which the Stars have been woefully thin, although it will take a certain leap of faith for Ruff to make such a move and will take some restoration of Seguin’s confidence to make it work to the Stars’ benefit.

Boston coach Claude Julien declined to make such a move during the playoffs when injuries necessitated a shuffling of the Bruins’ forward lines. Julien chose for the most part to leave Seguin as a third-line winger as opposed to giving him a shot as a second-line center.

The Stars also will get a useful, versatile player in Peverley, who saw his role change from the Bruins’ Cup-winning team in 2011 to this season, when he played mostly fourth-line minutes, although he did chip in on the Bruins’ second power-play unit.

If there is more risk financially and in terms of fit for the Stars, there is certainly more long-term upside with Seguin given his significant offensive skill set.

The Bruins were clearly OK with that kind of trade-off, and there could hardly be a more Bruins-friendly acquisition than Eriksson. The native of Goteborg, Sweden, and former Olympian doesn’t address the team’s gaping hole on the right side created by the departures of Nathan Horton and Jaromir Jagr to free agency, but Eriksson is all business and should be an instant favorite of Julien.

At 27, Eriksson is a solid two-way player who has a $4.25 million cap hit through 2015-16. He is a four-time 20-goal scorer who had 36 goals in 2008-09, and one wonders if he will make Bruins fans quickly forget Seguin. The question will be whether Stars fans will embrace the young center in a like fashion or end up lamenting Eriksson’s loss.