Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney saw winger Loui Eriksson as too vital a player to deal.
The NHL’s 2015-16 trading deadline came and went with Eriksson still a member of the Bruins. And Sweeney defended his decision to not trade the 30-year-old pending unrestricted free agent.
Eriksson has 48 points, tied for second on Boston in scoring. With 74 points, Boston is in third-place in the Atlantic Division, one year after missing the playoffs.
“I don’t think any team in a playoff position traded a player of Loui’s magnitude,” Sweeney said. “The deal had to be right and be right for this organization for me to do that. I’ve been entrusted to do that. For me, Loui Eriksson is an important part of what we’re doing now."
Eriksson is in the final season of a six-year $25.5 million contract. On Sunday, Sweeney said “a gap” remained on a deal between the two parties. According to CSN New England, the Bruins were looking to lock up Eriksson to a contract in the four-year range at $20-24 million. Eriksson was looking for something closer to five or six years. The Bruins currently have $47,266,667 tied into their roster next season with six restricted free agents the team needs to re-sign.
“I don’t know if we spent a lot of time trying to close the gap as of today,” Sweeney said. “I think I knew their position. They certainly know where ours had been. It was about whether or not something might present itself, but I indicated our preference all along was to remain the type of team that’s competitive in a playoff run and Loui’s a big part of that.”
Instead of trading off assets, Sweeney looked to add players, bringing in defenseman John-Michael Liles from the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Anthony Camara, a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He also picked up forward Lee Stempniak from the New Jersey Devils for a fourth-round pick in 2016 Draft and second-round pick in 2017 Draft.
The 35-year-old Liles had 15 points in 64 games for the Hurricanes this season, while averaging 20:34 of ice-time. The 33-year-old Stempniak was having a renaissance year for the Devils with 41 points in 63 games.
“The type of year (Stempniak’s) having I think will complement our group very well,” Sweeney said. “John-Michael Liles is another player that brings a lot of versatility to our group. We’ll have the ability to have a guy with experience to move the puck and complement, again, some of the hard and heavy guys we have and go in and play an important role.”
As for Eriksson and the Bruins, it punts their negotiation further down the line towards the offseason. There was a question in the news conference asking Sweeney if this hurts the Bruins’ leverage with Eriksson. But Sweeney noted this could help the Bruins in showing Eriksson their faith in the player.
Said Sweeney, “I think it does indicate to Loui how much we value him.”
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