Last summer, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was more than happy to deal away promising forward Tyler Seguin in a seven-player trade that notably brought Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith to Beantown.
In Boston, Seguin’s development was restricted because he was playing a non-offensive role. He was stuck behind star centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron in the depth chart and playing on the wing.
Dallas shifted Seguin from the wing to his natural position at center. Seguin was plugged into a top line role centering power forwards Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin. The 22-year-old went on to post an outstanding 84-point campaign in his first season in “Big D.”
Seguin’s tremendous debut season in Dallas led some to declare the Stars as the clear winner of the summer swap. That would be a rush to judgment. The Bruins received talented pieces. Eriksson is an excellent two-way winger and Smith is an industrious goal-scorer.
Eriksson is primed for a rebound year after suffering a concussion-filled inaugural season in Boston. The 29-year-old scored 10 goals and recorded 27 assists for 37 points in 61 games last season. Even though Eriksson wasn’t healthy, his plus-minus was a robust plus-14.
The Swede will be filling the top line role vacated by the free-agent departure of powerhouse winger Jarome Iginla. Eriksson will play on the right side of Krejci – an elite, playmaking center and intimidating winger Milan Lucic.
It’s very possible that Eriksson will strike up a solid chemistry with Krejci. Both are highly-talented playmakers and Eriksson will benefit from Krejci’s world-class vision and passing ability.
A 70-point season is possible for Eriksson. The Swede broke the 70-point mark three times in Dallas in three consecutive seasons between 2009 and 2012.
Even if Eriksson does enjoy a strong bounce-back season, the Bruins appear to have been overtaken by the stronger Montreal Canadiens as the beasts of the Atlantic Division.
The salary cap squeeze has been tough on the Bruins. In an ideal world, Iginla would have been retained and kept on the B’s top line. Iginla went on to sign a reported three-year, $16 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.
Boston’s forward depth has taken a hit, and the Bruins have offered tryouts to wingers Simon Gagne and Ville Leino. The oft-injured Gagne hasn’t played an NHL game since April 2013 and Leino did not score a goal in 58 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres.
Another ramification of the lower-than-expected $69 million salary cap is that both Smith and puck-moving defenseman Torey Krug remain unsigned. While both will eventually re-sign, the Bruins have some maneuvering to do. It’s possible that Chirelli moves one of his veteran blue-liners clear the space needed to re-sign Smith and Krug.
Meanwhile, the rival Montreal Canadiens possess a core group of highly-talented players who are 25-year-old or younger. The youth of P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk means that the Canadiens will be a force for years to come, and goaltender Carey Price has plenty of Vezina-contending years ahead of him at 27.
It will be difficult to see the Bruins repeating last season’s success as Presidents’ Trophy winners. The Bruins are a team trending in the wrong direction, while the Habs are the new dominant team in the Atlantic Division.
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