It wasn’t so much what February 29, 2016 was with all of the buildup, but what it wasn’t.
Loui Eriksson, a player this blog declared a foregone conclusion that he would be moved, stayed put.
Jonathan Drouin, the former third overall pick in 2013 and an electrifying talent who opted to sit home and wait for a trade out of Tampa Bay was not granted his wish, so will have to decide between staying home and missing an entire season (and thereby delaying his eventual arrival to unrestricted free agency) or coming back to work with his tail between his legs in hopes of salvaging some value for an offseason deal.
Veteran defender Dan Hamhuis had a lot of attention surrounding him going into the final day to wheel and deal, but Vancouver couldn’t make anything work. GM Jim Benning wasn’t able to move Radim Vrbata either, for that matter.
Most of what happened today was spare parts and aging assets exchanged for futures (picks and prospects), and on that score, the Boston Bruins and GM Don Sweeney were firmly in the middle. For whatever that’s worth.
The team gave up four picks- two each in 2016 and 2017 and a bust prospect in Anthony Camara to acquire veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles and right wing Lee Stempniak, 35 and 33 years of age respectively. Both represent an upgrade to the current Bruins roster, but how much of an upgrade is the source of contentious debate.
Even if you’re okay with the addition of Liles and Stempniak for what the B’s gave up for them (some folks aren’t but that’s often what happens when assets are exchanged for marginal improvements in the form of aging veterans), the real issue of the day from the Boston perspective is the fact that Sweeney was not able to move Eriksson.
In his post-deadline press conference, Sweeney said the following:
“I’ve always valued the type of player that Loui is. The season he’s having I think is important for where our club is and if the deal wasn’t going to be right, that we were going to maintain our position. If you look around the league, I don’t think any team currently in a playoff position traded a player of Loui’s magnitude.”
That may be true.
It also ignores the fact that Eriksson provided the Bruins with a rare out- a chance to take a step backwards to perhaps build towards a more substantial leap ahead in the coming offseason or beyond.
Now, Sweeney is faced with the unenviable task of either re-signing Eriksson to an extension that he’s already proven he won’t cut the team any slack on (unless he has a change of heart between now and June 23- which is around the draft when the B’s can at least flip his rights to a team desiring exclusive negotiating rights for a fifth- or sixth-round pick. Whoopee.) or watching him ride off into the sunset with a big barrel of cash and a new team come July 1.
Sure- this Bruins club is a better team with Eriksson on it than not, but nobody is lining up to put lay odds on them to win a Stanley Cup and put money on it. So, while he and Liles and Stempniak do have a better than average chance of keeping the Bruins on glide path to one of eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, the team diminished its chances a little in stockpiling the assets needed to go out and get that legitimate, in-his-prime or younger top-4 defenseman and maybe more.
It’s hard to fault Sweeney for wanting to give his team, which has worked hard to stay in the thick of things this season, a reasonable chance to reach the postseason, when anything can happen. Unfortunately, the fans are in no mood to see the Bruins simply make the playoffs only to bow out quickly, or get trounced by the clear contenders of the conference.
Here’s a 35-minute podcast that capture my thoughts on Eriksson and the new acquisitions, but it’s hard to be excited over what happened today. There are always those fans that are eternally optimistic and will look for the positives. More power to them. Alas, the majority of folks I’ve heard from aren’t on board, so if Boston fans start voting with their feet, there will be even more pressure on management to make more substantial changes.
Let’s just hope that doesn’t amount to throwing good money after bad.