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Loui Eriksson's potential free agency is looming large as one of the key decisions of Boston's upcoming offseason. Today, the Chowder staff debate what the Bruins should do. Here's the argument for keeping him.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Loui Eriksson is one of the most underrated players on the Boston Bruins, and it would be madness to let him leave.

The Swedish forward is currently second in scoring on the B's halfway through the season, but it's not just points that put King Loui squarely among the players Don Sweeney needs to make sure is in a black-and-gold jersey next season. It's so much more than that.

Eriksson currently makes 4.25 million dollars a year. That's not bad money for a winger pegged by some as a 3rd line forward who can play either side and slot in anywhere on the top nine...who also plays in all situations.  His play this year has shown the man from to be the Swedish version of a Swiss Army knife.

Detractors of re-signing Eriksson will doubtless look at his salary - and sure, working on an increase of a third in his salary, we're up to around 5.5 million a year to resign him. That's a decent chunk of money for a player who is already 30...but not excessive for a guy who is likely not even going to reach his mid-30's by the end of any following contract. It's also a positive bargain when you look at the fact that DAVID CLARKSON was given 5.25 million a year in a similar position, based on one good season.

Loui has 4 20-goal NHL seasons, and is already up to 15 this season, well on pace for his fifth. When you look at the contracts currently floating around, a contract of $5.5 million a year seems perfectly reasonable.

Then you bear in mind what Eriksson actually contributes. He's strong along the boards, capable as both a goalscorer and a playmaker, and probably second only to the likes of Patrice Bergeron when it comes to two-way ability. He projects at around 30 goals and 72 points this season based on his current output...even if that drops by two-thirds, 50-60 points is more than achievable.

Oh yeah, and he's a Bruins fan favourite who works like an absolute Trojan. In our midseason grades we gave him an A+..and it's only that low because we can't go any higher.

Those arguments are pretty compelling, right? But let's say that the B's ARE looking to trade him, which is something that will have to be done at the deadline or before to get any real value. That expiring contract is going to loom large in the eyes of many GMs looking to acquire him. The trade market is out there, but if the B's are looking to trade a forward who is one of the key members of their team and more than likely will be a key playoff contributor too, they'd better be damn sure they're not going to make the playoffs. They'd also better be prepared to accept far less than he's worth.

Playoff rental trades rarely go that well for the team selling...unless the team buying is really desperate and in full "WE NEED THIS GUY! mode. The only reason for a team in the B's position to trade a guy like Loui is if they get an offer that significantly improves the squad AND saves cap part of either a straight-up or package deal that nets something like a stud defenseman on a cheaper contract or a forward who is going to provide more at the position than Loui can.

Can you see those trades out there right now? Not really.

Can you see there being a trade offered at the deadline that is going to be to the B's advantage? Not me, either.

Right now, the B's are looking at either trading one of their best forwards and a genuine fan favourite for (at best) 75 cents on the dollar, or risking losing him for nothing.

That's not an option that's worth taking given that the advantages of keeping him are so much more. Sure, it may require a little creative cap movement. It may require shedding a contract or two down at the lower end of the team and giving bigger roles to prospects/young players next season.

But when those cheaper young players are named Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano, to name but two, that's not really a hardship, is it?

Lock down Loui, Bruins. You'll regret it if you don't.