No team in contention, looking to add Loui Eriksson's services, will part ways with a young defenseman who could help the Boston Bruins immediately. Thus, trading Eriksson makes the Bruins an inferior team.
Teams such as Anaheim, Minnesota or Winnipeg would be insane to move a young, future top-pairing defenseman such as Sami Vatanen, Jonas Brodin or Jacob Trouba, respectively, for a player whose only guarantee is to be a rental. Vatanen, an RFA after the season (along with fellow youngster Hampus Lindholm), is affordable for a Ducks team that has roughly $7 million in cap space and sees the contract of David Perron ($3.75 million) come off the books in June. Minnesota, a team free-falling like the O'Doyle's from the side of the highway in Billy Madison, would be foolish to move a talented defenseman with term for a rental. Trouba, Winnipeg's dazzling young d-man and a RFA following this year, is unlikely to see a payday from his Manitoba-based employers following Dustin Byfuglien's extension. Winnipeg would be best suited, however, to move Trouba in the offseason, getting a return similar to Boston's for Dougie Hamilton, whilst being able to pursue Eriksson or current-Jet Andrew Ladd in July.
Eriksson is going to bring back futures. As in, he'll net the Bruins a first round draft pick, hopefully, and a prospect or two. Which, obviously, makes this team worse in the now. As inconsistent as this frustrating team can be, they still have a chance to make some noise in April and May. They're too top-heavy to not have a chance. Any team with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask in the primes of their careers, and a still capable Zdeno Chara has a chance. I'm not saying their a shoo-in for an Eastern Conference title, but they have the makings of a playoff team. Which, of course, is the goal for this season: get back to the postseason.
There's an increasing push for Frank Vatrano to jump from Providence and replace Eriksson in Boston. Vatrano is seen as a safety net, a young player whose AHL successes can translate into a quality NHL game. Down the road, yes, this will happen. But it's a tall task to ask of a first-year pro; replacing Boston's top forward in terms of TOI, third in CF% RelTM and fourth in PTS/60. This isn't to say we as fans shouldn't be excited about Vatrano's 23 goals and 34 points in 22 games with the Providence Bruins. We should be excited. The East Longmeadow, Massachusetts native is clearly going to be a key contributor moving forward, but anything more than a complimentary role for the 21-year-old is asking for too much, too soon.
It would be wise to, if the Bruins feel inclined, to skate Vatrano with Bergeron and Marchand moving forward. Dropping Brett Connolly, a capable bottom-six forward, to the third or fourth line. You can import Vatrano into the lineup, while not having to move Eriksson to create a spot. It gives Vatrano a look and keeps the Bruins as a contending team in the East.
Another way to look at this situation is as follows: how many prospects and picks do the Bruins need to stock up on? The prospect pipeline is pretty deep as it currently stands. Hell, Sweeney and co. are coming off an entry-draft in which they made three selections in the first round. These picks are two to three years away from making an impact -- and that's just the first-round trio from 2015. There's plethora of NCAA prospects; Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Rob O'Gara, Danton Heinen, Ryan Fitzgerald, Ryan Donato, Sean Kuraly and Matt Grzelcyk -- all of whom have optimistic upsides. The Bruins have built up a solid foundation over the past few seasons, and it's going to pay dividends moving forward. Boston is a big-market team, likely coming in as close to the salary cap as possible every season. They have star players, and pay them as such. These young players will have their moment in time, but right now, in Boston, it's about getting back into the postseason.
It's hard to think of a scenario where Boston improves in the now while moving their talented Swede. The Eastern Conference isn't a powerhouse. Its wide open behind Washington, and the Bruins have shown they can keep pace with the cluster of good teams below the Capitals, so why waive the white flag by moving one of their most integral pieces?