Earlier in the season, I said the Bruins needed to trade Eriksson, and I still think that would have been the right choice. But let's not kid ourselves. With Krejci, Tuuk, Bergeron, and Chara all at the ages they're at, on the contracts they're on? Neely and the Jacobs want every year to be a Cup year. Eriksson wasn't leaving unless it improved our roster for THIS year, and that was a trade that wasn't even going to come.
So, what moves did the Bruins make to ensure that the last few months of Loui's time here wasn't wasted?
Move 1: Stemp on the gas peddle, baby!
The Bruins acquired forward Lee Stempniak from the New Jersey Devils for a second round pick and a fourth round pick. A fourth round pick isn't much, but a second round pick can be very valuable, and it really hurts to give one up for a rental forward considering the Bruins don't really need one.
The Bruins also sent down Zac Rinaldo, so assuming Stempniak is going to replace him, let's see how they compare.
Yeah, so Stempniak is good. Like, top 6 forward good. Now, did we need another top 6 winger? No. But does another top 6 winger totally push our forward corps over the top into the ridiculously good level? Hell yes it does!
Possible lines vs. CGY:— Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) February 29, 2016
Now, I don't think Randell stays in the lineup that long, and I don't think Ferraro stays as the 4C. I'd bet on Connolly-Kemp-Ferraro as your 4th line going into the playoffs. But no matter what happens with your 4C and 4RW, you've got to admit that lineup looks insane. Bergerchand with Stempniak is insane levels of puck possession. And hate on Connolly all you want, but if he's on your 4th line, you've got some damn good forwards.
The worst part of this trade is that the Bruins could have had him to start the year, and kept all their picks. Stempniak went to New Jersey on a PTO, despite the fact that he was clearly deserving of a full NHL contract. The Bruins are, unfortunately, bad at analyzing this type of talent. This is a phenomena I wrote about earlier this year.
Move 2: Tell me Liles, tell me sweet little Liles
First, the facts. Liles is a top 4 quality guy. He's a top pairing guy, arguably, on this team. Definitely top 4. The Bruins gave up a 3rd, a 5th, and Anthony Camara to get him. After the second round, draft pick value drops off dramatically. Here's some numbers because I love those.
What does all this mean? Well, it means that defensively, Liles is an incredibly good player. He's a very good defensive defenseman, that's very good at suppressing shots. And, when you take shot location into account (what xG does), he's an elite shot suppressor, one of the best in the league.
I'm going to quote myself from an earlier article this year, with a few alterations, for this section.
So, here's a possible lineup the Bruins could deploy.
Chara - Trotman
Krug - Justoneguy
SeidenMillQuaid - Colin Miller
I'm slowly beginning to suspect that Miller and McQuaid are simply Seidenberg's alter-egos, so call whoever will play on the left side of that third pairing whatever you wish. You can blend those wingers around to your hearts content, too. Maybe throw a Vatrano in if you're feeling frisky. But if you ask me, all the Bruins need is Justoneguy, and they're a contender.
Justoneguy needs to be better at defense, though. Justoneguy's gotta be able to anchor that second pairing in the d zone. But it really shouldn't be all that hard to get Justoneguy to play next to Krug, compliment his play style, and make that second pairing great. Justoneguy will need to kill penalties, too. Can't forget that one. But that's all you really need out of Justoneguy. We have more than Justoneguy to generate offense from the blue line, that's for sure. And he's definitely not needed on the PP. But don't forget about last season. After the Boychuk trade, the Bruins really needed Justoneguy to replace him, and it never quite worked out.
You know, you never really notice how important Justoneguy is unless Justoneguy isn't in the lineup. In a lot of situations, we're screwed if we don't have Justoneguy. 3 minutes left against the Penguins, you're down by 1, they've got the goalie pulled and have Kessel, Crosby, Malkin and Letang all out there against you? With a Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson line, all you need is Justoneguy next to Chara and you're golden! Spooner's defensive woes are a much bigger problem without Justoneguy to make sure you're got 2 pairings that aren't defensive tire fires.
In my opinion, Liles fixes most of the problems the Bruins have faced this season. He displaces the right people on the blueline to make our top two pairings legit. He actually gives us a legit second pairing, meaning Chara doesn't need to play 55 minutes a night. And because Chara doesn't need to play as much, his partner doesn't need to play as much, meaning you can put a rookie like Trotman or Chiller there and not be too worried about their mistakes. He's the kind of responsible, shutdown D that you could play a guy like Krug or Chiller next to and not worry about. He can kill penalties. You could throw him out there with Chara to create a super pairing in a pinch.
Basically, Liles is Justoneguy. He's even better than the theoretical Justoneguy I talked about in my article.
He was the best defenseman available at the deadline, and the Bruins got him for almost nothing. He doesn't fix our problems long term, that's true, but any way you spin it this trade was a slam dunk for the Bruins. But for this season, for right now, he fills just the right kind of role to fix a TON of our problems on the blue line.
Don Sweeney made two moves today that I believe push the Bruins from a bubble team into a contender. No team has improved as much on the trade deadline as the Bruins have. And with a weak eastern conference, that may be enough to push the Bruins over the edge into Cup contention. And all the moves done were relatively cheap. Make no mistake, keeping Eriksson will cost the Bruins more than it took to get Liles and Stempniak combined.
But at the end of the day, the Bruins added a top pairing defenseman and a top line forward, and all they had to give up were some late draft picks.
And that means we may not waste our time with Eriksson after all.