Mike Halford

Trading Eriksson ‘had to be right’ — and for Boston, it wasn’t


In the end, there wasn’t a deal good enough to move Loui Eriksson out of Boston.

That’s what B’s GM Don Sweeney confirmed on Monday, acknowledging that — while there were offers for the Swedish winger, none were compelling enough to move him out of town while the Bruins were still in a playoff position.

“If the deal wasn’t going to be right, we were going to maintain our position,” Sweeney said. “If you look around the league, I don’t think any team currently in a playoff position traded a player of Loui’s magnitude.

“I think one first-rounder was exchanged. The deal had to be right. It had to be right for this organization for me to do that. I’ve been entrusted to do that, and for me, Loui Eriksson is an important part of what we’re doing now.”

Timing-wise, it stands to reason that once Boston opted to keep Eriksson — “three o’clock,” was Sweeney’s joking reply when asked what time he decided on it — the club quickly shifted into buyer mode. Veteran rentals John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak were acquired from Carolina and New Jersey, and there’s a sense that Eriksson also qualified as a rental, albeit an unconventional one.

Sweeney also said that, while they didn’t make any progress on a new contract for Eriksson today, an extension still wasn’t off the table.

“I’m going to continue to explore signing Loui,” he explained. “I indicated to him he’s an important part of our team as we are right now, and hopefully going forward.”

While there’s a calculated risk about letting Eriksson potentially go to market — especially since he’s got 23 goals and 48 points through 63 games — the gamble could pay off. If last year’s free agency period showed anything, it’s that big paydays of the past aren’t as lucrative, and there aren’t many out there.

Especially with salary cap uncertainty.

We’ve also seen instances in the past where teams let UFAs to go market, and re-sign them quickly — Tampa Bay did it with Ryan Callahan two years ago, Calgary did it with Karri Ramo last summer.

So maybe Boston has a good postseason run, with Eriksson contributing. And maybe there’s not as big a UFA payday as he expected in July. And maybe, when all the options are laid out in front of him, Eriksson decides staying in Boston trumps everything else.

It’s not a wildly unrealistic scenario, right?

‘Door is open’ for Drouin to return to Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Florida Panthers in the third period during an NHL preseason hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Maybe the situation is salvageable after all.

Not long after opting not to trade Jonathan Drouin by Monday’s 3 p.m. EST deadline, Bolts GM Steve Yzerman told reporters he’d still welcome Drouin back to the club — even though the former No. 3 overall pick has been under team-issued suspension for over a month.

“Jonathan is suspended,” Yzerman said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “If he wants to come back, the door is open. That’s up to him.”

It sounded like Yzerman had plenty of suitors for Drouin leading up to the deadline, but several factors got in the way. One, unsurprisingly, was concern from inquiring teams about Drouin’s playing shape, given he’s been out of action since Jan. 20.

Another factor was what Yzerman got offered.

Earlier, he said he’d like to get his club some help on the power play, and there were also reports of Tampa Bay seeking a right-handed shooting defenseman. But the end of the day, acquiring rentals on expiring contracts just didn’t make sense.

Now that the deadline has passed, it’s clear that, regardless of how pear-shaped the situation with Drouin has become, Yzerman understands 1) how talented the kid is, and 2) how much value he has.

Which is why bringing up a potential return to the Bolts is interesting, but not really surprising.

Remember, it was Drouin’s old Quebec League GM, Bobby Smith, who back in January predicted Yzerman would ‘get this back on the rails.”

“I know the teams that have traded away this type of player, whether his name is Joe Thornton or Tyler Seguin, normally live to regret it,” Smith told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think Steve Yzerman, having been not an elite player, a super elite player, is going to get this back on the rails and Jonathan is going to have a long and very good career.”

Of course, we should tap the brakes on a Drouin reunion just a bit. Yzerman did say he hasn’t spoken with Drouin or agent Allan Walsh about a return, and hasn’t thought about reaching out to them.

Related: Trade deadline day 2016 — in like a lamb, out with a whimper

Bruins stay busy, acquire Devils’ leading scorer Stempniak


Just when it looked like Boston was going to stand pat at the trade deadline, GM Don Sweeney flipped the script.

Shortly after getting veteran d-man John-Michael Liles out of Carolina, Sweeney acquired New Jersey’s leading point-getter, Lee Stempiak, per TSN.

Update: Per Sportsnet, 2nd- and 4th-round picks are going back to New Jersey.

Stempniak, 33, is enjoying a terrific campaign with the Devils and has emerged as one of the league’s best bargains. After going to New Jersey’s training camp on a PTO, the veteran winger scored a one-year, $850,000 deal and has since gone on to rack up 16 goals and 41 points in 63 games played.

That Boston was interested in Stempniak is no surprise. Prior to landing with the Devils, there were rumblings he would instead attend Bruins camp on a professional tryout.

As for the Bruins, today’s moves give a pretty clear indication of where Sweeney thinks the team is at, at least in terms of being a playoff contender. He didn’t move pending UFA forward Loui Eriksson, as many expected, and instead acquired two veteran rentals to help with postseason play.

Stempniak has been to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons — in ’13-14 with Pittsburgh, and ’14-15 with Winnipeg.

Bruins add d-man depth, get Liles from Carolina


The Boston Bruins, long rumored to be in the market for blueline help at the deadline, have acquired veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles from Carolina, per TVA.

Update: The ‘Canes acquire ’11 third-round pick Anthony Camara, a third- and fifth-round pick, per ESPN.

Liles, 35, has enjoyed a good season in Carolina — he’s been durable (averaging over 20 minutes while appearing in all 64 games) and his offense has been decent, with six goals and 15 points.

Head coach Bill Peters was full of praise for the 35-year-old, calling Liles “a real good pro,” that’s been “excellent with our young guys.”

The former Avalanche, Maple Leaf and Hurricane should provide some good experience for the B’s come playoff time. He’s appeared in 40 career contests, most of which came with Colorado.

Liles is in the last of a four-year, $15.5 million deal with a $3.875M cap hit. It’s worth noting his salary is only $2.75M this season.


Ducks acquire Pirri from Panthers

Florida Panthers center Brandon Pirri (73) goes down after being checked by Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly (23) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, March 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The Anaheim Ducks, who have rebounded from their early offensive woes and started scoring some goals, have added an intriguing piece in that department — Brandon Pirri, who had 11 markers and 24 points through 52 games for Florida this season.

Per Sportsnet, it’s a sixth-round pick headed to Panthers in exchange.

Pirri, a former second-round pick (59th overall, 2009), is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, stemming from a nasty collision into the boards earlier this month.

When healthy, he’s shown an affinity for finding the back of the net — last year, he scored a career-high 22 times in just 49 games played, good enough to finish second on the team in goals (only Nick Bjugstad had more).

Pirri’s in the last of a two-year, $1.85 million deal with a $925,000 cap hit. He is expected to return at some point in early March and, when he does, could gather some of the minutes now available with veteran winger Chris Stewart out of action.

Stewart suffered a broken jaw in a fight earlier this month, an injury that will sideline him for 4-8 weeks.