WILMINGTON — The Bruins will spend the next 11 days on the road as the clock continues to tick toward the Feb. 29 trade deadline. How the Bruins fare on this trip could very well influence the path Don Sweeney and Cam Neely ultimately choose for this team.
Right now, the Bruins are tied for the second-most points in the Atlantic Division, making them a No. 2 seed at best and a wild card at worst. Non-playoff teams such as Montreal, Ottawa and New Jersey are picking up steam as they try to find their way into the top eight.
We already know this team isn’t going to win the Stanley Cup. Last season, they chose not to sell on Carl Sodeberg because the general manager was trying to save his job. That concern isn’t there this season. Sweeney is prepared to move Eriksson if he feels he has to.
The Bruins shouldn’t be buyers (not of any sort of glossy rental, anyway), but if things go badly enough — a disastrous road trip, an injury or two, etc. — the tough decision of what to do with this team might become a little easier. The players don’t want to see that happen.
“You always want to prove that you’re a playoff team and that you’re capable of winning hockey games,” Torey Krug said. “If you don’t do that, then the GM has to do what he has to do. It’s his job to make sure that the team’s getting better. For us, we’re trying to prove that we can win hockey games and we can take a step and go for a run.”
The Bruins are 16-5-3 on the road this season, so there isn’t too much reason to believe that they will fall apart here. If they did, they wouldn’t be faced with the issues they faced last season (Peter Chiarelli trying to keep his job) that prevented them from moving Soderberg. In addition to Eriksson, the Bruins have Kevan Miller, Max Talbot and Jonas Gustavsson as unrestricted free-agents to be. Krug, Brett Connolly, Tyler Randell, Landon Ferraro, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and Colin Miller will all be restricted.
If the Bruins were to sell, they’d be wise to do so with the intention of getting young, cheap players. They should prefer players to picks after stockpiling first-and-second-rounders in 2015 and 2016 drafts. The idea of the team moving Eriksson for a young top-four defenseman is a pipe dream given that teams now place a gigantic emphasis on having good, young controllable players.
The market has yet to be truly set for this trade deadline, but consider this: Twenty three of the 30 teams in the league are either in a playoff spot (16 teams have to be, duh) or within four points of one. The Bruins are among a large list of teams that’s vying for the postseason. If they are to ever change their minds, they might find themselves in quite the seller’s market.
Should they hope for that? As has been written plenty in this space, the Bruins shouldn’t be afraid of an honest rebuild if it comes to that. The issue there is that they want to make the playoffs, yet if they trade Eriksson, they’re going to be taking enough of a step back anyway given that they already have major depth issues on the right side.
As for the possibility of adding, last season’s Brett Connolly trade hasn’t turned into goals (not for Connolly at least, though it has for Brad Marchand), but a hockey trade like that — flipping some of the picks they have for a young player should one be available — is a decent template. If a trade for a young player that could help more next season than this season is there, it would be an avenue worth pursuing.
Nobody likes lost seasons, but if you come away with something to show for it — more developed players, added pieces — it can be worth it.