BOSTON - Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson was not traded despite not signing a contract prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday after months of speculation.
Boston general manager Don Sweeney explained that the right trade did not materialize and he decided to retain Eriksson for the Bruins' attempt to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Boston missed the postseason in 2014-15 for the first time in eight seasons. As of Monday, the Bruins were in third place in the Atlantic Division with 74 points, but four back of the first-place Florida Panthers.
"In all honestly, I had evaluated over the course of months really as to whether or not Loui was going to be signed before the deadline," Sweeney said. "We've been in contract negotiations. We'll continue to talk with Loui and his group. I've always valued the type of player Loui is. The season he's having I think is important for where our club is. And if the deal wasn't going to be right, then we were going to maintain our position. If you look around the League, I don't think any team current in a playoff position traded a player of Loui's magnitude. ... The deal had to be right. It has to be right for this organization for me to do that. That's what I've been entrusted to do and I'm going to continue to do that.
"And for me, Loui Eriksson's an important part of what we're doing now, to be in the position we're in. It could be also for an extended period of time if we do find a deal. It works in conjunction with the bigger outlook of our organization going forward and what we're trying to do here."
Eriksson, who was acquired July 4, 2013 from the Dallas Stars as part of the Tyler Seguin trade, is tied for second on the Bruins in points (48) and goals (23). Sweeney, who's in his first season as Bruins GM, said that he and Eriksson's representatives did not close the gap in their negotiations. But keeping the current team together proved to be more attractive to Sweeney than shipping Eriksson out.
Video: Bruins acquire D John-Michael Liles, F Lee Stempniak
Sweeney's faith in the current core of his roster was confirmed by the two trades he did make; the Bruins acquired forward Lee Stempniak from the New Jersey Devils for a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2017; defenseman John-Michael Liles was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for a third-round pick in 2016, a fifth-round pick in 2017 and forward Anthony Camara from Providence of the American Hockey League. Stempniak and Liles are rentals and can be unrestricted free agents this summer, but Sweeney didn't feel like he was mortgaging the future by parting with four draft picks.
"In talking with a lot of teams and about a lot of prospects that they may or may not have been after, I felt the draft situation and relinquishing some of those in order to acquire a player of Lee's versatility, the type of year he's having, I think will complement our group very well," Sweeney said. "He can play in a bunch of different positions for us. And John-Michael Liles is another player that brings a lot of versatility to our group. I think we will have the ability to have a guy with experience that can move the puck and complement again some of the hard and heavy guys that we have and go in and play an important role hopefully going forward."
Stempniak, a 33-year-old right wing, has 16 goals in 63 games this season. He can play anywhere in the Bruins lineup. The 35-year-old Liles, who has six goals and 15 points in 64 games, will probably fit on one of Boston's bottom two defense pairs and the second power-play unit.
Sweeney believes he struck the right balance between fortifying the Bruins for this season and maintaining a bright future.
"I think we've maintained a very, very strong position with two [first-round picks] and a second this current season," Sweeney said. "And as well as the prospects that we think so highly of in moving forward and moving this organization forward, being able to implement several of those players as early as next year and certainly the coming years to surround what I think is a very admirable core group that has led us to where we are today.
"You've got other players that have certainly stepped up a number of times. But our players in a lot of ways, and our coaching staff, the work that they've done, have put us in a position and hopefully we continue to maintain and grow the last 19 games. They sort of earned that right in my opinion to have a group that was supplemented today."