By Kirk Luedeke
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
The Boston Bruins and GM Peter Chiarelli proved that adage correct after a draft weekend rife with discussion but no action involving Tyler Seguin, but after a few days back in Boston from Newark, the 2010 second overall pick is headed to Big D.
The 21-year-old former OHL top scorer was dealt to the Dallas Stars on Independence Day with forward Rich Peverley and prospect defenseman Ryan Button for veteran left wing Loui Eriksson, along with prospects Joe Morrow, Matt Fraser and Reilly Smith.
Though the trade is sure to draw criticism from the segment of fandom convinced Seguin is a superstar in waiting, the B’s were tired of his off-ice act and immaturity. His on-ice performance simply wasn’t enough, the team realized, after a mediocre playoffs in which his club won in spite of him. So, Seguin gets a clean start in the Western Conference on a new, six-year deal that kicks in and pays him $5.7 million per year. If he resurrects his stock by getting back to generating high-end offense and bringing a more committed approach to the Stars organization, then new Dallas GM Jim Nill is a big winner here.
For the Bruins, this is a public admission of a mistake. Chiarelli signed Seguin because he believed the third-year winger (who was drafted as a center) would take a major step forward and demand a higher monetary value on an expiring ELC. The anticipated success never materialized, however. After playing well in Switzerland during the lockout, he returned to Boston for a sluggish start before heating up and finishing the 48-game season with 16 goals and 32 points, well off his pace from a year ago.
When Seguin couldn’t get going in the postseason, the B’s had seen enough and pulled the trigger to start anew with a different look and upgrade in character.
On paper, the Stars are getting a potential big payoff in the supremely talented, but underachieving Seguin. The Bruins don’t get nearly enough potential in return, but every piece of the deal is a better fit for Boston’s system and the premium the team places on speed, skill, character and commitment.
Here’s a look at what Boston gets back for this blockbuster summer deal:
Cap space: The biggest return the B’s got on this deal besides the savvy veteran Eriksson was flexibility. With $9 million tied up in both of Seguin and Peverley, they took on just $4.25 million back with Eriksson, who is signed through 2016. This gives Boston the flexibility to lock up Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron to long-term deals while perhaps saving more cash to grab a bigger name in the 2013 free agent derby (they can apply Marc Savard’s $4 million in LTIR against the cap if they need it). Daniel Alfredsson was a name rumored to be a Boston target, and there is a lot more money there today to pursue him than before.
Loui Eriksson, LW — The only NHL regular to come back to Boston in the trade, Eriksson turns 28 later this month, and has three more years left on a cap-friendly contract (he waived his NTC to join the Bruins). The speedy scoring wing scored 36 goals in 2009 and has not hit that 30-goal mark since, but is a consistent 70-point guy and will bring that coveted offensive presence from the left side. He’s an underrated player and member of that glorious 2003 draft class, when Dallas stole him early in the second round at 33rd overall.
Joe Morrow, D — The former Pittsburgh Penguins first-round pick in 2011 (23rd overall) finds himself dealt for the second time in less than four months, but brings an impressive offensive upside from the blue line to the mix. The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder is a very good skater who excels at making the first pass and kicking the transition game into high gear. He has a booming point shot (that he’s not always accurate with), but is not afraid to throw pucks to the net for deflections. His defense is not a strength, but not an area of weakness, either. He has the size, skating and vision to be an effective PP quarterback. He could see time in Boston this year, but will have a tough time beating the incumbents out in training camp. If he goes down to Providence, watch for him to be at the top of the call-up list. For more on Morrow, you can read his scouting profile on the 2011 Bruins Draft Watch Blog.
Matt Fraser, RW — The Texas Stars franchise leader in goals with 70 in two seasons is a 6-foot-2 winger with competitive drive and a wicked shot. His skating is average, with a sluggish first few steps, but he has the hockey sense and hustle to work his way into prime scoring areas. An undrafted free agent out of the Kootenay Ice of the WHL, he willed himself into the NHL (13 games with Dallas over two seasons) through sheer drive and determination. He was a fan favorite at the Cedar Park Center for his passion and ability to score big goals in the clutch. If he doesn’t make the big club out of camp, he makes an already good Providence team a hell of a lot better.
Reilly Smith, RW — The Stars’ third-round selection in 2009 (Boston’s own third-rounder- Ryan Button was sent to the Lone Star State in this one) is an intriguing piece of this trade because of his speed and hands. Playing a similar style to departed Boston winger Rich Peverley, Smith is versatile and can play an effective bottom-six role, as he appeared in 37 games with Dallas (3-6-9) after racking up 35 points in 45 AHL games with Texas. He was particularly adept in shootouts, where he was able to dangle and find the back of the net from in tight. A member of a top college program in the Miami University Redhawks, Smith is underrated. He’s not all that strong and has trouble in the tighter-checking game, but compensates with his slick elusiveness and ability to read the play and go where the puck will be.