Another couple of weeks have gone by, and the Stanley Cup playoffs are intensifying with the conference finals currently in progress.
The Boston Bruins are probably self-loathing amongst themselves due to the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning are the final teams remaining in the Eastern Conference. The B’s swept the season series against the Penguins while splitting four games with the Lightning during the 2015-16 regular season. Also, both squads are riding a wave of momentum through two inexperienced netminders. It is hard to imagine that either Matt Murray or Andrei Vasilevskiy will be playing in the Stanley Cup final
Oh, what could have been?
Regardless of the current situation unfolding in front of our eyes with the conference finals, the Bruins should be keeping a watchful eye on some key players still playing hockey at the moment…and for good reason.
According to sources close with the team, the Black and Gold are working on negotiating a new contract with Loui Eriksson.
This one is a head scratcher. Yes, Eriksson had a career year netting 30 goals and 63 points. However, this is only the second time in his 10-year NHL career where he recorded 30 or more goals. All of a sudden, he wants to get paid like a 30-goal scorer? With a guy that will be 31 years of age to begin next season and a well-documented history of concussions, the fact that the B’s are still trying to reach a middle ground with him is baffling. He is not a stiff of a player, but he is not a game changer; Eriksson is a nice compliment to a team who has championship aspirations and is by no means a centerpiece.
Rumor has it that the B’s worked out a deal prior to the trade deadline to send Eriksson to the St. Louis Blues for Kevin Shattenkirk. There were some draft picks and prospects involved in the deal as well, but nothing came from the groundwork that was set by both teams. The Bruins truly are better off letting Eriksson test free agency.
Speaking of the Blues, a great candidate to add to this roster would be David Backes.
The captain of the Blues is in the last year of his five year/$22.5 million contract and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He got off to a shaky start this season, but certainly turned up his game as the season came to a conclusion. He finished with 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for a St. Louis team that accumulated 107 points–third-best point total in the league–and finished second in the Central Division.
Backes has elevated his game that much more once the playoffs started. Through 18 games, he has posted seven goals and 13 points, making him a legitimate candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy. This guy would make a great Bruin and he possess several characteristics that will suit him well in a Black and Gold sweater.
He has a great fore-checking presence, he has great offensive skill to accompany his defensive game (Claude Julien would like that very much), he is an avid shot blocker (Julien would LOVE that very much), and he has the flexibility to play the center position or the wing. The Bruins need a top-line right winger who can put the puck in the net, and Backes can still produce at that level. Also, Boston lost Joonas Kemppainen as he signed with the Kontinental Hockey League last week. With the status of Chris Kelly up in the air, Backes can also slide in at center.
At this stage of his career, Backes would be a great power forward on the right side, yet still be a viable option down the middle. The pressure of him centering the top line in St. Louis clearly affected his play, but he has thrived playing on the wing with the middle-six forwards.
Since he is making $4.5 million this year, the price that he will command might be of equal or greater value. The American-born forward would like to have an extra year or two tacked on to the next contract that he signs. If he does come to Boston, his role would be slightly diminished and that is a win-win for both sides. The Bruins can win at the negotiating table with the length and final figure of the deal while Backes would still be able to thrive in any situation with this team.
Bruins fans, check out the Western Conference finals between the Blues and the San Jose Sharks to become familiar with this player. After watching Backes play on a regular basis, you would see that him playing for the Bruins next season makes a lot of sense.