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Risky but right move for Bruins to trade Tyler Seguin

Posted by Adam Kaufman  July 5, 2013 06:04 AM

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Tyler Seguin 1.jpg

The Bruins’ trade of Tyler Seguin instantly garnered an emotional and pretty divided response among fans when it was announced Thursday afternoon in the midst of countless cookouts across New England.

Initially, the narrative boiled down to two camps:

  • This is ridiculous! He’s 21 years old! The B’s gave up on him way too early.
  • The kid’s immature and he’s an underachiever! Get something while you can.

Really, there’s probably a bit of truth in both.

Seguin put together an average (by expectation, that is) lockout-shortened season in which he scored 16 goals and totaled 32 points to rank tied for third on the Bruins in scoring. He added a plus-23 rating. What the numbers didn’t show were his bouts with inconsistency, limited hockey sense, and generally soft-natured style. Call it an unwillingness to “play like a Bruin,” if you’d like.

The postseason was an entirely different story; one that didn’t involve any smoke or mirrors. In fact, it read more like a missing person’s report.

Tyler Seguin 2.jpg

Seguin scored a mere one goal – coincidentally in a rare loss against the Rangers – on 70 shots and he accounted for eight total points, good for ninth on the team, while eventually being demoted to the third line. Not good for a guy on the brink of starting a 6-year, $34.5 million extension. Not good for a former second overall draft pick in his third season. Not good for a guy who was given every opportunity to succeed but simply couldn’t find his groove. Let’s just ignore for now the minus-two rating he ended the playoffs with as the rest of his squad was a plus-77.

Coupled with that lack of production were the organization’s ever-growing concerns that Seguin wasn’t enough of a professional, as general manager Peter Chiarelli discussed quite publicly last weekend at the NHL Draft. In short, the GM could live with his budding star’s floating style of play, but he’d had enough of the kid’s lack of focus and commitment.

Despite trade rumors involving the Calgary Flames, I took Chiarelli’s comments to stand for more of a grand warning than a real threat of movement. At 21, Seguin’s upside seemed too great. I was wrong.

Now, as so often happens when a controversial figure leaves town, the stories of Seguin’s off-ice indiscretions, some which had been so thoughtfully overlooked previously, are hitting the Internet like a tabloid. The latest, and it’s a juicy one, comes from Comcast SportsNet New England’s Joe Haggerty, who describes the youngster’s ill-advised partying while on the road during the playoffs. That, in all likelihood, is just the beginning.

But, make no mistake, if Seguin had shined over the last few months – heck, shown up at all – we’re not talking right now about his trip to Dallas.

The B’s have shown a willingness over the last few years to deal with a little immaturity, however frustrating it may have been. After all, he’s a young, good-looking professional athlete in a major city, already with a Stanley Cup championship, and millions of dollars on the way. To a certain extent, kids will be kids. The Blackhawks learned that with Seguin’s overseas roommate, Patrick Kane, and now he’s a Conn Smythe winner. Without the production, that’s when you’re labeled an expendable and overpaid headache.

So here we are. Seguin, teammate Rich Peverley (and his hefty $3.25 million cap hit each of the next two seasons), and minor leaguer Ryan Button are bound for the Stars. In return, the Bruins receive Loui Eriksson and prospects Joe Morrow, Matt Fraser and Reilly Smith.

Today, and seemingly for the next few seasons, the Bruins are almost undisputedly the winner of this trade. With the salary cap dropping, the B’s cleared $4.75 million in space for next year – helpful when considering that Tuukka Rask is in line for a big payday and the team is in need of wingers without Seguin, Peverley, Nathan Horton, and assumedly Jaromir Jagr – and they get a nearly 28-year-old durable and consistently proven scorer in Eriksson.

Loui Eriksson.jpg

The veteran of seven seasons has scored 150 goals and tallied 207 assists in 501 career regular season games. In his last four full NHL seasons, the future right wing has missed only three games and averaged 29.5 goals and 69.5 points a year. Seguin scored 29 goals and led the Bruins in scoring with 67 points as a 20-year-old All-Star in 2011-12, far and away his best professional effort. One glaring difference, though, is that Eriksson hasn’t enjoyed a trip to the postseason since his Stars reached the Western Conference Finals in 2008. The native of Sweden was your classic case of a good player on a bad team for the last several years, but he joins a perennial contender in Boston with a system more suited for his style than that of the guy he’s replacing.

Eriksson, on the books for three more seasons at $4.25 million per, is a fast, top-line talent who’s described as a solid two-way player with a good shot, positional flexibility on the wing, and he’s deadly on the power play (accounting for 36 of his 43 career special teams goals). It also doesn’t hurt that he played with Senators free agent captain Daniel Alfredssoncoveted by Chiarelli since his days in Ottawa – at the World Championships and in the Olympics.

Another intriguing piece to the deal is Morrow, a first-round selection of the Penguins in 2011, and a player who Chiarelli believes will eventually be a top-four NHL defenseman. Fraser and Smith bring some top-level experience and depth up front.

Ultimately, though, unless Morrow turns out to be something great in a Black and Gold sweater, this will be remembered as the Seguin for Eriksson swap.

Seguin, who displayed flashes of brilliance with 56 goals and 65 assists in 203 regular season games before being regularly stunted in the playoffs (three goals in his last 40 games after three scores in his first two contests), now has a chance at, as Horton’s agent might say, a “new beginning.” It’s a return to his natural center position, which he never got a fair shake at playing in Boston because he wasn’t going to leap-frog David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron.

Moreover, it’s an opportunity to positively explode offensively in a system that’s less defensively-stimulated; to put up numbers he never would have accumulated under Claude Julien’s watch. [As an aside, I only hope Seguin’s camp doesn’t begin to respond to these party-themed allegations with attacks that Julien’s system held him back or hampered his development. The less drama, the better.] That performance may decide the winner of this trade in the long-run, though a Cup title or two for the Bruins while Seguin’s in the Lone Star State could render even a Hall of Fame career inferior in the argument.

In the here and now, and I suspect the future as well, this is the right move for Chiarelli. He made exactly the correct draft pick on that June night in Los Angeles back in 2010; it just didn’t pan out. Whether influenced by the current salary cap situation or not, give him credit for cutting ties while Seguin’s value is still very high and shedding Peverley’s crummy contract in the process. What either player would have done as Bruins going forward no longer matters, only how the new guys fit in.

Still, I can’t help what wonder what Seguin – the man once projected to be Steven Stamkos – is thinking about all this. Is he excited for this fresh start in Dallas, or wishing he’d done a few things differently in Boston?

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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