By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The Boston Bruins have two pressing needs at the Feb. 29 Trade Deadline: acquire a legitimate top-four (preferably top-two) defenseman, and trade Loui Eriksson to get some value back for him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, assuming they don't plan to re-sign him.
There could be ways for the B's to accomplish both with one deal.
There are several teams contending for playoff spots, if not for the Stanley Cup, that could use (or desperately need) Eriksson's scoring touch in their lineup. These potential trade partners are all in the Western Conference since it's unlikely for the Bruins to make a big trade within the Eastern Conference. These teams also have the kind of talent and depth on defense that they could plausibly move to the Bruins as part of a package involving Eriksson. Some of these less realistic names would probably require additional prospects or draft picks.
TSN's official Trade Bait rankings lists Eriksson as the third-best player available on their hypothetical "trading block." Top-ranked trade chip Andrew Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets has been rumored to fetch an offer of a "first-round pick plus a prospect," according to TSN. Business-wise, it's conceivable that Eriksson, who is the same age with a similar cap hit as Ladd, commands a similar price.
Ideally, the Bruins trade for an NHL-ready defenseman that can make a significant impact right now. These potential deals could make sense for both sides, both on the ice and in their wallets. They also aren't complete pipe dreams; P.K. Subban isn't happening, nor would the lowly Jets have any need to trade Jacob Trouba for a mere rental. Those would take much larger packages.
Here are seven potential trade partners who could send the Bruins a defenseman for Eriksson, and the kind of players (or prospects) the Bruins could get in return if they can snag an established blueliner.
The Wild need to add depth and scoring on the wings; Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, and Thomas Vanek are tied for the team lead among wingers with 18 goals. Right wingers Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville have only combined for 20 goals so far. Chris Porter has seen top-six ice time but is better suited on the bottom six with Eriksson on one of the top two lines.
Defensive Talent: Ryan Suter is a bona fide No. 1 defenseman, but carries a large cap hit and is not likely to be traded over a younger prospect ... Matt Dumba is an intense, physical defenseman who would fit well on the Bruins, but is an impending RFA who will command a considerable pay raise ... Jared Spurgeon certainly has the talent to be a top-4 defenseman, but is another Torey Krug clone (5-foot-9, 176 pounds) with slightly better defense ... Marco Scandella could be a solid all-around top-4 defenseman who is signed through the 2019-20 season ... Jonas Brodin is signed through 2020-21 and can provide solid defense and all-around ability with top-pairing potential, but is currently on IR with a broken foot.
Top defensive prospect: Gustav Olofsson
The Ducks are second in the Western Conference in goals allowed, but second-to-last in goals scored. They can move a defenseman without sacrificing much on that end, and it's critical that they acquire wing scoring beyond Corey Perry if they want to make a serious Cup run. Eriksson would be a great complement to Ryan Getzlaf on the top line.
Defensive Talent: Cam Fowler has the all-around ability to be a top-pairing defenseman with No. 1 upside and is signed through 2017-18 with a $4 million cap hit, but is arguably the Ducks' best defenseman ... Hampus Lindholm would provide the defensive prowess the Bruins so desperately need and help Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg with big minutes, but is an impending restricted free agent ... Sami Vatanen has top-4 upside, but is basically Torey Krug as an undersized offensive-minded D-man.
Top prospect: Jacob Larsson
Los Angeles Kings
Of all the Western Conference playoff contenders, the Kings are arguably the closest to a championship and the favorite to win their third Cup in five seasons. The Bruins obviously have a recent history of working with Los Angeles (see Lucic, Milan) and the Kings could stand to add a top-six winger who can score. Tyler Toffoli is the only Kings winger with over 18 goals and Dwight King and Trevor Lewis have seen top-six minutes at times and do not provide enough lamp-lighting.
Defensive Talent: No, Drew Doughty is not happening ... Jake Muzzin plays a good all-around game, logs big minutes, and is signed through 2019-20 ... Luke Schenn would give the Bruins the size, physicality, and shutdown defensive ability they need right now, but is an impending UFA after the season and has a limited no-trade clause.
Top prospect: Kevin Gravel
St. Louis Blues
The Blues could stand to add wing scoring beyond Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and Alex Steen if they want to make a serious run at the Cup. Eriksson's all-around ability and scoring touch would be a nice complement on David Backes' wing (side note: I so, so badly want the Bruins to somehow get Backes). They also boast one of the deepest defensive corps in the league and may be forced to trade one or more of them since they probably can't afford to keep them all.
Defensive talent: A top-two defenseman (at a minimum) just entering his prime, Alex Pietrangelo is an excellent all-around blueliner who is signed through 2019-20 and would be the ideal player for the Bruins to wrest from St. Louis, but would likely require top prospects and/or draft picks in addition Eriksson the Blues could be committed to keeping him as their No. 1 defenseman of the future ... Jay Bouwmeester would add veteran leadership and stout defense, but with Chara still in the fold it would be somewhat of a redundant, lateral move for the Bruins to acquire the expensive 31-year-old ... Colton Parayko is young, affordable, and has good size and all-around ability with top-pairing potential, but is an RFA after 2016-17 ... Kevin Shattenkirk is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, but could be a target for an extension with St. Louis and is undersized and inconsistent in his own end.
Top prospect: Parayko
The Preds have a steep drop-off in wing scoring after Filip Forsberg and James Neal. Eriksson would fit well on a line with Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro. They also have the cap space - $9,509,349, according to Spotrac - they did just trade potential defensive stalwart Seth Jones, however, so they may not be interested in moving another D-man off the NHL roster.
Defensive Talent: Just forget about Shea Weber, as awesome as that would be ... Roman Josi is a top-two talent, but his ability in his own end is lacking compared to his offense and Nashville could be planning to transition to him as their No. 1 defenseman of the future ... Ryan Ellis has top-4 upside and is signed through 2018-19, but is undersized, inconsistent, and too mistake-prone at this point in his career to get big minutes on the Bruins.
Top prospect: Jack Dougherty
Who do you want?
Who would you want the Bruins to (realistically) acquire on defense at the trade deadline? Share your thoughts in the comments or by contacting me below.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.
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