For Boston Bruins fans, it was hard to make sense of the events of July 4, 2013. The Bruins were 10 days removed from losing the Stanley Cup to the Chicago Blackhawks, but boasted a strong roster that had just finished a run to the final for the second time in three seasons. It was reason for hope that a strong off-season could lead the Bruins back into the winner’s circle by the time the next campaign rolled around.
And then the trade happened.
After a disappointing post-season out of Tyler Seguin in which he scored one goal and eight points in 22 games, the Bruins made the shocking decision to ship the then-21-year-old pivot, who was three years removed from being selected second overall, out of town. In a package that included Rich Peverley and defenseman Ryan Button, Seguin was sent to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser. It was a difficult deal to understand at the time and, four years later, it’s even more evident how lopsided it was.
Now is the perfect time to revisit the trade, too, not only because it happened four years ago to the day, but also because it was just this past weekend that Boston officially cut ties with the last remaining piece of their return. That means that as of this past weekend, Boston is essentially left with nothing, nada, zilch as the return for Seguin. In fact, every branch of the trade tree ends with Boston getting nothing in return.
The first piece to be lost without a return was Fraser, so let’s start there. At the time of the trade, Fraser was bouncing between the NHL and AHL and had the chance for a fresh start in Boston. He was given that chance, too. In 2013-14, Fraser saw 14 games in Boston, but skated fourth-line minutes and had limited offensive impact. The following season, he started the year with Boston, but he struggled. Even though he was consistently getting into the lineup, he was skating 10 minutes per night and managed just three goals and no assists in 24 games. So, when the holiday roster freeze ended in December, the Bruins decided to place Fraser on waivers. He then became the first player from Boston’s Seguin return to be lost for nothing when the Edmonton Oilers scooped him up.
Maybe that one’s not so hard to understand given that Fraser was the lowest scoring and least effective of any player the Bruins received, but it’s not as if the highest scoring player to land in Boston as a result of the Seguin trade was later dealt for an effective return. That’s not to say the opportunity to recoup some assets didn’t exist, but when it comes to Loui Eriksson, the Bruins gambled and lost in free agency.
As most will recall, Eriksson was the standout Star who headed from Dallas to Boston as he was coming off of four seasons of 26-plus goals in the past five years, over which time he had eclipsed the 70-point plateau in three consecutive campaigns. That’s the Eriksson the Bruins were hoping to get, too, but it took a while for that player to show up. Across his first two seasons in Boston, Eriksson managed 32 goals and 84 points in 142 games, and he was more a member of the middle-six than the top-line during that time. By 2015-16, though, Eriksson found his game.
Skating big minutes alongside David Krejci, Eriksson pieced together his best campaign as a Bruin, scoring 30 goals and 63 points, but his success wasn’t without consequence for Boston. As the trade deadline approached and the Bruins fought for a post-season berth, GM Don Sweeney had to consider his options with Eriksson, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. That meant testing the waters on moving the Swedish winger or holding onto him, hoping that a deal could be struck with Eriksson before free agency. Sweeney went with the latter and, by the off-season, it blew up in the Bruins’ face.
On July 1, 2016, not even an hour into free agency, Eriksson had left the Bruins and signed a six-year, $36-million pact with the Vancouver Canucks. Now, it’s fair to say Boston dodged a bullet by not matching the contract and that it’s a deal Vancouver is going to come to regret. That may very well be true. But it’s also true that the Bruins let Eriksson walk in free agency when there was potential to land something, anything, in return.
Not shipping a player out or attempting to fetch a return wasn’t the case for every player involved in the trade, however. After the Bruins missed the playoffs in 2014-15, they were looking to shake up the roster, and the decision was made to send Smith, who had scored 33 goals and 91 points over the two campaigns prior, to the Florida Panthers, along with Marc Savard’s contract, for Jimmy Hayes.
At the time, there were positives to the deal for the Bruins. Hayes, Boston born and raised, was coming off of a 19-goal, 35-point season, and, standing 6-foot-5 and 200-plus pounds, he brought the size that it appeared the Bruins were after. In the days following the trade, Boston inked Hayes, a restricted free agent, to a three-year, $6.9-million deal, and the hope was the local boy could be a hit. That was far from the case, however.
Hayes’ first season in Boston wasn’t awful, as he managed 13 goals and 29 points while skating bottom-six minutes, but it was clear early this past season that Hayes simply wasn’t a fit. When he did get into the lineup, he wasn’t often utilized by coach Claude Julien and, later, coach Bruce Cassidy. Hayes averaged little more than nine minutes of ice time per outing, scored two goals and five points and was looked at as a troubling contract on the Bruins’ books. So, as the first buyout window was set to close ahead of free agency this past weekend, Boston cut ties with Hayes by buying out the final year of his contract. So, following that branch of the trade, the Bruins landed Smith, flipped him for Hayes and have since bought him out. Again, a player lost for nothing.
And that brings us to Morrow. When the deal was made, there were high expectations for the defenseman, who had been drafted 23rd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011. Suffice it to say he failed to meet those expectations in Boston. Over the past three seasons, Morrow bounced between the AHL and NHL, but was never able to move up the big club’s lineup beyond the third pairing. Altogether, since the deal, Morrow skated in 65 games as a Bruin, averaging 16 minutes per outing, and chipped in two goals and nine points along the way. But with his contract up when this season concluded, the Bruins decided not to extend a qualifying offer to Morrow, effectively making him a free agent. And when he signed a one-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens, Morrow officially became the final member of the Seguin deal to head elsewhere without Boston getting anything in return.
At the time of the Bruins-Stars swap in 2013, most anyone would have said the return was uneven, a definite win for Dallas. That came with caveats, however, with the potential for Eriksson, Smith and Morrow to become fixtures of the Bruins’ lineup as the one way for Boston to win some portion of the trade. Four years later, though, a bad deal looks worse, and as Seguin continues to succeed with the Stars, the Bruins are now officially left without any trace of arguably their most significant trade of the past decade.
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