Tyler Seguin paid pretty close attention to the proceedings at the draft in New Jersey, because he suspected something might happen then; typically that's the time to pull off a big deal. If teams are making a big offseason trade, the draft is fertile ground for it to happen, since that allows the trading general manager to get a first-round pick back in the deal that would help, like Pittsburgh did in trading Jordan Staal or Vancouver did in trading Cory Schneider.
But the Fourth of July? Seguin's guard was definitely down that day.
"I thought it was the holidays, you couldn't get traded," Seguin joked. He was at the ocean with 20 or so friends and his dog. He wasn't near his phone, which was collecting text messages in furious fashion, with more than 100 waiting for him by the time he was done in the water. Even then, he had to wait for details as his future changed by the moment because he wasn't getting a strong cell reception. This much he was figuring out: He wasn't going to need the house he just bought in Boston.
He drove 20 minutes until he had a consistent enough signal to call his agent and get the news. In a summer that featured big trades, this one was the biggest: a seven-player deal that sent Dallas Stars winger Loui Eriksson to the Boston Bruins in return for Seguin. The hopes of the two teams' seasons that open this week depend in large part on the big piece each franchise got back.
But what makes this trade most interesting is that these two players could actually be better fits on their new teams. And both may be headed for career seasons right now.
As good as Eriksson was in Dallas, he should be better in Boston. If there was a winger ever created to play in Boston and coach Claude Julien's system, it's Eriksson.
"He's an amazing player," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said during a recent phone conversation. "His two-way game, the way he competes on the forecheck, it's very similar to what we try to bring every game."
While the Stars have transitioned from Mike Modano to Brenden Morrow to Jamie Benn, Eriksson had been the one constant. A quiet presence in the dressing room, he was loved because when he spoke, it was usually a well-timed joke. And nothing wins teammates over like a player who always competes, which is exactly what Eriksson does. When your best player is playing hard on both ends, it's hard for others not to follow. It's part of the philosophy the Bergeron and Zdeno Chara-led Bruins are built upon.
"He can play any position in any situation," Benn said. "They're getting a great all-around, two-way player."
Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen added, "He's just always ... everything is correct in our zone, I really appreciate that [with] forwards. Especially skilled forwards. He's really calm."
Playing with Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Eriksson may be in for a season in which he tops his career high of 36 goals, set in 2008-09. You have to be careful in anticipating too much of a jump, however, because Dallas was a team with some talented centers. That career-best season, the Stars featured Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro and Modano. So he may not blossom the way James Neal did, who went from a 25-goal scorer to 40-goal scorer with the trade to Pittsburgh, but it's safe to anticipate a big season from Eriksson.
As one team executive commented this summer, "He's going to have a huge year."
The bigger question mark is Seguin, though he started to answer that this preseason. He went from a city where he owned a house and had a network of close friends, to Dallas, where he's now living in the same complex as Benn, reliant on the Stars' captain for everything from food to rides to the rink.
"I've been driving him around everywhere," Benn said, smiling. "He obviously doesn't know where he's going right now. I'm showing him some good spots to eat, a couple good spots."
In the process, the two building blocks of the Stars' future under general manager Jim Nill have immediately formed a bond.
"He's a great kid," the 24-year-old Benn said. "He's such a dynamic player. He's fast, skilled and his hands keep up with his feet, which is amazing. It's definitely a treat for me to play on his line."
Seguin's growth -- and potential to have his biggest season -- is linked to his position switch to center. Seguin's path to the middle in Boston on one of the top two lines was blocked by Bergeron and David Krejci, and when you're trying to win championships in Boston, you want a more responsible defensive center playing in the bottom six than Seguin. So his impact with the Bruins had to come on the wing.
In Dallas, he gets a chance to grow into the center everyone anticipated him being when he was chosen No. 2 overall behind Taylor Hall in the 2010 NHL draft, and the early returns during this preseason were strong. Only Joe Pavelski and Jordan Eberle had more points in the Western Conference than Seguin's seven. He had a goal and six assists in five preseason games, finishing at plus-2. Benn had four goals in five games. Eric Fehr, David Perron and Max Pacioretty were the only NHL players to score five goals this preseason.
But offensive production isn't the question with Seguin. It's mastering all of the other responsibilities that come with being an effective NHL center -- mostly on the other end of the ice.
"First and foremost, it's playing in your own end," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Being able to support the defense on the breakouts, and finding those holes where you're open and making the good decision heading up ice."
The early returns there for Seguin? "It's been good," Ruff said. "Defensively he's been good in his own end. Offensively, he's really created a lot. It seems like an easy transition so far."
The first trade in which Seguin was involved shows the danger in reaching conclusions too soon on winners and losers. Brian Burke, the Maple Leafs' GM at the time, took a lot of heat for acquiring Phil Kessel in a deal with the Bruins that included a draft pick, which eventually became Seguin. But that heat has quietly lifted with every big goal-producing season Kessel puts up in a league where it's becoming harder and harder to score goals.
Like that deal, it will take years to figure out which GM gets the edge in this one. But as the season opens this week, neither team likely will be waiting long for the payoff.