Prospect Carl Soderberg and the Bruins have agreed to a contract and are awaiting for his transfer to be finalized by the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, with Bruins president Cam Neely saying Tuesday that “things were looking good.”
Should the approval happen and Soderberg joins the Bruins for the stretch run of the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs next month, it should be a huge addition as the 27-year-old, 6-foot-3, 210-pound forward lit up the Swedish Elite League this season with 31 goals and 60 points in 54 games.
While Soderberg will need to adjust to the NHL faster than he normally would with the season winding down, one NHL scout who saw him play this season believes Soderberg’s skill level is so high that if he uses his size to adapt to the physical rigors of the NHL, he will be able to fit in just fine.
“This guy is the real deal,” the scout said. “He’s big, talented and versatile. He’ll help Boston for sure.”
“Versatile” is the key word for the Bruins, who already are deep at center and, according to Neely, are planning to put Soderberg -- a natural center -- on the wing when he arrives in Boston.
"I think we'd like to try him on the wing first and see if he's comfortable there," Neely said Tuesday afternoon on Boston sports radio station 98.5 the Sports Hub. "Obviously, playing center at this level is not as easy as it may appear, with coverage down low and both corners. Understanding that part of the game takes some time. Who knows how quick a study he'll be?"
Neely also sounded optimistic about the return of center Patrice Bergeron, who has been out after suffering a concussion, but would not commit to a timetable.
If and when Bergeron returns, it would make sense for Soderberg to play the wing. But whom would he play with? If Bergeron returns, one imagines that coach Claude Julien would put him between his normal linemates Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, who with Bergeron have been the Bruins’ most consistent line this season. But then again, Jaromir Jagr and Marchand seem to be forming some chemistry, as witnessed by Jagr assisting on both of Marchand’s goals in the Bruins’ 6-2 win over the Hurricanes on Monday night. But let's presume Julien reunites his best line this season. Where would that leave the offensive-minded Soderberg?
It won’t be a bad problem for Julien to have, but he may end up sitting some players. If Bergeron and Soderberg are both in the lineup, here’s how this scribe would have the forward lines set up:
While I believe Shawn Thornton provides a huge spark both on the ice and in the dressing room -- as witnessed when he entered the lineup in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals and got the Bruins going in the right direction with physical play in the opening minutes of the game -- the Bruins have been struggling offensively for most of the season and need as much skill as possible. If the fourth line isn’t working, Julien can always throw Thornton or Jordan Caron back in there.
But no matter how Julien shuffles his lines and uses his new offensive weapons in Jagr and Soderberg, it will be up to them and the rest of the Bruins to execute better than they have for the last month. As Julien has pointed out numerous times, their play has been “uncharacteristic” of the Bruins teams he has coached in recent seasons and even in the first two months of this season. Yes, their schedule became demanding in March and April, but every team has had to deal with similar issues so they can’t keep leaning on that as an excuse.
Soderberg will help, just as Jagr already has, but like Jagr, he is not a savior. That saving grace will need to be found from within every member of the Bruins.