Haggerty: Pressure's on for Chiarelli to make a move

Haggerty: Pressure's on for Chiarelli to make a move
March 20, 2013, 9:00 pm
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The Bruins knew they’d have a pound of flesh to pay when the NHL schedule got heavy in March and April.

As it turned out, it took only a few weeks for the dense thicket of back-to-back games and every other day tilts to take a massive toll: Chris Kelly, David Krejci and Adam McQuaid have all dropped with injuries and both Kelly and McQuaid will be out for the majority of the remaining regular season schedule.

The pressure is mounting on Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to get a deal done that will deliver some healthy bodies for Boston, but it’s an extreme sellers’ market to this point in the season. The problem as coined by TSN’s James Duthie: Middle Standings Syndrome (MSS) has trumped most trade conversations to this point in the season.

In other words, nearly every team in the league still things they’re in the playoff hunt.

There isn’t a single club that’s more than three wins out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and only Buffalo and Florida have sent up the white flag of surrender in the Eastern Conference. That means Chiarelli and the rest of the NHL GM buyers have to hold firm with their current rosters, and simply play the waiting game for teams to plummet out of contention.

It’s of major inconvenience to a hockey club like the Bruins that could use replacements for injured players now, and it’s a quandary for a team-builder like Chiarelli that prefers to bring in new players well ahead of the trade deadline. That’s something he pulled off two years ago when Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley and Kelly all arrived in Boston weeks ahead of the trade deadline. The extra time gave the new players plenty of games/practices to get acquainted with the Bruins way of doing things prior to the grind of the playoffs.

Another problem facing the Bruins: some of the secondary targets like San Jose’s Ryan Clowe and Dallas’ Brenden Morrow are battling injury issues this season. There are some legitimate questions about just how healthy each of those players is at this point in the season, and how much they can bring to a club in need. Clowe is out with a shoulder issue, and there are whispers out of San Jose that it’s been a season-long problem related to his noticeable lack of goal production this season.

Morrow is a team captain and a longtime warrior that might not have much tread on the tire at 34 years old and plenty of hard miles on him. He also holds a no trade clause and Stars management will only move him when/if he wants to be dealt to a legit Stanley Cup contender.

Both of these players could expect to cost the Bruins a draft pick and a mid-level prospect with the pick perhaps a conditional one depending on whether the players re-signs with Boston following the playoff run. But with the B’s in a desperate situation because of injuries and countless suitors vying for these same players, the price tags are no doubt at a premium right now for even secondary targets.

All of that brings us to the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes.

Clearly the Bruins are interested in Iginla’s services, and those feelings have intensified as any potential trade hopes with Ottawa for Daniel Alfredsson went up in smoke as the Senators kept on winning. The Calgary Flames captain has become the No. 1 target for the Bruins on their trade wish list, and fits the ball for Boston on so many levels.

Iginla is a fiery leader, he’s a physical presence still capable of playing the power forward position at an elite level and he was good enough to still score 32 goals last season at 35 years old.

Even better, Iginla is a player with a burning desire to win a Stanley Cup, and the current edition of the Bruins – with so many players that captured the Stanley Cup just two years ago – could use that type of insatiable hunger and unbridled competitiveness in their midst. In discussions with NHL scouts, there have been more inquiries about 19-year-old goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban than any other prospect in the Bruins system. Subban would fit the mold as the centerpiece for a Flames team that seems to have targeted a young goaltender as the desired bounty in any potential trade involving their franchise winger.

A package of Subban, a roster player (Rich Peverley is the most likely candidate given his wide range of abilities) and a first round pick would be the going rate for a player of Iginla’s ilk: the kind of return that would allow Calgary management to calm some of the angry masses surely be upset watching their superstar migrated across the country for a hockey club with a better chance to win.

It would be the reverse of 12 years ago when Ray Bourque bolted Boston to go win his Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. So Bruins fans should know full well just how delicate things will be in Calgary when it comes to moving a player that’s been the face of their franchise for 16 years.

Above and beyond that, Iginla will need to be 100 percent on board with coming to Boston, and this is where the Bruins will be competing with the Penguins, Kings, Canucks and Red Wings among others for his services. It will be Iginla driving the bus on where he is traded to as much as anything or anybody else.

With that in mind, one has to wonder how ushering in a big personality like Iginla’s would affect the current roster of established Bruins players. Of course Iginla would be a welcomed addition on the ice where his style of play is a natural fit for the Big Bad Black and Gold way of life.

But the whispers out of Calgary have been resounding that Iginla isn’t interested in playing a third line role in Boston or anywhere else – and that may be a condition of him waiving his no trade to come to the Bruins. Clearly Iggy is a top six forward in normal situations and perhaps he would displace Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand or Tyler Seguin as a winger on one of the top two forward lines.

But shouldn’t a player like Iginla that’s obsessed with winning a Cup be more concerned about joining a team with the best chance of winning rather than what role he’d be playing once he arrived?

Couldn’t such demands/expectations be the kind of thing that could undermine the exact kind of all-for-one mentality needed in the postseason?

It might be immaterial now as the Bruins clearly need to acquire both a winger and a defenseman at the trade deadline, and that means perhaps netting a pair of solid players rather than targeting one full blown NHL superstar.

The Bruins are also undoubtedly looking for defensemen help and would love a player that could take on a top four role if need be. Ultimately they'd like a puck mover to take some of the pressure off 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton once the playoffs arrive, and Isles power play maestro Mark Streit would be a perfect fit. But Ryan Whitney, Lubomir Visnovsky Robyn Regehr, Dan Boyle, Jay Bouwmeester and Keith Yandle all bring their set of strengths and weaknesses to the table if Boston find a suitable match with any of those teams. Otherwise it will be some awfully familiar faces along the B's blue line come the playoffs.  

The Calgary/Boston rumors surrounding Iginla will no doubt be sparked higher by Chiarelli and Flames general manager Jay Feaster sitting next to each other in a luxury box at Wednesday night’s Leafs/Lighting game at Air Canada Centre. Both GMs are, of course, in Toronto for the NHL’s GM meetings and sat in a cordoned section with the rest of the league’s general managers, but it would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Perhaps they were talking about Bobby Orr’s 65th birthday or Jake Gardiner’s first game back with the Leafs after being “freed” from the AHL.

But the smart money is on Chiarelli and Feaster playing the cat-and-mouse trade deadline game with April 3 rapidly approaching in exactly two weeks and Iginla standing as the biggest potential prize still on the shelves.