Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Jarome Iginla’s agent, Don Meehan, are scheduled to meet in Philadelphia at the NHL Draft to continue negotiations on a new contract for the veteran right winger.
It hasn’t appeared contact talks were going well between the cap-strapped Bruins and Iginla’s camp since the playoff run ended against the Montreal Canadiens and that was confirmed on Thursday.
Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reports that Meehan has set up meetings with other NHL teams over the next few days to discuss interest in Iginla for next season and beyond. That’s a foreboding sign in a negotiation that should have been pretty simple if Iginla wanted to return to Boston.
The Bruins are facing a $4.75 million bonus overage penalty on next season’s salary cap due to bonuses earned last season by Iginla, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton, and have less than $8 million to re-sign RFA’s Torey Krug, Reilly Smith and Matt Bartkowski as well as bring in potential replacements for Iginla and Shawn Thornton. In essence, the Bruins are in the worst salary-cap situation of any team in the NHL and don’t have the money to give Iginla anything more than the one year, $1.8 million base salary deal he signed last year that ballooned to $5.5 million with bonus money.
Meehan intends to bring Iginla, 37, to market and that means he’ll get longer term and more money from teams such as the Detroit Red Wings and perhaps the Canadiens if there is mutual interest. The Bruins can’t match the bigger, better deals Iginla will rate on the open market after leading Boston with 30 goals scored – and five playoff goals – in his only season in Black and Gold.
Count Iginla, perhaps, as already dangling one foot out the door for a team in a better cap situation able to show him the money. Chiarelli admitted as much earlier this week while admitting that Boston’s dire salary-cap situation is going to force them into making moves at some point this summer, or into next season.
“You can mix and match guys and who should stay and who shouldn’t, generally speaking," Chiarelli said via conference call on Monday from Vancouver where he was attending a Team Canada Olympic celebration dinner. "The decision on Shawn [Thornton] was a very hard one. He’s been here and part of this group for a long time, and that would apply to all these guys who have been here, and who have given us good service, and that have been part of winning teams and Cup-winning teams. There will be hard choices, but it may be that we don’t make hard choices and we keep as many people as we can. We go into the year, and maybe we do make those hard choices as the year progresses.
“It may be that all these things happen at training camp, or it may be that all these things happen in November. I think a lot of people think that these hard choices get made July 1. Choices do get made July 1: it may be that we can’t sign Jarome [Iginla], it may be that we go in a different direction, or it may be that we can’t sign player X or player Y. We’re in the midst of making those decisions, and we want to see how the market plays out. These decisions may stretch into the summer, they may stretch into training camp, and they may stretch into November. The common denominator is that they are hard choices.”
Given that the Bruins have eight NHL defensemen on the roster, one would expect at least one of them to be traded off as a surplus: Johnny Boychuk would net the most savings and bring the most return in trade, and that’s why his name has popped up so much in trade whispers.
Gregory Campbell, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid and others could also be dangled as the Bruins look to remake a good deal of their roster with younger, inexpensive players from the Providence Bruins. That’s already happened between the pipes with Niklas Svedberg replacing Chad Johnson as the backup goalie.
What will the Bruins do to replace the right wing spot aside David Krejci and Milan Lucic that might be vacated by Iginla?
Loui Eriksson would seem to be a natural replacement already on the roster, and he would be a pretty good fit in Iginla’s spot if he can find some of the 30-goal magic he had with the Dallas Stars. The Bruins could chase after another aging UFA such as Daniel Alfredsson – who could be available if the Red Wings indeed sign Iginla given their interest – with a one-year bonus-filled contract.
Still, the Swedish winger is 41, breaking down and not nearly the player Iginla still is. The Bruins might just be better off going with young players with an eye toward upgrading at next season’s trade deadline.