Haggerty: Iginla and B's bank on things working

Haggerty: Iginla and B's bank on things working
July 6, 2013, 4:45 pm
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BOSTON – Jarome Iginla wouldn’t come right out and say it in plain words, but it was pretty clear in his actions.

The 36-year-old instructed agent Don Meehan to contact the Bruins during the 48-hour free agent visitation window, and express his interest in signing with Boston as a free agent. In doing so, Iginla took the necessary first step toward thawing the ice, and essentially admitted he made the wrong choice by picking Pittsburgh over Boston last April.

Iginla never actually uttered the words, and Peter Chiarelli made certain to stress that his GM feelings never changed on the powerful right winger from April’s NHL trade deadline to July’s Free Agent Frenzy period. Credit the Bruins GM with taking great care to never blast Iginla when he was left holding an empty bag after the trade fell apart between Calgary and Boston.

That left a bridge fully intact between Iginla and the Bruins.

But it’s also clear the Pittsburgh rental player witnessed one team built for the playoffs during the Eastern Conference Final, and it wasn’t the Penguins team he suited up for.

“[We] ran into the Bruins. This time around, I was looking at it and wasn’t sure if there was going to be an opportunity [in Boston]. I wasn’t sure how Peter [Chiarelli] felt or the Bruins felt about possibly having me. I did ask my agent to explore it. I’m thrilled that there was a chance,” said Iginla. “The city is an amazing sports city. I have friends who played there. They’re a team that year in year out is extremely competitive. They are very hard to play against. They play a physical, aggressive style.

“I like that. I also know from the guys on the team that they have a lot of respect for them. I’m thrilled to get the chance to join them, and another opportunity to be a part of it. I’m happy it was able to work out. I know they’re in a tough cap situation and they have a great core that is signed up for a long time. [They’re] a fun team to watch.”

Iginla will, of course, have to mend fences and endure a few chirps when he first walks through the Bruins dressing room door in September to report for work.

But he’ll also be doing a lot more than watching while in Boston this season. There were indications it could be for much longer than one season if both Iginla and the Bruins find it to be a mutually beneficial hockey marriage.

On Boston’s end they’ve got a big, strong, physical player with the skill to score 20 plus goals 12 seasons in a row before the 2013 lockout shortened campaign, and a big finisher that put up 32 goals and 67 points just two seasons ago.

The Bruins will gladly take those kinds of numbers with Iginla potentially riding shotgun on the right side with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. He’ll essentially be replacing Nathan Horton on the right wing as many thought he would when the Bruins nearly bagged him back in April.

Ah, yes about that aborted deal that caused so much uproar when Iginla essentially chose Sidney Crosby over the Boston Bruins.

“[I talked to] Andy Ference, Kobasew [Chuck Kobasew], Mark Recchi amongst many others about the city, the team and the group of players here. I love the way they play. I know there’s going to be questions and stuff as far as choices and things like that, but they were always a team—not being in Calgary—that if I were to move I would want to play for,” said Iginla. “I know that sounds maybe a little bit different when at the deadline [I didn’t] go to Boston, but it was a tough decision.

“It wasn’t one I took lightly or easily. Boston and Pitt were the two out of thirty teams that I was actually down to. I definitely have respect for both of them and thrilled to be a part of the Boston organization.”

For his part Chiarelli pulled off a coup getting Iginla to agree to a one-year, bonus-filled deal that will be a $1.8 million hit on this year’s salary cap, and could make Iginla as much as $6 million if he hits all his bonus targets. It says quite a bit about Iginla’s hunger, humility and willingness to work within Boston’s team parameters that he agreed to much less guaranteed money to play in Black and Gold.

Those qualities will be needed with the Bruins losing key personalities and performers like Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference from the team mixture. It left Boston’s front office with a need for at least one key veteran voice that can act as liaison between the B’s coaching staff and a tight room full of Bruins players.

That was one element missing over the last couple of seasons since Mark Recchi retired following the Stanley Cup season, and Iginla has that exact type of Hall of Fame presence that commands respect.

“It’s very important. Leadership and experience are very important. They can help settle things down. They help run the pulse of the team with the coach. [It’s] very important when you are building a [Stanley] Cup contender. As I said earlier, we lost a few guys who’ve been part of Cup teams and that have experience,” said Chiarelli. “Just looking at Jarome’s career he’s got obviously tremendous experience of success and he’s an elite, offensive player who’s a warrior.

“Anytime you can get someone like [Iginla], you go after it. His style of play fits in with our team. He’s a very motivated individual player. You look at all those things when you’re building a team. One of the things we discussed with Jarome’s [group of advisors] is the future beyond this year. We would hope there is one, but this gives Jarome [Iginla] a chance to look at our organization and play with us and see how successful we’ll be. [The leadership and experience] is a very big component when we’re building a contender.”

The Boston Bruins have clearly shown over the last three years that their main organizational aim is to produce hockey teams each season that are capable of winning it all. Those kinds of hockey clubs will attract key veteran pieces looking for their brush with Stanley Cup immortality, and is why the Bruins were linked with Iginla and Daniel Alfredsson over the last few days.

It was clearly the case with the free agent signing of 36-year-old Jarome Iginla that serves as the capper for Chiarelli’s offseason improvement program.

It’s true that it may take the stubborn people some time to warm up to the notion of Iginla as a member of the Bruins after he blew them off last season.

But there’s no reason Iggy and the Bruins can’t work to Cup-worthy results the second time around, and that’s what Chiarelli and Co. are banking on.