Peter Chiarelli rolled the dice prior to last season that the hockey team he put together would be good enough to win the Cup, and pushed the Bruins salary cap situation to its very limits. It’s why the Bruins will go into this season with a $4.7 million bonus overage penalty on this season’s salary cap after paying out bonus money to Jarome Iginla, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton.
Unfortunately the Bruins didn’t make it past the second round of the playoffs after Chiarelli went “all in” with the B’s roster, and now he’s paying the price for last season’s budget-busting team. The latest evidence of Boston’s financial hardship was the loss of Iginla in the first day of NHL free agency on July 1 as he signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Bruins couldn’t realistically offer more than a one-year, bonus-filled deal to the 37-year-old Iginla, and Chiarelli wasn’t comfortable trading away pieces of the team to make room for the 30-goal scorer.
“We tried to work on it right from when the season’s stopped, and we knew there would be challenges. At the end of the day, I really wanted to try and keep most of this group together, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that to sign Jarome [Iginla],” said Chiarelli. “Those are hard decisions that sometimes you have when you are cap challenged, but I kind of like where we are. We’ve got players signed.
“You see what the prices were today. We’ll find someone to fill that role, whether it’s someone from within or maybe through a trade.”
Essentially the Bruins weren’t comfortable dealing away a core piece of a highly successful team like Brad Marchand or Johnny Boychuk, or executing a salary dump deal for a longtime team leader like alternate captain Chris Kelly. The Bruins have lost key leadership voices like Mark Recchi, Andrew Ference and Shawn Thornton over the last few years, and Kelly is one that’s still viewed as important to the Bruins way of doing things.
The B’s front office also knows they’ll have contract negotiations with David Krejci, Dougie Hamilton and Johnny Boychuk among others after the upcoming season, and didn’t want to deal with another salary cap crunch again next summer.
Chiarelli said he actually approached Iginla’s camp on Monday night, and informed them that things probably weren’t going to work out between the Bruins and a Hall of Fame-level player in need of a Stanley Cup. Once anybody saw the money being tossed around by NHL teams on July 1 once free agency opened at noontime, it was obvious that Iginla was going to get far more term and far more cash from another team that the Bruins had zero chance of even approaching.
It's also bad business in the NHL salary cap world to gut your team for an aging 37-year-old free agent, even if he did lead the team with 30 goals after putting set up in a prominent offensive position. An NHL GM will be forgiven for breaking up a team's roster to lock up a young cornerstone on the roster, but it's a far different approach to older mercenary-type free agents.
That’s exactly what happened with the Iginla and the Avalanche team he’ll be joining for the next three seasons. But one other thing remains true after Tuesday’s action: Iginla got further away from winning a Cup rather than closer by choosing a young, talented Colorado bunch in a tough Western Conference.
Iginla chose the money and the security for his family over the better odds of finally hoisting that elusive Cup, and one has to wonder if a player like him will someday regret putting things in that priority order.