Iginla Trade Sends Bruins Back to Drawing Board

BOSTON – Done deal. That was what TSN’s Aaron Ward had tweeted regarding a trade that would’ve sent Jarome Iginla to the Bruins for Alex Khokhlachev, Matt Bartkowski and a first-round pick. Others, including the always-reliable Bob McKenzie, had reported that a deal was close, so there was no reason to question Ward.

Then, out of nowhere, the Flames announced they had traded Iginla to the Penguins, not the Bruins. We all wondered how this could’ve happened. Clearly Iginla wanted to go to Pittsburgh to play with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — he said as much on Thursday — and you can’t fault him for that. As good as the Bruins are, they couldn’t offer Iginla the chance to play next to anyone of that caliber.

On Thursday afternoon, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told the media that everything happened pretty much exactly how we thought it had happened. Like the rest of us, he was told that the deal was done and Iginla was coming to Boston. Then the Flames went silent for the night, and when general manager Jay Feaster finally called him again, it was to give him the bad news that Iginla had picked the Penguins instead. Thanks to his no-movement clause, Iginla had that right.

Obviously the Flames jumped the gun here. Feaster never should’ve told Chiarelli the deal was done when it clearly wasn’t. If he hadn’t finalized it with Iginla yet, then the deal wasn’t finalized. Some in the Boston media have already started assigning blame to Chiarelli for not making sure all the paperwork got done right after that call came from Feaster.

Maybe he could’ve done more in that respect, but it’s hard to do that when the other side stops returning your calls. Maybe he could’ve offered more and put the Flames in a position where they tell Iginla it’s the Bruins or nothing, but you don’t offer more when a team tells you the deal’s already done. Iginla was always going to have final say, so if he wanted to go to Pittsburgh instead of Boston, that’s where he was going to go. I have a hard time blaming Chiarelli for that. The Flames didn’t even give him the chance to talk to Iginla directly.

More important than figuring out who deserves blame is figuring out what the Bruins need to do next. They can’t stand pat. They haven’t looked like a Stanley Cup contender in a month, and they have holes both up front and on defense. It might seem like an overreaction to say they need to respond to what the Penguins are doing, but the fact is that they do. The Penguins were already the slightly better team even before adding Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and now Iginla, but those additions make them the hands-on favorite to come out of the East.

With the core that the Bruins have, they should be a Cup contender every year, and there’s no reason they can’t still be that this year. With six days left before the trade deadline, there isn’t a huge market, but there is a market.

Starting on offense, the Stars have a pair of 40-year-olds who might be available in Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. Whitney is signed through next season, so the Stars might want to hang onto him. Jagr’s contract is up at the end of the year, though, and you’d have to imagine the 10th-place Stars would be interested in getting something in return for him. Jagr has 14 goals in 31 games and is playing more than 18 minutes a night, so any concerns about his age catching up to him appear to be unfounded.

Another interesting name is Martin St. Louis. It would take a lot to get him because he still has two years left on his deal after this season, but his numbers speak for themselves. He’s better than a point-per-game player over the last nine season, and he has 42 in 33 games this year. Just eight of those 42 points are goals, and the Bruins definitely need a finisher more than a setup man, but St. Louis has tallied 25 or more goals each of the previous nine seasons, so I wouldn’t read too much into it.

Mike Ribeiro, as much as Bruins fans despise him from his Montreal days, would be a great get, but he says he’d like to sign a long-term deal that keeps him in Washington. If the Capitals decide they can’t afford to keep him, though, he could be made available.¬†Other names you hear are Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky, Calgary’s Curtis Glencross and the Islanders’ Brad Boyes.

Hemsky has eight goals and 18 points and he’s signed through next season, but he comes with a $5 million cap hit. Glencross has 13 goals, 21 points and a reasonable contract through 2015, but would Chiarelli even bother talking to Calgary after this Iginla fiasco? Old friend Brad Boyes is having a nice bounce-back season on Long Island, posting eight goals and 27 points in 33 games, and his contract is up at the end of the season. He could be a pretty cheap rental player. Another rental option is San Jose’s Ryane Clowe, although the usually reliable winger has been battling injuries and has yet to score a goal this season.

There aren’t quite as many options on defense. Dan Boyle, another Shark, is the biggest name that could be available. He’s a minutes eater who also makes significant contributions on offense. Every team would love to have a defenseman like Boyle, because there aren’t many out there. He’s signed through next season, and it would obviously take a lot to get him.

The Bruins have some attractive pieces, though, especially if they decide to back off their silly “Malcolm Subban and Ryan Spooner are untouchable” stance. (Side note: This stance is silly because neither of those guys are good enough prospects to warrant that status. Young goalies are hit or miss, and there’s no way to be sure that Subban’s a hit at this point. Spooner projects to be most likely a second-liner, which is nice, but not irreplaceable.)

Edmonton’s Ryan Whitney is a name that’s been thrown around a lot recently. He could contribute some offense from the blue line, but he’s been a bottom-pairing guy, and occasionally a healthy scratch, on a bad Oilers team. So there’s really no reason to believe that he can be an impact guy for the Bruins. One of his teammates, Ladislav Smid, could also be a rental option. He’s more of a stay-at-home guy, but he could fit on the bottom pairing.

Colorado’s Ryan O’Byrne and Nashville’s Scott Hannan are two others in the same mold as Smid. The Islanders are reportedly working on extensions with both Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky, but either one could become a top target if talks break down. Like I said, there isn’t a ton out there when it comes to defense.

So, the Bruins have some options. Chiarelli said he is looking to add both a forward and a defenseman, and he should be able to. The question is whether or not he’ll make a big splash. The fact that he had a deal in place for Iginla shows he’s willing to pull the trigger on a big deal, so I’d expect him to make at least one significant move before next week. What the Penguins have done is certainly impressive, but it doesn’t make them invincible. The Iginla saga is definitely a blow to the Bruins, but it doesn’t mean they should throw in the towel. They’re still in much better shape than most teams, and a deep postseason run is still well within reach.

 

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