On a day of bizarre twists and turns featuring prominent former captains of Canadian-based teams, was there anything crazier than seeing Jarome Iginla land with the Boston Bruins?
Yes, the same Boston Bruins that Iginla spurned at the NHL trading deadline, opting to join their primary Eastern Conference rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, because he had a choice in the matter.
The same Jarome Iginla who had an undistinguished Stanley Cup semi-final series against Boston and failed to score a point as the Bruins swept the Penguins out of the playoffs. The same Jarome Iginla who was public enemy No. 1 in Beantown during that series, villainized by their fans because he had shunned their beloved Bruins at the trading deadline.
But NHL free agency sometimes makes for strange bedfellows and the Bruins were in need of help on their right wing. It was a point Bruins’ general manager Peter Chiarelli reiterated a day earlier when he made a blockbuster deal to bring in Loui Eriksson from the Dallas Stars in a seven-player exchange centered on Tyler Seguin.
At the time, the Bruins were one of three teams in the running for Ottawa Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson, but Alfredsson ultimately picked the Detroit Red Wings as his destination of choice.
So the Bruins opted to let bygones be bygones and turned back to Iginla, who signed a one-year contract worth $6-million, with a modest $1.8-million in base salary, which is what will count against the salary cap, and give Chiarelli room for further maneuvering.
Iginla turned 36 on Canada Day, which is one reason why the short-term contract, laden with bonuses, was attractive to both him and the Bruins. Multi-year contracts signed by players past the age of 35 are charged against the salary cap, whether the players are able to fulfill them or not. Iginla didn’t take nearly the pay cut that some imagined he would – he had previously played the past eight seasons for $7-million per season – but he didn’t get any security either.
But his primary goal is the same as Alfredsson’s – to win a Stanley Cup once during his NHL career – and the clock is running down on both of them. Presumably, Iginla figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
The Bruins have been to the final in two of the past three seasons, and although they’ve been obliged to move players out for salary-cap reasons this summer, they still have a strong No. 1 goalie in Tuukka Rask, plus a good mix of established and young defencemen and two lines that can score regularly.
As a rental, Iginla was going to cost the Bruins two prospects, plus a first-round draft choice. Now, they get him for the cost of his contract. He is a future Hall of Famer, who has slowed a step since his heyday in Calgary, but will be motivated to prove that he still has some playing miles left on his odometer.
The Bruins now have Eriksson and Iginla to supplement a top-six forward group that includes David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron down the middle and Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand on the wings.
Ultimately, that may actually be an upgrade over for the two players they replaced, Jaromir Jagr and Nathan Horton. Horton was permitted to leave for Columbus as a free agent and for all of his passing ability, Jagr failed to score a single goal in four rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Iginla, for all of his struggles adapting to Pittsburgh’s system and style of play, did manage 12 points in 15 games for the Penguins. Overall, in 44 games last season split between Calgary and Pittsburgh, Iginla scored 33 points. He might be a better fit in Boston, though his attention to the defensive side of the game has been erratic in past years, and that needs to be corrected if he wants to get and then stay in coach Claude Julien’s good books. Iginla and Chiarelli will both speak about the signing Saturday at noon Eastern.
If nothing else, the Iginla signing prompted the best tweet of the day from TSN analyst Aaron Ward, who’d reported the Iginla trade to Boston as a fait accompli prior to the NHL trading deadline, only to have the deal veer in a different direction at the 11th hour.
On Friday, after a long day in the studio, Ward tweeted: Like I said, Jarome Iginla to the Boston Bruins #TSN #ThisTimeForReal.
This time it was for real - and maybe a little unreal as well.