A day after a signing that few saw coming – Jarome Iginla to the Boston Bruins, the team he’d passed on joining at the NHL trading deadline – both Iginla and general manager Peter Chiarelli got on the phone to explain how the whole thing unfolded.
Iginla’s first overtures to the Bruins came via his agent on Thursday, a day before the NHL free agent season opened, but Boston had settled on Daniel Alfredsson as its primary target. When it became clear that Alfredsson was going elsewhere, however, the Bruins set their sights on Iginla.
That’s fair, isn’t it? The Bruins weren’t Iginla’s first choice at the deadline and Iginla wasn’t their first choice in free agency. Sometimes, it just works out that way.
But Chiarelli described Iginla as “an elite offensive player who is a winner and a motivated player.”
Iginla, for his part, believes that contrary to popular opinion, he can still be a viable contributing NHL player at the age of 36, after a year in which he scored a respectable 33 points in 44 regular-season games and another 12 in 15 games in the post-season.
“I still feel very good,” said Iginla, on a conference call Saturday morning.
Iginla went on to describe this past season as “an average year” and added:
“I know, as you get older, when you have one [an average year], people start asking, ‘Oh, how much is left in the tank?’ I still feel great. If you look over my career, I’ve had some average years and I think I’m going to be able to bounce back. I don’t feel it was a bad year and I think I got better [as it went along].
“I expect to play well [for the Bruins next year].”
Iginla signed what Chiarelli described as a salary-cap-friendly contract, with a base salary of $1.8-million that will count directly against the 2013-14 cap of $64.3-million, plus performance bonuses worth $4.2-million that may count or may not count against next year’s cap if the Bruins exceed the bonus overages permitted under the new CBA.
But for now, Chiarelli says: “We’ve got some room to play with.”
Iginla discussed a number of issues on the call, including the fact that he never seriously considered returning to the Flames as a free agent, given that they are in the early stages of a rebuild and his goal is to win a Stanley Cup.
Iginla was in the city only briefly to move his family out of their old house. They plan to spend the summer in the Interior of British Columbia, as usual, and then get to Boston early so they can settle in properly, something that he was never able to do following the 11th-hour trade-deadline deal that saw him go to Pittsburgh.
The Penguins’ own salary-cap issues precluded him returning there, said Iginla.
“I’m not making any excuses because I think it went well [in Pittsburgh] until the last series,” said Iginla, “but I do think it’ll be an easier transition [to Boston] because now, I’ve been traded once before. Spending the first half of the year in Calgary, it was different. My family wasn’t here, they visited a few times, but it’s something that you’ve got to go through [to experience].”
Iginla sounded energized – by the moves to first one and then another contending team – and said he plans to be in great shape when Bruins’ training camp opens in September.
“I like training,” said Iginla. “I read comments from some older guys who say the training is harder and harder. I still love training and plan to be in good shape. I love playing the game, I think everybody does. I’m having as much fun as ever.
“It was tough in Calgary near the end and the possibilities of the unknown and also because we weren’t reaching the goals we’d set as far as making the playoffs. It was hardest the last couple of years and especially the last year when they were starting the rebuild.
“I wish Calgary the best. It’s nice to be in the other conference too so we don’t have to play each other too much or totally dislike each other, right?”
Iginla’s next time on the ice might actually be in Calgary, because that’s where the Canadian men’s Olympic team is tentatively scheduled to hold a training camp for the 2014 Sochi Olympics toward the end of August.
Chiarelli noted that when Iginla’s agent first called to see if the Bruins might be interested, his first response was to raise his eyebrows and say, “Really?” But he quickly came around on the idea, given his need to fill gaps on the right wing caused by the departures of Jaromir Jagr, Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin, who was playing there out of position.
“Jarome has played in this league and has had success in this league for a long time,” said Chiarelli. “He knows what’s expected of him. I think he’s going in with eyes wide open – and my expectations of him haven’t changed. It’s a strong group and it should be a seamless transition, based on what I know of him and how he plays.”
Follow Eric Duhatchek on Twitter: @eduhatschek