After it appeared Boston had completed a deal with Calgary for the perennial all-star, Iginla invoked his no-trade clause and instead was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Asked about the Penguins' ability to add Iginla to an already star-studded roster, Chiarelli couldn't help but crack a little wise.
"They're a lock, right?" he quipped.
There are still two more rounds to go in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but so far the Penguins have made Chiarelli's words look prophetic. After securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Penguins disposed of the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators in 11 games.
Now it will be up to the Bruins to prove Chiarelli wrong by upending the Penguins' championship drive in the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals. Long after the Iginla affair unfolded, there was still a strong suspicion among people in the game that the Bruins and Penguins would have to settle their differences on the ice.
"I always thought you had to go through them [the Penguins] to get to where we want to go at some point," Chiarelli said during a press conference at TD Garden on Sunday.
In response to losing out on Iginla, the Bruins eventually acquired Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars. Jagr is a different type of player and he's struggled with four points and no goals through 12 postseason contests. Nonetheless, Chiarelli said he is pleased with how things worked out.
"It's been well-chronicled, the Iginla stuff and the Jagr stuff, so we're happy with who we got. I know he's been snake-bitten a little bit, but he's had a lot of chances; he's created a lot of chances," Chiarelli said. "But more importantly, in addition to the looks he gives the PP, he wears down the D, and there's always two guys on him. I think we would've been fine with either, but we're very happy with [Jagr]."
The Bruins have made it to the conference finals for the second time in three seasons without much contribution from Jagr because they've received production from so many different parties, many of them completely unexpected. Like rookie defenseman Torey Krug, who scored four goals in the five-game series win against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And the fourth line of Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, which has combined for 13 points. Altogether, 15 players have scored a goal in the postseason for the Bruins.
But Boston's depth should be most challenged against Pittsburgh's prominent roster, even as veteran defensemen Andrew Ference and Wade Redden progress toward an eventual return to the Bruins defense. The Penguins are able to plug Iginla onto their second line and fellow in-season pickup Brenden Morrow, another player the Bruins had interest in, on their fourth line. It's a testament to the overflowing stable of talent on a Penguins team that also has 15 goal-scorers in the playoffs.
"In building teams, you want to be deep and you want to be deep with quality," Chiarelli said. "When you've got depth in your existing lineup, meaning four lines, six D that are all contributing and all playing good, quality minutes, that's a bonus. And when you've got depth beyond that -- and you saw that last series with our younger [defensemen] that came in -- it's an added bonus. That continues to apply to us.
"With [Pittsburgh] they're deep and they have veterans like us that have been through the wars. They've got some high-end impact players, so they've got all types of depth. It will be a battle of deep teams."
Regardless of how the Penguins are playing, the Bruins might be peaking at the right time. After some lackluster performances that postponed their clinching of their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins have come a long way since rallying from three goals down in the final 10 minutes to clinch Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The Rangers series was more indicative of the way the Bruins can play and the way Chiarelli and the coaching staff want the team to perform.
"I like the consistent surges in this series. I really liked the push, the sustained push," Chiarelli said of Boston's play against New York. "I said it last time, you can't have it for the full 60 minutes, but when we had to, we had real good collective pushes by the lines. I talked about it earlier, it's about the surges. And I like that we're more of the same."
More of the same from the Bruins might not be enough to best the Penguins. Boston will probably have to play even better in order to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. Chiarelli's banking on there being an uptick in his team's performance, because he knows they can still play better and that there'll be no shortage of motivation.
"I would expect that [motivation] would come natural, just from where we are at this level in the playoffs and with the team that we're playing," Chiarelli said. "I can recall the last time, there was no issues in getting them up for Tampa [Bay in the 2011 conference finals]. Now, this is a tough team we're playing. It's going to be a tough battle and you're going to see ebb and flow with this series too. I would think that they would be up for it."