For Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, building a 2013-14 roster that can match, and maybe exceed, the accomplishments of the 2012-13 edition required committing to proven, older assets rather than waiting for potential to bloom.
The Bruins decided they could no longer wait for forward Tyler Seguin, the second pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, to fulfill his potential, and so now they'll be looking to veterans Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson to pick up the slack in the upcoming season.
Iginla signed a one-year, incentive-laden contract Friday with the Bruins on the first day of free agency. The 36-year-old's initial salary-cap charge will be $1.8 million, but he can earn $4.2 million more in incentives. Eriksson, the centerpiece of the package the Bruins acquired from the Dallas Stars for Seguin, will turn 28 this month and carries a cap charge of $4.25 million, according to CapGeek.com.
Seguin's 32-point regular season and one-goal run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs led the Bruins to conclude the 21-year-old wouldn't become worthy of the $5.75 million he's scheduled to count through the 2018-19 season in their structure, and they might get more bang for their buck from their two new acquisitions.
"In my mind, he's an elite offensive player who's a warrior," Chiarelli said of Iginla. "And anytime you can get someone like that, you go after it. His style of play fits in with our team and he's a very motivated individual player. So you look at all those things when you're building a team. And one of the things that we discussed with Jarome's group is the future beyond this year. And we would hope that there is one. But this gives Jarome a good chance to look at our organization, play with us and see how successful we'll be."
After the Bruins lost the Stanley Cup Final in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks, Chiarelli didn't envision such a major reconstruction of the right side of his forward depth chart. Nathan Horton's decision to not consider re-signing before heading to the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency forced Chiarelli's hand. However, his trade of Seguin after Horton's decision shows the GM was planning a bit of a shakeup for a team that's been to the Final twice in three seasons and won the championship in 2011.
Once Chiarelli came up short in his pursuit of Daniel Alfredsson, who left the Ottawa Senators for the Detroit Red Wings, the GM turned his attentions to Iginla, who had had his representatives contact the Bruins. With little cap space available and goaltender Tuukka Rask left to be re-signed, Chiarelli could've left room in his lineup for a prospect to seize a spot or signed someone less familiar. From years of scouting Iginla, and even trying to acquire him at the NHL Trade Deadline in April, the Bruins know the multitime All-Star. Iginla's willingness to take a cap-friendly deal sealed the once-postponed marriage.
Now it appears that only a third-line right wing spot remains open for Bruins' prospects to battle. Asked if he's pursuing more deals right now, Chiarelli said he's "good for a while."
Though his work acquiring players might be done, he still has to lock up those already in the fold. Chiarelli said re-signing Rask, a restricted free agent, and signing an extension with center Patrice Bergeron, who's entering the final year of his deal, is very close.
The Bruins have around $5 million of cap space remaining for this season, after signing Iginla and potential backup goaltender Chad Johnson ($600,000 cap charge) Friday. Rask's new deal will probably take up most of that room. The 26-year-old played on a one-year deal in 2013 and should be due a healthy raise from $3.5 million after he established himself as a No. 1 goaltender with a 2.00 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
In front of Rask, the defense corps remains unchanged other than the departure of unrestricted free agent Andrew Ference. Barring a major change of plan, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug will get a chance to compete for Ference's job after solid rookie seasons.
Up front, the Bruins maintain a core that features Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand. Lucic redeemed himself in the playoffs (7-12-19 in 22 games) after a seven-goal regular season. Marchand will need to do the same next season, because he was point-less in the Cup Final and finished the playoffs with 13 points after he led the team with 36 in the regular season. Now the Bruins hope that a downgrade in speed from Seguin and Horton to the goal-scoring pedigree of Iginla and Eriksson translates into enough goals from their top-six forwards to support their always-solid defensive play.
Prior to getting shut out by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final while with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Iginla enjoyed what he termed an average season with 33 points (14 goals) in 44 regular-season games and 12 points (four goals) in the first 11 playoff games. Eriksson didn't quite score at his regular pace in 2013, with 12 goals in 48 games. He averaged 27 goals a season the prior three years with Dallas. They will have to mesh with new linemates and figure out if new personnel can save the Bruins' perennially poor power play.
Although the Bruins averaged 2.65 goals per game and ranked 13th in the regular season, they scored nearly three goals per game in the postseason. They've swapped out a player with a solid combination of speed and physicality (Horton) in his prime and a speed demon who might not have touched the ceiling of his potential (Seguin) for a two-way player in his prime (Eriksson) and a guy in the twilight of a Hall of Fame-worthy career (Iginla).
Time will tell if these moves make the Bruins a Cup contender again. For Chiarelli, at least he thinks he knows exactly what he's going to get out of his new-look roster.