With a whirlwind of moves on the opening day of NHL free agency, the Bruins held pat from any major deals, while former Bruins Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton, Chad Johnson, and Andrej Meszaros found homes elsewhere.
While the B's parting ways with Thornton, Johnson, and Meszaros were not unexpected, both the Bruins and Iginla had hoped they could work a deal out to keep the 37-year-old in Boston. But the Bruins salary cap restrictions proved too much to bring back their 30-goal scorer from 2013-14.
"It wasn't as tough as you would imagine," GM Peter Chiarelli said in a conference call on Tuesday. "Today, this was something that -- we kind of rolled out our lineup from the beginning of last summer to know that these are challenges we were going to have. So it was tough from the perspective of losing a player like that who can shoot, and a right-hand shot who's obviously very experienced and a very good player, a Hall of Fame player."
"At the end of the day, I really wanted to try and keep most of this group together, and I wouldn't have been able to do it to sign Jarome."
Iginla ended up signing a three-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche, one that will pay him $5.5 million per year over the first two years and $5 million the last. The Bruins were hoping to bring Iginla back on a one-year deal with a low base salary, but with more performance-based incentives, similar to his 2013-14 deal that paid him a $1.8 million salary and another $4.2 million in incentives.
"I felt that there were moves I could have made that at the end I didn't want to make," Chiarelli said. "I thought it was for the betterment of the organization, of the team, not to do it and that’s kind of where it’s stood. I also felt that that we could have done another deal like we did last year, that was discussed.
"We've got [David] Krejci coming up [in free agency]; we've got [Milan] Lucic coming up; we've got Johnny [Boychuk] coming up; we have the two young guys, Torey [Krug] and Reilly [Smith]; we've got Dougie [Hamilton]; Carl [Soderberg]…We've got a lot of stuff, these are good players so I have to be cognizant of that, so that is one of the reasons why we didn't do it and I decided to not make those moves."
Chiarelli said that the Bruins could be looking for a possible trade in order to fill Iginla's hole on the right side of Krejci, as well as looking inside the organization for the next top line right wing.
"We've been looking at a couple of things, couple of trades," Chiarelli said. "I don’t know when or if they'll come down. If you look back historically at us, we generally really haven't delved deeply into this market other than it maybe being a trade market.
"So trades happen; sometimes, they stretch longer than July 1. I'm in on a couple; I don't know if they'll happen, but we'll keep pecking away at them."
LouI Eriksson, who started the year as a right wing on the Bergeron line and then found success later on the third line with Carl Soderberg, is a candidate to move up to play with Krejci and Lucic.
"I'm really comfortable with that,” Chiarelli said. "It's a different look, but he's a very smart player. He's a great two-way player; he plays a very smart game.
"It would be nice to get a right shot -- that would be a priority at some point -- but I have no problem with Loui playing on that top line, and I've talked to [Krejci] about it, and he welcomes it. If you watch how Loui plays, he plays a real give-and-go game, and he's very smart, passes to areas …He's very compatible with [Krejci]."
The only move the Bruins did make on Tuesday was to sign 25-year-old defenseman Christopher Breen to a one-year, two-way contract. Chiarelli said that the Bruins would reevaluate the free agent market after Day 1 and go from there.
"I'll look at some stuff," he said. "I wanted to let the market settle down and then there are some guys that will maybe take less that I'll look at. We've got seven or eight names on our board and we have seven or eight names that are subject of trade discussion so I'll look at some stuff and we’ll see where it goes."