On Friday, July 5, the Bruins actually acquired Iginla, and one of the weirdest NHL sagas of the past year took yet another odd twist.
By now everyone knows the story between Iginla and the Bruins. GM Peter Chiarelli was told by the Flames management that Iginla was headed to Boston. Then, at the last second, Iginla changed his mind and asked to be traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Feeling scorned by the future Hall of Famer’s claim that the Stanley Cup was much more winnable in Pittsburgh, the motivated Bruins came in and swept Iginla’s new team right out of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a stunning finale to a crazy story.
Turns out it was just chapter one.
Feeling the need to issue the Boston fan-base a severe case of deja vu, Chiarelli signed Iginla to a one-year deal last Friday as free agency opened up. It’s a classic case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Ironically, those same Bruins fans who booed any time the puck came to Iginla’s stick will now see him enter training camp in Boston black and gold.
The question is, though, are the Bruins better having Iginla for a full season as opposed to the playoff rental they thought they were getting last spring?
First of all, the deal itself is a pretty impressive play by Chiarelli. Though the contract is one year for $6 million, a large percentage of the money is performance based incentives. Along with the $1.8 million base salary, $3.7 million is a games played bonus, and $500,000 is a goals scoring/team playoff performance bonus. You can’t help but wonder if the fast one Iginla pulled on Chiarelli in March led to such stipulations.
More importantly, Iginla fills a vacant hole at right wing. Nathan Horton bolted Boston for big dollars with the Columbus Blue Jackets, thus leaving David Krejci and Milan Lucic without a linemate. All indications are that Iginla will step in on the Bruins’ top line as Horton’s replacement.
Known for both his offensive skill and defensive toughness, Iginla should have no problem fitting in with Krejci and Lucic. Boston’s first line utilized Lucic and Horton’s size and strength to create opportunities for Krejci’s puck distribution, and Iginla should be able to ensure this style of play continues.
However, at 36 years of age, Iginla is not exactly in his prime any more. Still younger than Jaromir Jagr, acquired by Boston in the trade fiasco’s aftermath, he’s still no spring chicken. Chiarelli’s insistence on paying the bulk of the contract through a games played incentive is a clear statement that he’s concerned about just how much they can get out of the former Flame.
Another big question is whether or not there will be any fallout from last season’s spurning.
Many Bruins went on record as saying Iginla rejecting his trade to Boston was a huge motivating factor for the team as they laced up for the Eastern Conference Finals. The man they once used as a rallying point is now going to be sharing a locker room with them. How’s that for a team chemistry test?
Honestly, this doesn’t concern me as much as you’d think. As much of a slight to the Bruins as this rejection was, Iginla is known around the league as one of the classiest and most likable individuals there is. A born leader and fan favorite, I give it about two weeks into training camp, max, before all hatchets are buried. Boston holding a grudge against Iginla for making what was, at the time, a smart choice would be an ill-advised move. A former captain in Calgary, Iginla can easily be a locker room glue-guy for Boston.
It’s too early to tell whether or not the Bruins are winners with this deal. On the surface, though, it looks pretty solid. Any fans or players still bitter about the events of last March will truly miss out on cheering one of the best players of this past generation.
And for those particularly superstitious individuals, one has to think Iginla mending fences with Boston by trying to win his first Stanley Cup on the Bruins’ roster is good karma with the hockey gods, right?