BOSTON -- So where do Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and his staff go from here? After not winning the Jarome Iginla "sweepstakes," as he referred to it Thursday afternoon, can the Bruins still go out and find the pieces that will help them win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons?
"We will continue to try to improve our team. We're in a lot of these deals, and we feel that we can improve our team. We have some days left and opportunity to try and to do it," Chiarelli said after explaining the collapse of a trade for Iginla, whom the Calgary Flames instead dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in accordance with his wishes.
"There's players out there, and we're in on players," Chiarelli said. "There's always other players, and that was a good player, that was a real good player. There's always other players. The circumstances change, as far as, from the [salary] cap perspective for next year. It's going down, so you have to look. It makes rentals a little bit more valuable this year to a group of teams, including ourselves. So, you have to be a little bit more creative, then you have to open up your decision process to more things and take it from there."
Make no mistake -- Chiarelli didn't hide it one bit on Thursday -- the Bruins GM may very well have been Santiago and Iginla the marlin.
But Chiarelli is not about to go into a long slumber this Easter weekend. Instead he plans to do what it takes to bring in the player(s) who can help his team find its game again. He believes the players whom he already has can work harder to find it as well.
"We've got stuff to work on. It's hard to work on things when you don't have a lot of practice time," Chiarelli said. "You value rest and recovery greater than the practice time. Being patient with these dips is one thing in a full season; being patient with them in a pressed season, when you have to have this rest and recovery time, is difficult.
"But you still have to be patient because you know, you trust in your players. They're a good team. We have to be better in a number of areas, but we're getting points, and we also know that the prize is after the regular season. We're committed to fixing these things. I'm committed to trying to improve the team also."
Patience has always been Chiarelli's greatest asset. There have been seasons past when many couldn't understand why he didn't go all in as he did with Iginla. Plenty of criticism was cast upon him in 2008 when he was unable to net another big fish, Marian Hossa -- another player whom Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero was able to lure.
But while the Penguins advanced to the Stanley Cup finals with Hossa in 2008, it wasn't until the following season -- after Hossa spurned them in free agency to sign with the Detroit Red Wings, who had beaten them in the finals in 2008 -- that the Penguins won their latest Stanley Cup.
Would Iginla have helped this current Bruins team that until Wednesday, when they put up five goals in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Canadiens, has struggled mightily to score and score timely goals? Of course he would have. But while Chiarelli on Thursday sarcastically referred to the Penguins as a "lock," Iginla and the other two additions they made over the last week, forward Brenden Morrow and defenseman Douglas Murray, don't guarantee anything. The Penguins are clear favorites to hoist Lord Stanley, but the Cup will end up going to the team that's playing the best in June, not now.
That's why Chiarelli promised Bruins fans he will use the cap space he has to bring in a defenseman and a forward before the trade deadline next Wednesday. Chiarelli also noted that while he has focused mainly on rental players who will be unrestricted free agents on July 5, he understands he may need to allocate that cap space to players who have time left on their contracts.
"It's easier, or less difficult, to keep your same core and not stray from that," Chiarelli said. "But I'm open to all avenues to improve the team. We've got a lot of tools we can work with. The path of least resistance is the one you referred to earlier, regarding just adding a rental player. That's kind of been my path for a while this year. That may have to change now."
There are plenty of players who are under contract next season and beyond who could be acquired. Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Martin St. Louis is rumored to be available, though nothing has been confirmed.
In the end, maybe it won't be the marlin that helps the Penguins win. Perhaps Chiarelli's patience will pay off, and the potential addition of two role players -- like the ones he added in 2011 in Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly -- will awake the Bruins from their recent slumber.