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BOSTON -- As much as Jarome Iginla was a perfect fit for the Boston Bruins, general manager Peter Chiarelli has his eye on the future.
As a result, Iginla is heading west, agreeing to a three-year deal worth $16 million with the Colorado Avalanche when free agency opened Tuesday afternoon.
Given Boston's salary-cap constraints heading into the 2014-15 season, Chiarelli would have had to move a player or two off the current roster in order to create cap space for Iginla, something Chiarelli was not comfortable doing.
Had Chiarelli found a way to re-sign the future Hall of Famer, it would have impacted the team's ability in the future to sign forwards David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg, along with defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug.
Krejci will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season and the top-line center will receive a major pay raise. Soderberg also will become a UFA after next season. Lucic has two years remaining on his current deal. Boychuk will be a UFA, while Hamilton becomes a restricted free agent after next season.
Chiarelli admitted he was actively trying to find a way to re-sign Iginla, who played just one season in Boston, but the GM decided to keep the core intact.
"I felt that there were moves I could have made that, at the end, I didn't want to make," Chiarelli said during a 30-minute conference call with reporters Tuesday evening. "I thought it was to the betterment of the organization, to the team, not to do it and that's kind of where it stood. I also felt we could have done another deal [with Iginla] like we did last year, and that was discussed."
Iginla played on a one-year, bonus-laden contract last season.
"We've got Krejci coming up, we've got Lucic coming up, we've got Johnny coming up, we have the two young guys, Torey and Reilly, we've got Dougie, Carl. 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."
Krug and Smith are considered entry-level free agents, which means they can't talk with other teams and may have to play on one-year deals next season, according to Chiarelli.
"We'll find money for them at some point," Chiarelli said. "They deserve raises at some point."
Now that Iginla will wear a Colorado Avalanche sweater, the Bruins will look elsewhere to fill his role.
After a frenzy of signings and trades on Day 1 of the free-agency period, Chiarelli said he's been looking at a couple of trade possibilities and will wait for the second wave of available players before he decides whether to make a deal. Currently, there are seven or eight players the Bruins are interested in, with a forward who could play in the top nine on his wish list.
Since the end of the season, and knowing there was a strong possibility Iginla would not return, Chiarelli has said numerous times he believes current Bruins forward Loui Eriksson could spell Iginla on Boston's top line with Krejci and Lucic.
"I'm really comfortable with that," Chiarelli said. "It's a different look, but he's a very smart player, a great two-way player that plays a very smart game."
Even though Eriksson is a left shot, he's comfortable playing the right side. Chiarelli did say finding a right shot will be a priority at some point, but he likes Eriksson in the top-line role.
"I have no problem with Loui playing on that top line and I've talked to Krejci about it and he welcomes it," Chiarelli said. "Loui plays a give-and-go game and he's very smart passing to areas. He's very compatible with Krejci."
Chiarelli also said he likes Smith on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
|GM Peter Chiarelli said he is confident Loui Eriksson can be a good fit on the Bruins' top line.|
The way the Bruins' roster is set up, Chiarelli believes there are four or five players vying for two spots at forward. Daniel Paille is versatile and can play any role and could move to the third line. Prospect Matt Fraser, who proved worthy during the Stanley Cup playoffs, has the ability to play both wings.
Chiarelli even mentioned the possibility of moving center prospects Ryan Spooner and Alexander Khokhlachev to the wing in order to compete for a roster spot. Providence forward and career minor leaguer Bobby Robins also will be given an opportunity to earn a spot and could be a good fit on the Bruins' fourth line. Justin Florek also will compete for that role.
"I'm kind of excited about it," Chiarelli said. "I like the way it ended up last year with the competition and I'm kind of excited about it this year. Again, that doesn't mean I've stopped looking to improve our team."
It also appears that forward Jordan Caron could be playing elsewhere next season. The Bruins tendered him a qualifying offer, but other teams have contacted Chiarelli about Caron's services.
At the start of the offseason, there was some thought Chiarelli could add another veteran defenseman to the mix, but he dismissed that notion Tuesday.
"Am I looking for another D? No. I think we have a good group," Chiarelli said. "Right now -- and I include [David] Warsofsky because I believe he's as close to an NHL player as you're going to get from Providence -- there's nine defensemen we have, nine NHL defensemen, so we can't go into the year with nine NHL defensemen."
Those nine are Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Krug, Hamilton, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski and Warsofsky.
Seidenberg and McQuaid should be healthy once training camp begins in September, so Chiarelli admitted he'll have to do something, which means a trade could happen at some point this summer, or he could wait until camp and see how things develop on the back end. The latest decision would need to come before the team submits its roster on the eve of the season opener on Oct. 8.
"You saw what prices were today for defensemen," Chiarelli said. "I'm happy with the D that we have. We have more than enough and I had [GMs] call me for D from the moment we lost."
Chiarelli added that his decisions regarding defensemen will depend on the team finding the right defensive formula.
When the dust settles on free agents and trade markets, the Bruins still will be a good team, a team built as a serious Stanley Cup contender.
"I'm very comfortable," Chiarelli said. "We lost in the second round, but we won the Presidents' Trophy. There were reasons why we lost. You don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I don't want to change the deck chairs on this one.
"We've got a strong core and I believe there are guys that are going to replace those goals that we lost. I also know that it's important to make sure these younger guys get a chance to show that they can play. If they can't play, then that's another story."