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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Romancing the Bruins, Starring Peter Chiarelli

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With the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach having failed, Jarome Iginla is now taking the Ray Bourque route in his aim to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Peter Chiarelli is taking the path of an overzealous stamp collector in his hope to have this current Bruins corp compete for another NHL title.

Iginla and his 30 goals are off to the Colorado Avalanche, who on Tuesday awarded the free agent with a three-year, $16 million deal that wasn’t anything close to what the 37-year-old veteran was going to receive from the Bruins, up against the salary cap, not to mention the clock.

The Bruins love their squad, maybe a little too much to realize that it is anchored by an aging defenseman in Zdeno Chara, whose biological clock is ticking, the window for another run at the Cup beginning to close. Maybe too much to explore what they could get in return for the likes of Brad Marchand on the trade market. Maybe too much for Chiarelli to not utter the single, stupidest thing he could have said as the first day of NHL free agency came to a close.

"I'm very comfortable," he said. "We lost in the second round, but we won the Presidents' Trophy.”

Oh. I must have missed the parade.

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The Bruins gagged against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Bruins fans essentially get another "More days in first place" as the retort. Wonderful. Get your President's Trophy t-shirts now.

Still, in order to win more regular season accolades, it’s up to Chiarelli now to fill a hole on the Bruins’ top line that went from Nathan Horton to Iginla to…Loui Eriksson?

Eriksson scored 20 fewer goals than Iginla last season, and missed significant time with concussions. Maybe this is a bad time to remind everyone that Tyler Seguin has 37 goals in his first season with the Dallas Stars?

"I'm really comfortable with that,” the very comfy Chiarelli said about Eriksson's posible role on the top line during a conference call Tuesday night to discuss Iginla’s departure. "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 [David 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]."

Cue the saxophone solo. Chiarelli has fallen in love again.

For all of the good that Chiarelli has done as a general manager, his greatest fault clearly lies in the fact that he apparently doles out wedding rings when signing certain players; ‘’Til death do us part.” It’s even fair to assume Chris Kelly got a pre-nup as part of his arrangement.

So, spare me the company line that the general manager wasn’t about to sacrifice the future of the Boston Bruins for Iginla. Chiarelli got the team into this cap mess in the first place with his heart pittering and pattering over the likes of Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask (who he overpaid by at least $1 million per season), and Kelly, who will make $3 million each of the next two seasons. David Krejci is a free agent at the end of the season, and the way Chiarelli discussed upcoming contracts, the Bruins want to re-sign him. Maybe they can ask how his vacation was when the Bruins were getting ousted by the Canadiens.

"We've got Krejci coming up, we've got 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]. 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.

"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.”

And so, as is normally the case on July 1, the first day of NHL free agency, the Bruins stood still, watching one of their top two goal scorers walk because they couldn’t fit him under the cap restrictions they created for themselves. The future? Baloney. Iginla isn’t here because Chiarelli overpaid guys like Rask (and maybe he should have) and Kelly (and he shouldn’t have). But you sometimes do crazy things when you’re in love. And when it comes to signing some of those aforementioned players, we’ll really see where Chiarelli’s heart lies.

Right now though, the Bruins have a gaping hole on their top line, and while the suggestion that Eriksson is the man for the job may be cute, it’s likely the team’s best option until it can find a right-handed shot from a veteran who will play for food. Chiarelli suggested the Bruins may be in on a few trades, which makes the most sense in building for the 2014-15 season, perhaps freeing up some cap room in the process so the team can prepare for Kelly’s impending free agency in 2016.

"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.”

Of course, Chiarelli pulled off the Seguin deal for Eriksson and Smith just about a year ago, on July 4. To suggest something - albeit less explosive - to materialize by the end of the week isn’t so far-fetched.

But what’s the dif? The Bruins have that President’s Trophy. Chiarelli’s bio on the Bruins web site even says that “his moves have advanced the Bruins to at least the second round of the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.” Of course, the Bruins’ web site has also wiped history clean of Iginla’s season with the Bruins, leaving his 30-goal season out of the 2013-14 compiled team stats. Poor Chad Johnson and Shawn Thornton too.

It only took the Bruins another 11 years to win the Cup after Bourque filed for divorce and headed West.

Iginla was a fun affair to have, but he was never going to get Chiarelli to propose. His heart just wasn’t in it.


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