Friday is an important day for the Bruins.
They are back in the first round of the NHL Draft (25th pick), which will be held at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. They ceded that privilege last year as a condition of the Jaromir Jagr trade with Dallas.
This will be the first draft for Keith Gretzky, the team’s director of amateur scouting. Gretzky replaced Wayne Smith, whose watch over six so-so drafts was judged not good enough to merit a seventh.
But their most urgent piece of business centers on a player who was drafted 19 years ago.
Jarome Iginla, the 11th overall pick in 1995, was an excellent fit on the first line last season. Iginla had 30 goals and 31 assists in 78 games while playing alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci. The Bruins do not want to see Iginla walk.
But they may have no choice. They are already facing a bonus overage penalty, estimated to be around $4.5 million, for 2014-15. With the salary cap projected to be approximately $70 million, the Bruins will be forbidden from approaching the ceiling because of their penalty, the bulk of which stems from the $3.7 million in bonuses Iginla totaled as a first-year Bruin.
So while Iginla deserves a multiyear deal, it would be difficult for him to get it in Boston. The Bruins could offer Iginla a similar bonus-stuffed contract as a 35-or-older player. But such structure is allowed only on one-year deals.
Iginla will turn 37 on July 1. His competition on the free market includes Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Ales Hemsky, Matt Moulson, and Daniel Alfredsson. Iginla’s birthday present could be a three-year contract with an organization that has greater cap freedom.
Starting on Wednesday, Iginla will be allowed to speak with other teams during the league’s five-day interview period. He could not sign until July 1.
If Iginla re-ups, the Bruins like their team. They’d have three powerful lines, depth at center, a shutdown monster on defense in Zdeno Chara, improving youth in Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug, and an ace goalie in Tuukka Rask. They would continue to rework their fourth line and make their defense more mobile. But Iginla’s departure would introduce another layer to their tweaking.
“We’d like to sign Jarome,” GM Peter Chiarelli said during a conference call Monday. “He’s been a valuable player for us. It’s a good fit. We’d like to sign him.”
The uncertainty around Iginla could affect how Chiarelli approaches this weekend. If Iginla returns, the Bruins would not be in the market for a right wing.
If he doesn’t, the Bruins would not be in a good position to outbid anybody on the open market. They’d have to bump up their right wings — Loui Eriksson could be promoted — and initiate competition in camp to round out the bottom two vacancies, including the one left by Shawn Thornton.
Or Chiarelli would have to talk trade. Johnny Boychuk would bring the biggest return. The right-shot defenseman is under contract for one more season at $3,336,667. Boychuk will be due a big raise after 2014-15, one the Bruins won’t be able to afford. The hard-hitting and durable Boychuk would be a good target for a team seeking muscle and experience in its top-four group.
Trade chatter is already active. The free agent market is shallow. There are six new GMs — including former Boston assistant GM Jim Benning, now with Vancouver — eager to initiate the visions they pitched to their bosses. Because this draft is thin, GMs aren’t clutching on to their picks with the death grips they usually merit.
Philadelphia and Columbus kicked off the trade season Monday. The Flyers wheeled Scott Hartnell to the Blue Jackets for R.J. Umberger and a 2015 fourth-round pick.
“In my years as a manager, there always seems to be heightened activity in the week or two weeks prior to the draft. It’s the same again,” Chiarelli said. “It seems like we’ll get the same amount of deals. As far as blockbusters, sometimes there’s one or two.”
The Bruins will pick 25th courtesy of their regular-season romp to 117 points. In 2009, the Bruins picked Jordan Caron 25th overall. Caron, a restricted free agent, now may be looking for work elsewhere. Justin Florek and Matt Fraser passed Caron on the depth chart during the playoffs.
At No. 25, the Bruins will draft a player who won’t be ready for the NHL for several seasons. Chiarelli said he’d like to move up, although such trades are difficult to execute. They have picks in every round except the sixth because of the Wade Redden trade with St. Louis.
“In the next days, I’ll talk to GMs,” Chiarelli said. “I’ve been talking to GMs the last three weeks. I know where things are. There’s a big block of players in play. I’m not in that. Oftentimes when that happens, if something breaks, something may fall in our lap that’s unforeseen. Maybe we’ll have to make a decision. I’ll be around the periphery on the other stuff.”