PHILADELPHIA — Minutes after the NHL Draft concluded on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was satisfied with the chore of replenishing his front office team had executed.
Over the two-day period, the Bruins picked David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, and Emil Johansson. It was the first draft for director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky, who was aided by assistant director of amateur scouting Scott Fitzgerald.
“It’s a real long year,” said Chiarelli. “A lot of miles. For these guys, it’s kind of a celebration of their year. I think Keith, with the help of Scott, did a terrific job this year. Our list was as tightly packed as I’ve ever seen in our time here.”
The five teenagers, however, are the equivalent of buy-and-hold stocks. They will not mature into NHL-ready products for at least three years. Before then, the Bruins have immediate issues to address.
The NHL calendar allows no room for breathers. Qualifying offers are due by 5 p.m. on Monday. Free agency opens at noon on Tuesday.
The cycle of replenishing never ends.
By Monday, the Bruins could cut ties with Jordan Caron. They have yet to tender a qualifying offer to Caron, their first-round pick in 2009. Chiarelli hasn’t ruled out bringing back Caron. But with the forward struggling to find regular ice time, another destination may be Caron’s best alternative.
“He’s still young,” Chiarelli said. “He’s been in and out of our lineup. In fairness to him, maybe we’ve looked for another spot for him. That’s one of the reasons we haven’t QO’d him yet. It wasn’t a request from Jordan. He wants to stay in Boston. But at his age, he also wants a chance to play.”
The Bruins already have qualified their 10 other restricted free agents-to-be: Reilly Smith, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, Matt Fraser, Justin Florek, David Warsofsky, Zach Trotman, Craig Cunningham, Tyler Randell, and Tommy Cross.
Of course, their most important pending unrestricted free agent remains unsigned.
Chiarelli met with Don Meehan, Jarome Iginla’s agent, on Saturday. They also talked on Thursday night. The Bruins will continue to negotiate with their top-line right wing.
But the market opens on Tuesday. During the interview period, which closes on Monday, rival teams are not allowed to offer contracts to Iginla. That will change by noon on Tuesday, when formal offers are free to fly.
“We’re almost there already,” Chiarelli said of the market’s opening. “With this shopping period, everybody talks to everybody. You’re not supposed to agree in principle. But numbers fly around — frameworks, parameters.”
Iginla and the Bruins are in complete agreement about their desires for 2014-15. Perhaps even beyond.
For Iginla, Boston — specifically, the first line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci — is a perfect fit. The left- and right-side musclemen complement Krejci’s vision and touch. Iginla doesn’t have to carry the offense. The attack is more about three consistent lines than it is about Iginla’s sharpshooting, whether it’s via one-timers from the left circle on the power play or through snappers off the rush.
For the Bruins, Iginla makes sense. He’s a proven, durable, and dependable commodity. His presence allows Smith and Loui Eriksson to play against lesser competition. Iginla’s threat on the power play opens up other options, whether it’s Krug’s point shot or Zdeno Chara’s net-front dirty work.
“He’s very clear that he wants to stay here,” Chiarelli said of Iginla. “He’s working with us. We’ll see how it goes.”
But the security of free-market term, more than salary, may be too much for Iginla to turn down. Iginla cannot be blamed if he can get a three-year contract over the one-year deal the Bruins prefer. If Iginla walks, Eriksson would be first in line for a promotion.
“I have no problem if we have to put Loui up on that top line,” Chiarelli said. “He’s played with top lines before. He’s played with the Sedins in the Olympics. He was terrific. He’s better suited for an upper line. If that’s what we have to do, then we’ll do it.”
Eriksson on the No. 1 line isn’t a dilemma. He doesn’t have Iginla’s shot nor his brawn. They’re equals in straight-line speed. But Eriksson is smarter than Iginla. He wields a more active stick. He’s a better net-front player. Eriksson’s skill and hockey IQ would keep it a dangerous line.
That’s not the worry. The issue would be the trickledown effect.
Against Detroit in the first round of the playoffs, the Bruins’ best unit was the third line of Eriksson, Carl Soderberg, and Florek. They were smart. They were physical. Most important, they squared off against the Wings’ third defensive pairing of Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff. It was an overwhelming matchup in the Bruins’ favor.
If Eriksson goes up to the first line, the Bruins would lose the third-line Swedish connection. They’d have to target a third-line replacement, most likely from within. They don’t have spare cash to go hunting on the open market. They’d lose one of their biggest advantages: depth.
But that’s the reality of being a cap team, especially one that can’t even approach the $69 million ceiling. The Bruins are shorthanded because of the overage penalty (approximately $4.5 million) they accrued, mostly because of bonuses to Iginla last year.
Their options are limited. Patience will be critical.
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