Bruins can't let Iginla get away

BOSTON -- Before the free-agent market opens Tuesday at noon, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli should pull out all the stops to re-sign Jarome Iginla.

When the NHL announced last week that the salary-cap ceiling was a lower-than-expected $69 million, it put a damper on the chances Boston would be able to retain the veteran forward and future Hall of Famer. According to capgeek.com, that number left the Bruins with just $1.6 million to spend to reach that ceiling.

That doesn’t mean the Bruins can’t make room, it just means they’ll have to get creative. Putting Marc Savard on long-term injury reserve would free up $4 million, and signing Iginla to an incentive-laden deal would push all of his bonuses to the following season’s cap. The Bruins had a league-high $4.75 million in bonus overages counted against their cap for 2014-15, thanks mostly to Iginla’s deal.

Another way to shed salary would be via a trade. Chiarelli has created depth in the organization and now is the time to use it in order to keep Iginla. The Bruins have the resources on defense to make a deal, even if it means parting ways with the likes of Johnny Boychuk, who will earn $3.3 million next season before becoming an unrestricted free agent following 2014-15.

Prior to knowing the salary-cap number, Chiarelli said he would not go “full force” into free agency. There’s no need. The Bruins are built as a perennial Stanley Cup contender and Iginla needs to be a part of it. In the past, Chiarelli hasn’t been shy about pulling the trigger on a trade and he should do that again now in order to retain Iginla.

Yes, there’s a chance Iginla could be wearing a different sweater next season. The Bruins were just one of the teams Iginla’s agent, Don Meehan, met with over the weekend at the NHL draft. It’s understandable why other organizations are trying to find a way to sign him. The 36-year-old had a team-high 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points during the regular season, skating alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic on the Bruins’ potent top line.

If Iginla does sign elsewhere, the Bruins already have a plan to replace him. Chiarelli said over the weekend that he would be comfortable moving Loui Eriksson to the top line. No doubt Eriksson has the ability to contribute with Krejci and Lucic, but he’s not as perfect a fit as Iginla. Moving him to the top line would also have a ripple effect, as he no longer would be able to take advantage of mismatches he created playing on the third line.

Iginla has stated his desire to return to the Bruins, but we’ll find out soon just how badly he wants to remain in black and gold. Other teams can offer more money than Boston, and likely without any incentive-based strings attached. But the Bruins give Iginla the best chance at the one thing that’s eluded him in his 17-year career: a Stanley Cup.