BOSTON — The Boston Bruins lost to Pittsburgh in the competition for Jarome Iginla. That should make it tougher for them to beat the already powerful Penguins in the playoffs.
It was a bitter battle to lose, of course. Especially considering Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli thought he already had the Calgary Flames’ all-time leading goal scorer in the fold.
A few hours later, Iginla was a Penguin.
Just like that.
“We believed we had a deal,” Chiarelli said, at about noon on Wednesday for the Flames’ captain and the top prize in the NHL trade market.
But Iginla had a no-trade clause which allowed him to choose his destination from teams that made offers. And shortly before midnight on Wednesday, Calgary general manager Jay Feaster called Chiarelli with the bad news: Iginla had chosen the Penguins and Sidney Crosby.
“It’s tough. I mean, we’re talking about a really good player,” Chiarelli said. “This kind of stuff happens. It shouldn’t, but it does. The reality of no-movement and no-trade clauses, it’s going to happen more. It’s a disappointment, but you get back on your horse and you go out there and find some more players.”
He still has time to improve one of the NHL’s stingiest defensive teams but one that has struggled on offence. The Bruins scored five goals Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens, but still lost 6-5 to drop from the second to the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Penguins hold the top spot, lead the league in goals and had won 13 straight games at the time of the trade. That deal followed two others in which they obtained forward Brenden Morrow from Dallas on Sunday and defenceman Doug Murray from San Jose on Monday.
So what does Chiarelli think of the Penguins now?
“Well, they’re a lock, right?” he said with a laugh. “They’re a good team.”
But so are the Bruins.
Chiarelli called them “a serious contender” but said they must improve to become more competitive for a spot in the Stanley Cup finals two years after they won the NHL championship.
“You still have to be patient because, you know, you trust in your players,” he said. “They’re a good team. We have to be better in a number of areas, but we’re getting points, and we also know that the prize is after the regular season. We’re committed to fixing these things.