Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 13 stories of 2013 in Boston sports. This is No. 12: Bruins acquire Jaromir Jagr after Jarome Iginla nixes deal to Boston.
Jarome Iginla’s refusal to join the Bruins in March forced Boston to acquire Jaromir Jagr five days later. (AP)
In March, with the NHL trade deadline a week away and the Bruins sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference with a 21-7-4 record, the B’s were on the lookout for another veteran presence to add to the roster.
While the Bruins reportedly explored trades involving players such as Daniel Briere and Ryane Clowe, their main focus was on future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla of the Flames.
A six-time All-Star, Iginla was seen as the perfect complement to a team lining up another Stanley Cup run in Boston, as Iginla’s mix of goal-scoring, veteran leadership and hard-nosed physical play fit perfectly with the Bruins’ style.
Iginla had built an impressive legacy for himself with the Flames, as he was the franchise leader in goals (525), points (1095) and games (1219). However, with the Flames languishing near the bottom of the Western Conference and Iginla in the final year of his contract, the winger was put on the trade market.
Despite the expected high price to pay, the Bruins were one of the most-discussed teams linked to Iginla in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. When it became apparent to Iginla that his playing days at the Saddledome were numbered after 16 seasons, he reportedly told his team that he would accept a trade to the Bruins, Blackhawks, Kings or Penguins — the last four teams to win the Stanley Cup.
Iginla was held out of the Calgary lineup on March 27, as an Iginla trade clearly was imminent. In the early morning hours of March 28, it was reported that a deal to Boston was all but done.
While the deal — which reportedly would have had Boston sending center Alexander Khokhlachev, defenseman Matt Bartkowski and a first-round pick to Calgary — seemed like a certainty, it was all for naught.
Just a few hours after the trade was initially reported, it emerged that the Penguins had swooped in and acquired Iginla in stunning fashion. It was revealed that despite listing Boston as a possible destination, Iginla refused to accept the deal, stating that he preferred to play with Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
‘We had multiple teams that we were dealing with, had multiple offers,’ Calgary general manager Jay Feaster said. ‘At the end of the day, it’s a process of working with the player. Certainly the player has a role to play when the player has a no-trade/no-move, and in this instance, the deal that we consummated, this is where the player was prepared to waive for.
It was a crushing blow for the Bruins, who had lost their top trade target and still needed to make a move before the trade deadline on April 3.
‘I guess you initially feel [hoodwinked], but I’ve been around for a while and I’ve seen things happen similar to this, and it happens,’ said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli during a press conference on March 28. ‘We were on the list, and you assume that once you come to a deal, that you’re going to get the player. That’s what I was operating under.
‘We were informed around noon yesterday that we had the player, we’d won the sweepstakes, so to speak. ’¦ From that point on, there had been some discussions regarding Jarome taking some time, not to decide, but to let things soak in.”
Added Chiarelli: ‘Now, these things happen all the time — more than you know — about deals going south for whatever reason. We believed we had a deal and we operated on the premise of the deal. When things were silent — obviously, in my experience, when things go silent, usually something is going screwy from your end. It was.
‘Later that night, around 12, I got a call from Jay saying that it was the player’s choice and he opted to go to Pittsburgh, so we were out. That’s it in a nutshell.’
Despite their disappointment at losing out on Iginla, the Bruins could not afford to sit back and spend time lamenting their bad luck, as they needed to acquire another player as soon as possible.
Just five days after the Iginla trade, the Bruins finally made their move, acquiring 12-time All Star Jaromir Jagr. The Bruins recieved the 41-year-old winger from the Stars in exchange for prospects Lane MacDermid and Cody Payne and a conditional second-round pick that would become a first-round pick if the Bruins made it to the Eastern Conference finals. In 34 games with the Stars, Jagr had recorded 26 points.
Bringing in a hockey legend like Jagr, who had recorded 1,653 points (eighth all-time) in his career at the time of the trade, served as a big boost to a Bruins squad prepping for a playoff run.
‘He was the best for a long time, and he’s still one of the best right now,’ said David Krejci. ‘It’s good to see him still do well at his age. I had posters of him when I was a kid. He was obviously my hockey idol.’
Jagr made an instant impact in Boston, recording nine points in 11 games as the Bruins finished the 2012-13 campaign with a 28-14-6 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Although he did not score a goal, Jagr had a relatively productive postseason, posting 10 assists in 22 playoff games as the Bruins lost to the Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup finals.
In the offseason, the Bruins said they would not seek to re-sign Jagr, who proceeded to sign a one-year deal with the Devils on July 22.
In a twist of fate, Iginla, who spurned the Bruins in March, warmed up in July and signed a one-year, $6 million deal with Boston.
Iginla has been a welcome presence on the first line, recording eight goals and 13 assists in his first 35 games with the B’s.
While the Bruins’ recent success over the past few seasons has mostly come from an established core of players featuring Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic, the arrival of NHL legends Iginla and Jagr added some excitement to this Original Six franchise.