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July 26, 2013 | 10:03am ET
Chiarelli working overtime this summer
By Shawn Hutcheon, TheFourthPeriod.com

BOSTON, MA -- The curtain closed on the Boston Bruins season on June 24, 2013 after losing in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at home to the Chicago Blackhawks.

To be sure, the sight of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews hoisting the Cup on TD Garden ice left a very bad taste in the mouths of Bruins fans, players, coaches and management.

It was not a secret that for the Bruins to remain a championship contender, changes were needed. It was just a matter of when would they be made and who would be leaving Boston.

General Manager Peter Chiarelli answered those questions just two days following the loss to Chicago. The GM announced he would not re-sign unrestricted free agent defenseman Andrew Ference, right wing Jaromir Jagr nor forward Jay Pandolfo. Due to the reduction of next season's salary cap, the decision to cut those three loose was not a surprise.

The off-season became interesting when it was learned winger Nathan Horton, one of the team's free agents who was thought to be returning, informed Boston that he would test the waters and no longer continue his career in Beantown. Suddenly, Chiarelli had to replace three forwards instead of two.

The GM went into action and swung the blockbuster trade of the summer by sending centermen Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas for first liner Loui Eriksson and up-and-comers Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow.

Chiarelli, seeing the need to continue improving his club, pulled off the second biggest surprise of the off-season by signing former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jarome Iginla to a one-year contract.

Finally, after it became apparent that backup goaltender Anton Khudobin would also leave Boston, Chad Johnson was signed away from the Phoenix Coyotes to a one year deal.

The big question being asked around town is, can this team continue to be a contender? The answer is a resounding, yes.

In losing Horton, the franchise lost a top six forward who was a fan favorite and a warrior. As we know, he played throughout the playoffs with a separated shoulder but it also said goodbye to a player who has suffered two serious concussions and has changed his game from one where he was a physical player to one who plays on the perimeter and lets his linemates go into the “dirty areas” while he waits for passes or pucks to come free. Horton still has a few good years in him and with linemates similar to David Krejci and Milan Lucic, he will be very successful; but having left Boston for Columbus, it is doubtful that will happen over night.

How can the Bruins be a better team without Tyler Seguin? This is a question that has been asked repeatedly in Boston. Unfortunately for the young forward, the answer is easy.

Seguin was born with all the skill and ability every player dreams of having. Simply put, he was born to be a hockey player; however, he needs to commit himself to being the best player he can be on and off the ice. If he does that, he will be one of the best players in the NHL. The trade to Dallas should be a wake up call for the 21-year-old and it will be interesting to see how he responds to it.

In the meantime, Boston replaces him with Eriksson, who is penciled in to be the right winger with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Eriksson will fit in perfectly with those two. He plays the defense-first style that the Bruins pride themselves on. The 28-year-old native of Sweden comes east from Texas believing that good offense comes from good defense while averaging more than 60 points per season. If you are looking for durability, you do not need to look any further than Eriksson. The big (6-foot-2) forward has played in 501 of a possible 504 career NHL games.

Eriksson expressed his feelings about coming to Boston when he said, "I'm real excited to go there and play. I'm going to try to give it my best and try to help them win the Cup."

Eyebrows were raised when Chiarelli informed the hockey world he had secured Iginla's signature on a contract. Those same eyebrows were raised again when the GM let it be known that Iginla and his agent approached him about playing in Boston. Of course, everyone's minds rewound back to the NHL trade deadline when it appeared Iginla had been traded to the Bruins by the Calgary Flames only to lose him to Pittsburgh almost literally at the last minute of the deadline. After Pittsburgh was swept out of the playoffs by the Bruins, Iginla looked around the league and decided Boston would be the place for him.

"I have friends (Ference, Chuck Kobasew and Mark Recchi) who played there," he said. "They're a team that year in, year out, is extremely competitive. They are very hard to play against. They play a physical, aggressive style. I like that. I'm thrilled to get the chance to join them and another opportunity to be a part of it. I'm happy it was able to work out and I know they're in a tough cap situation and they have a great core that is signed up for a long time and is a fun team to watch."

The signing of Iginla is a major coup for Chiarelli. One needs to look no further than the 36-year-old's resume to see he is a future hall of famer. He has played in six NHL All-Star games and has received seven major awards. Iginla also knows how to win. He has won gold in the World Junior Championships (1996 in Boston), World Championships (1997), World Cup of Hockey (2004) and Winter Olympics (2002, 2010).

Iginla comes to Boston as the prototypical power forward and will enhance Boston's top unit with Krejci and Lucic with a fast, hard hitting style, creating scoring chances for himself and his new linemates. His style on the ice and his work in the community will make fans forget about last season's trade deadline in a hurry.

As mentioned, three wingers need to be replaced in Boston and Chiarelli expects the right side on the club's third line to be settled in training camp. Word around town is that 23-year-old Matt Fraser, acquired with Eriksson from Dallas, has the inside edge on for the position. Last season, he appeared in 12 games with the Stars scoring one goal and two assists. He also registered 33 goals and 13 assists in 62 AHL games.

The salary cap and the playoff performances of Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski on the blueline made Ference expendable. Each defender, along with Dougie Hamilton, will see increased ice time in 2013-14.

The Bruins future was further solidified with the signings of free agent goaltender Tuukka Rask and veteran alternate captain Patrice Bergeron to eight year contracts. Bergeron's deal is an extension and will go into effect at the start of the 2014-15 season.

It remains to be seen if Chiarelli will make another deal or two before last season's Stanley Cup finalists begins its quest to return to the championship round of the playoffs for the third time in four years. In a recent conference call with the media, he was asked if he would make more roster moves, the GM answered that he was "done for now."

There have been rumors that Johnny Boychuk, Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand could be on the block. It would not be a shock to see them moved nor would it be shocking should they remain Bruins.

Chiarelli has been putting in long hours on the phone and in his office looking for ways to improve his team. He has been successful. As the team is presently constituted, the Boston Bruins are a better team today than they were on the night Chicago left Beantown with the Stanley Cup.

Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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