The Boston Bruins went into the first day of NHL free agency hoping that they could keep their first line intact. They exited the day with a gaping hole in the offense with little cap space to fill the hole left by Jarome Iginla.
Iginla signed a three-year contract early on Tuesday with the Colorado Avalanche, ending his one year tenure with the black and gold. The contract is reportedly worth $16 million, which was way out of the price range for the Bruins, who have less than $2 million of cap space. Iginla signed a one-year deal with the Bruins last offseason that was packed with bonuses, which was the only type of deal that the B's could offer him again this offseason.
The loss of Iginla leaves a huge question mark on the first line of the Bruins. Iginla had a terrific season for Boston, notching 30 goals and 31 assists alongside first-line teammates David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The team could look to acquire a replacement for Iginla via trade, or fill the hole with in-house options like Loui Eriksson or Reilly Smith. Both Eriksson and Smith were acquired during this time last offseason in a trade with the Dallas Stars for Tyler Seguin.
Iginla joins a young Avalanche team that was third in the NHL with 112 points last season. The Avalanche were the top seed in the Central Division in the Western Conference playoffs, but lost in the first round to the Minnesota Wild in seven games. Colorado has one of the youngest captains in the league in Gabriel Landeskog, and is also home to the reigning rookie of the year Nathan Mackinnon. Head coach Patrick Roy was also named coach of the year in his first season at the helm of the Avs, who also lost a huge free agent today when Paul Stastny signed a four-year deal with the St. Louis Blues.
The Bruins also lost two other key contributors in the first day of free agency. Backup goalie Chad Johnson signed a two-year deal with the New York Islanders for $2.6 million, and Shawn Thornton signed a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers. Johnson excelled in the backup role behind Tuukka Rask, as he went 17-4-3 with a 2.10 GAA in 27 games for the Bruins. Johnson will be backing up newly-acquired Jaroslav Halak behind the pipes in Long Island.
Thornton, a key member of the fourth line (a.k.a. the Merlot line), spent his last seven seasons in Boston. Although Thornton only averaged 5 goals and 6 assists with the B's, he epitomized the "Big Bad Bruins" personality with his hard-nosed play and aggressive style, tallying over 106 penalty minutes per season in Boston. He was also a key member of the Bruins off the ice, lending his time and energy to many charitable causes including Cuts For A Cause, which raised money for children battling cancer by allowing auction winners to shave the heads of Bruins' players.
The Bruins also lost defenseman Andrej Meszaros, as he signed a deal with the Buffalo Sabres.