Ageless Iginla faces uncertain future with Bruins

Ken Campbell
Iginla

Right around the same time he’s blowing out the 37 candles on his birthday cake, Jarome Iginla will have an enormous, career-altering decision to make about his immediate future and that of the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins winger, who is in the running with Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Alfredsson as the best free agent signing of last summer, turns 37 on July 1, the same day free agent frenzy begins. Essentially, what Iginla will have to decide is whether or not he’s comfortable on a series of one-year contracts with a team that will perennially contend for the Stanley Cup or he’s willing to go elsewhere for the security of a two- or three-year deal.

As an over-35 player, Iginla signed a heavily laden bonus contract with the Bruins last summer. His base salary is $1.8 million, but he earned a $3.7 million bonus once he played 10 games this season. That puts his salary and cap hit to $5.5 million. If Iginla scores 30 goals – he has 26 going into Friday night’s game against Colorado – and the Bruins win the Eastern Conference final, he gets another $250,000. If he gets 30 and the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, Iginla gets an another $250,000.

So if Iginla scores 30 and the Bruins take the Cup – both very realistic scenarios – Iginla’s cap hit soars to $6 million. However, $4.2 million of that bonus can be carried over to next season to alleviate their cap space restrictions this season. And Iginla isn’t the only Bruin on a bonus-laden deal. Defenseman Torey Krug has all but clinched an additional $850,000 in bonus money on top of his salary of $917,000 and Dougie Hamilton has an outside shot at earning another $212,500 for being among the top three defensemen on the team in plus-minus – he’s currently fourth at plus-19.

That means the Bruins could have about $1 million added to their cap for this season for Krug and Hamilton, with the majority of Iginla’s bonuses being pushed to next season with the bonus cushion provision provided in the collective bargaining agreement.

According to capgeek.com, the Bruins have a little more than $9.1 million in cap space next season, assuming the salary cap will be at $71.1 million. But with the Canadian dollar flagging – it opened today at just 88 cents compared to the American greenback – the cap may not be that high.

So if we assume that the lion’s share of the minimum of $3.7 million or maximum of $4.2 million is pushed over to next season, that pretty much wipes out the $4 million that comes off the Bruins cap by having Marc Savard on long-term injured list.

With their remaining cap space, they have to re-sign Krug and Matt Bartkowski as restricted free agents on defense, Reilly Smith as an RFA at forward and either re-sign or replace unrestricted free agent Shawn Thornton, as well as find a backup goalie.

That won’t leave much room for a big-money deal for Iginla, unless of course he opts for the same one-year deal he received with the Bruins this season. That would push the 2014-15 bonuses to ’15-16 and the Bruins and Iginla could keep this arrangement going for the next couple of seasons.

The caveat here is that these kinds of contracts can only be offered on a one-year deal, so the Bruins hands are tied. They can’t offer him more than one year, but they can offer him a legitimate chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.

But what if another team comes along with an offer of a three-year deal, all guaranteed money, which would take Iginla to his 40th birthday and provide him with at least $15 million in guaranteed income? Perhaps that won’t be a factor for a guy who has already made $78.3 million in career earnings, but perhaps it might.

Either way, Iginla will have some heavy thinking to do come July 1. The Bruins are hoping that having the first Stanley Cup ring on his finger and extra $500,000 in his pocket by that time might sway him to stick around.