- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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Despite his team having one of its best starts in franchise history and establishing itself as a Stanley Cup contender once again, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli made it clear in a recent interview that he still sees room for improvement and would like to add some scoring depth in the form of a top-six forward.
Chiarelli has shown in the past he’s not afraid to wheel and deal at or near the trade deadline, most notably in 2011 when he acquired defenseman Tomas Kaberle and forwards Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly in three separate deals leading into the deadline. While Kaberle didn’t pan out, Peverley and Kelly played pivotal roles in the Bruins' Stanley Cup run.
Chiarelli, who has been personally scouting on the road at least three times in the past week, said he wouldn’t mind getting a head start in bolstering his team for another Cup run. So with that in mind, we formed a list of five forwards Chiarelli may (or should) be targeting.
The Bruins have just over $8 million in cap space to spend, and Chiarelli has proven he won’t shy away from taking on salary. But with the fact that this is a shortened season and he does need to sign unrestricted-free-agents-to-be Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference -- and is reportedly already working on a multi-year deal with restricted-free-agent-to-be Tuukka Rask -- we decided to keep the list to players that will be unrestricted free agents next summer.
Jarome Iginla -- Iginla’s name was tossed around the rumor mill last season leading into the deadline, but the Flames decided not to go the rebuilding route and were buyers instead. They went out and made some big free-agent signings, most notably defenseman Dennis Wideman. But things haven’t improved for the Flames or Iginla. Reports out of Calgary are that the 35-year-old captain seems to have lost his spark and could be willing to waive his no-movement clause for a shot at the Stanley Cup that has eluded him for 15 seasons. On Sunday, Ottawa Sun columnist Bruce Garrioch reported that the asking price for Iginla and his lackluster play may be scaring teams away. But if GM Jay Feaster came down on the price - say a first-round pick and prospects -- then Chiarelli should go all out for Iginla. He is a prototypical Bruin, combining skill and scoring prowess, and may just need a new home with a Stanley Cup contender to get his game going again.
Michael Ryder -- There has been a strong clamoring among Bruins fans on Twitter recently for the Bruins to reacquire the winger that spent three seasons with Boston and had 17 points in 25 playoff games in 2011. Ryder’s scoring production went down in his final two seasons in Boston -- after he started his Bruins career with 27 goals and 53 points in 2008-09 -- but he came through when it counted and appears to have found his scoring touch again. He had 35 goals and 62 points in his first campaign with the Stars last season, and now has six goals and 11 points in 18 games this season. If the Stars continue to drop in the standings, they may very well decide to use the former Bruin to get some prospects or picks. With the 32-year-old winger and the Bruins knowing each other so well, he could fit right back in for another Cup run.
Stephen Weiss: Another UFA that is rumored to be available is Florida Panthers 29-year-old forward Stephen Weiss. Weiss is a center and the Bruins are deep up the middle, but they could always have him play on the wing. Also, with the increased chance of injuries in this shortened season, you can never be too deep at center. There is a strong sense around the league that the Panthers are about to have a fire sale, and Weiss and management are reportedly not close in negotiations for the 2001 fourth pick overall to remain a Panther after this season. Weiss plays well on the power play, which is an area the Bruins have been looking to improve. He has just four points in 14 games this season, but he may be another player in need of a change of scenery.
Ryane Clowe: After a 62-point season in 2010-11, Ryane Clowe’s point production went down to just 45 last season. He’s not off to the best start this season either, with just six assists and no goals in 16 games thus far. The 30-year-old forward is a physical presence and plays the Bruins' brand of hockey. He is a strong leader as well, and proved in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs that he can come through in the clutch -- with 15 points in 17 games. San Jose GM Doug Wilson is on record as saying no one on his roster is untouchable, so with the likes of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau theoretically available, the Bruins could likely get Clowe without giving up a roster player.
Ruslan Fedotenko: Ruslan Fedotenko isn’t necessarily a Bruins type of player and has a history of driving head coaches crazy with his inconsistent play, but he’s had two huge playoff performances -- with 14 points in 2004 when he helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup and then in 2009 when he had 14 points again and helped the Penguins win it all. So he could be a valuable player in the playoffs, and based on the fact that Chiarelli scouted the Flyers three times in the last 10 days, he could very well have his eyes on the 34-year-old forward.