The last 24 hours have been a nightmare for Boston Bruins fans, who watched their team lose to the rival Montreal Canadiens in a shootout on Wednesday, and then learned that top trade target Jarome Iginla had chosen to accept a move to the Pittsburgh Penguins after it was originally thought that the Calgary Flames captain would be coming to Beantown.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told reporters on Thursday that he thought his team "had a deal" for Iginla on Wednesday.
We were informed around noon [on Wednesday] that we had the player, we won the sweepstakes, so to speak. [Flames GM Jay Feaster] just had to talk to Jarome [Iginla] and his agent regarding the logistics of everything...We believed we had a deal. We operated under the premise of a deal. When things were silent, I obviously, in my experience, know that if things go silent it means that something is going screwy from your end. And it was. Later that night, around quarter to 12, I got a call from Jay [Feaster] saying that it was the player’s choice and he opted to go to Pittsburgh and we were out.
With Iginla no longer an option for the Bruins, they will have to target a different forward(s) to improve their struggling power play, unproductive third line and address the team's need for more scoring depth.
In addition to adding a winger to the roster, Chiarelli also needs another defenseman for more blue-line depth because the recent injuries to important defensemen Adam McQuaid and Johhny Boychuk are more of a concern right now than the team's inability to score goal on a consistent basis.
Let's look at the top five trade targets for the Bruins to pursue after failing to acquire Iginla. (All salary/contract information courtesy of Capgeek).
1) Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
There's no debating that the next best forward for the Bruins to pursue is Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martin St. Louis, who like Iginla, is a reliable goal scorer who still has a lot left at the end of this career and is well respected throughout the league.
He has tallied 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists) in 32 games this season, which puts him in third place on the NHL's scoring leaderboard. There's no question that he is still capable of playing at a high level.
If he's available, which is possible since the Lightning will likely be sellers at the trade deadline because they have just a 13.2 percent chance of making the playoffs (via Sports club Stats), the Bruins must make an aggressive offer for the veteran winger.
On March 24, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun wrote about what we can expect from the Lightning as the trade deadline approaches.
The Bolts will deal anyone but centre Steven Stamkos and defenceman Victor Hedman for the right price. No, Steve Yzerman isn’t trying to unload, but it may be time for a quick re-tooling. If a team (read Boston) wants to get winger Martin St. Louis for a run in the playoffs, that’s a possibility.
In addition to his goal scoring ability (nine straight seasons of 25-plus goals), St. Louis is also great playmaker, and without the 37-year-old forward on his wing, Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos would not have led the NHL with 60 goals last season.
St. Louis is a great skater and would also add a lot more speed to the Bruins lineup, which they desperately need.
The effort he gives at both ends of the ice each game would quickly make him a fan favorite in Boston, and he's very motivated to win another Stanley Cup because his NHL career will only last for a few more years.
The asking price for St. Louis would certainly be high, but the Bruins have a lot of goaltending depth, which makes them a good trading partner for the Lightning because they need more talent at this position. Niklas Svedberg, who has played very well for the AHL's Providence Bruins this season with a 31-7-2 record, could be a player that Tampa targets in a potential St. Louis trade involving Boston.
Contract Status: Two more years remaining with a $5.625 million salary cap hit
2) Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks
Finding a puck-moving defenseman with a lot of offensive skill should be another priority for Chiarelli before the deadline.
If the Sharks become sellers at the deadline and begin a rebuild, veteran defenseman Dan Boyle could be traded to a Stanley Cup contender like Boston.
The only Boston blueliners with more than 10 points this season are captain Zdeno Chara and rookie Dougie Hamilton, who have each tallied 14 points in 32 games. Boyle has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 30 games.
The Sharks star has been of the most consistent point-producing defenseman in the NHL over the last five years. He hasn't failed to score less than 48 points since the 2007-08 season.
Boyle would give the Bruins another reliable presence in the defensive zone who understands how to handle high expectations as a former Stanley Cup champion. He can play against opposing team's top forwards for 20-plus minutes each game and would be a huge upgrade to Boston's power play with his playmaking ability and the way he protects the puck.
The Bruins have several talented, NHL-ready prospects who could help the Sharks next season and help them build a roster for future success. A few prospects who San Jose might be interested in are defenseman Torey Krug, and forwards Alexander Khokhlachev and Anthony Camara. Boston's first-round pick in the 2013 draft would also be an attractive asset for the Sharks.
Contract Status: One more year remaining with a $6.66 million salary cap hit
3) Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars
The best upcoming unrestricted free agent who the Bruins could pursue is veteran forward Jaromir Jagr of the Dallas Stars, who at 41 years old, is still capable of performing at a high level in a top-six role.
Jagr leads the Stars with 14 goals and 25 points this season, and has excelled on the power play with six goals. The veteran winger would also give Boston a proven playoff performer. Jagr has tallied 189 points (78 goals, 111 assists) in 180 career games. He still has a lot of offensive skill and is also a quality playmaker with his passing skills, vision and high hockey IQ.
What better way would there be for the Bruins to combat Pittsburgh's acquisition of Iginla than to trade for one of the greatest players in the history of the Penguins?
Jagr won two Stanley Cup titles with Pittsburgh in the early 1990s with current team owner Mario Lemieux, but since he chose to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers when he returned to the NHL last season, Penguins fans now boo him when he plays at the Consol Energy Center.
If he was traded to Boston, Jagr would be highly motivated with the Bruins because they can offer him a good chance to win another Stanley Cup and an opportunity to impress general managers around the league for when he becomes a free agent in the summer.
Contract Status: Expiring contract with a $4.5 million salary cap hit
4) Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames
Chiarelli might not have too much of an appetite to work on another trade with the Flames after the Iginla fiasco, but veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is the kind of player who the Bruins could really use in the playoffs.
According to Roger Millions of Sportsnet, a number of teams could pursue the 29-year-old blueliner.
He is a fantastic skater as a puck-moving defenseman who creates lots of scoring chances with his impressive playmaking skills. Bouwmeester has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 32 games this year and is one of the most consistent offensive defensemen in the league.
One of the better parts of Bouwmeester's game is his durability, which would be very valuable to the Bruins because several of their defenseman have battled injuries this season, including Boychuk and McQuaid. The Flames defenseman has not missed a regular season game since 2003-04.
Bouwmeester has played in 749 career games, which is the most of any player who has never played in the NHL playoffs. He would be highly motivated if he joined the Bruins because he would finally have a chance to play in the postseason and win the first Stanley Cup of his career.
Contract Status: One more year remaining with a $6.68 million salary cap hit
5) Ladislav Smid, Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid is the ideal player for the Bruins to add at the trade deadline to ensure they have enough defensive skill to be successful against the high-powered offenses of the Penguins and Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs.
Smid is responsible defensively, plays a physical brand of hockey and has great size (6'3", 207 pounds). He also ranks second in the league with 90 blocked shots and has 95 hits.
The 27-year-old veteran wouldn't provide Boston with much scoring (he has two points in 32 games this season), but he is excellent defensively and would be another option for head coach Claude Julien's penalty killing units.
The only problem with Smid is that there could be a lot of teams interested in him because he's one of the few defensive defenseman expected to be available, depending on where the Oilers stand in the Western Conference playoff race near the trade deadline.
If Chiarelli is able to work out a deal for Smid without giving up too many quality trade assets, he should make the move. Smid is the type of player who the Bruins would be smart to re-sign in the summer if he was acquired before the deadline and turned out to be a good fit in Boston. You can never have enough defensive defenseman.
Contract Status: Expiring contract with a $2.25 million salary cap hit
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston. Nick has also covered the Bruins since the 2010-11 season. All quotes obtained firsthand or from Bruins media website.