Only 12 hours after finding out his life had changed dramatically, Jarome Iginla bid farewell to the only city he has ever known as an NHL player.
In a surprisingly upbeat press conference, Iginla said goodbye to the Calgary Flames on Thursday and talked about the exciting opportunities that await him with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that traded for him in the early-morning hours.
"I've grown up here," Iginla said. "I came here just at 18 and played my first game here in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs -- one of my favorite games I've ever played.
"Getting the chance to play here in Calgary against the Chicago Blackhawks and play on Theo Fleury's line. Just to start it off that way, I never would've dreamt I'd get to play here so long. It's a great hockey city, a great community, and such a great balance between a wonderful city and a great place to live.
"This is definitely mixed emotions with my teammates, the city, the organization. To leave is tough, but I'm also excited about the opportunity to go with Pittsburgh and play with them and have an opportunity to do some good things there."
In order to do so in Pittsburgh, Iginla had to sever ties with the only NHL team he has known and the one with which he matured into the face of the franchise and one of the organization's brightest stars.
"I wish the Flames the absolute best," Iginla said in closing his press conference and his tenure with the club -- at least for now.
It ended an astounding 18-hour stretch of intrigue and drama that saw Iginla -- the unquestioned prize on the trade market -- moved a week before the trade deadline to a team nobody expected.
The NHL Trade Deadline is April 3 at 3 p.m. ET.
News reports Wednesday night were rife with that Iginla had been traded to the Bruins Boston for a pair of developing minor-league players and a first-round draft pick. But at 1:30 a.m. ET -- minutes after the Flames defeated the Colorado Avalanche without Iginla in the lineup -- official word was delivered he had been moved to Pittsburgh for two unsigned college players (Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino) and the Penguins' first-round pick in 2013.
In a Thursday afternoon press conference, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said he believed he had a deal in place with Calgary to obtain Iginla. Chiarelli said he was informed Wednesday evening the deal was no longer valid after Iginla decided he preferred to play in Pittsburgh.
"We were told at noon [Wednesday] that we'd won the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes," Chiarelli told reporters. "We believed that we'd had a deal."
That is until they heard back from Calgary GM Jay Feaster.
"I approached Jarome and had a number of conversations with him about where we are and where we want to go moving forward," said Feaster, describing the process that ended with a "yea" or "nay" from Iginla. "In the final analysis we had offers from three different clubs. The player in this particular case has a no-trade/no-move clause, so the player was also a part of the process. We worked with the player, and we concluded a deal this evening with the Pittsburgh Penguins."
Iginla said in his comments Thursday that the opportunity to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin made Pittsburgh's offer the most desirable of the three that were on the table, according to Feaster.
"The opportunity to go play on a team with the two best players in the world … as a player, I wanted that opportunity," Iginla said.
Iginla played with Crosby for Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, making the pass to Crosby that led to the gold medal-winning goal in overtime against the United States.
Despite already making moves to bolster the Penguins, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero remained steadfast in conversations with Feaster that he wanted in on the bidding for Iginla.
"We talked to Jay and said if you’re going to move Iginla we would be interested," Shero said. "Over the last day or so it became apparent they were going to move him. We started getting into more names and scenarios."
The addition of an unconditional first-round pick clinched the deal.
"The first-round pick was very important to them," Shero said. "They ended up with two good college prospects. That’s the price of Jarome Iginla. That’s what you have to do. That’s what we did."
Feaster, on the club's rationalizing for moving the face of the franchise, said, "We, as an organization, are grateful for everything our captain has done. We've missed the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] the last three years, we are in very tight spot right now as far as qualifying for the playoffs and we have Jarome in the final year of his contract."
Feaster also said it was a difficult decision to make, but it became a necessity when he realized he could not sign Iginla, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, to an extension.
"This is not why I came to Calgary, to be the guy to trade Jarome Iginla," Feaster said. "It's an unfortunate and difficult part of this business. It was tough. I've only known Jarome for the three years I have been here, and Jarome has been very good to me. They are tough conversations to have."
It is the third major deal in the past 72 hours engineered by Shero, who has yet to move a player off his NHL roster in making his acquisitions.
Monday, Shero obtained gritty veteran forward Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars for prospect Joe Morrow and a draft pick. Less than 24 hours later, Shero acquired veteran defenseman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks for two second-round picks. Now Iginla, the prize of this year's trade market.
"We’re all in. We want to win," Shero said after the deal was made.
Iginla met with the Calgary media Thursday morning, meaning he would not play for Pittsburgh Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets. Pittsburgh's next game is Saturday afternoon against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center, but his availability there may not be guaranteed either, as he deals with immigration issues.
"He brings a lot of different elements, ability to play with good players, play in tough areas, good leadership," Shero said. "He wants to win. The people I’ve talked to that have played with him talk about what a great teammate and person he is. My expectation is that he’ll be a really good fit in terms of the team and the guys that we have."
Still to be determined is how Iginla fits in with the Penguins and with whom he’ll play. However, Shero said Iginla is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
"He said he would help any way he could, didn’t care about role or who he was playing with," Shero said. "He’ll accept any role that’s asked of him by coaches or teammates.
"That will be up to [coach] Dan [Bylsma]. They have a month to work things out as far as where things go and what the fit might be. They may play with different players here and there and find that fit with what the roles are and who’s comfortable with whom. We have some time to sort through that and find those roles."
Iginla, 35, has nine goals and 22 points this season for the Flames. He has played his entire NHL career in Calgary, scoring 525 goals. He had played 441 consecutive games before the Flames scratched him Wednesday night.
"Jarome Iginla is 35 years old. He’s not 45," Shero said. "He’s like a few other guys that have come here that seem to be rejuvenated playing with these younger players. That’s what we’re hoping for with the guys that we picked up. Hopefully, that will be the case."
Iginla is a three-time First-Team All-Star, won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal-scorer in 2002 and 2004, and led the NHL in points in 2001-02. He has been Flames captain since the start of the 2003-04 season.
A first-round pick by the Dallas Stars (No. 11) at the 1995 NHL Draft, Iginla was dealt to the Flames in a deal that sent Joe Nieuwendyk to the Stars on Dec. 20, 1995. Iginla made his NHL debut with the Flames during the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Iginla has appeared in 1,219 regular-season games, scoring 525 goals and 570 assists. He also has 28 goals and 21 assists in 54 postseason contests. Iginla came close to winning a championship in 2004, when the Flames lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"It's different; it's weird, for sure," Calgary forward Michael Cammalleri said after Wednesday's game. "I think he's been such presence on this team, this city, this organization for so long. He's such a dominant player, a guy who is in the lineup all the time not missing any games. His presence will be … it'll be different, for sure, without him."
Calgary sits in second-to-last place in the Western Conference, although they are six points behind the eighth-place San Jose Sharks. But the Flames must climb past six clubs with 16 games remaining to qualify for the playoffs.
"We're all very aware of what kind of business it is," Calgary forward Alex Tanguay said. "What have you done for me lately? I've been here three years and we haven't been in the playoffs. The position we're in now, no one would call it ideal. [The trade] was forced by the situation. If we're standing in fourth [place], I don't think we'd be unloading a player of his abilities. Obviously, it's caused by the team."
Agostino, 20, was a fifth-round pick by the Penguins in the 2010 NHL Draft. The junior forward has a career-high 15 goals and 37 points for Yale this season. Hanowski, a 22-year-old right wing, was a third-round pick in 2009. He is a senior at St. Cloud State, where he has scored 62 goals and 111 points in four years.
Both players are taking part in the NCAA tournament this weekend.
"Our pro scouts feel very strongly about these players," Feaster said after the trade was announced. "They fit our criteria for hockey sense, and they have good skill level."
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