Jarome Iginla spent 16 years chasing a Stanley Cup in Calgary.
The Penguins think he’ll only need three months playing alongside the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to grab one in Pittsburgh.
The league’s hottest team continued its aggressive dealing late Wednesday night, acquiring the six-time All Star forward from the Flames in exchange for prospects and a first-round draft pick.
Pittsburgh sent the Flames the rights to college players Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski as well as the Penguins’ first pick in the 2013 draft for the league’s fifth-leading active scorer.
The 35-year-old Iginla waived his no-trade clause for the opportunity to join the Penguins. It wasn’t exactly a tough sell for Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero.
“He wants to win,” Shero said. “My expectation is that he’ll be a really good fit in terms of the team and the guys that we have.”
The trade marks the third big move by the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins ahead of next week’s deadline. Pittsburgh acquired veteran Dallas Stars forward Brenden Morrow on Sunday and picked up burly San Jose defenseman Doug Murray on Monday.
While bringing in Morrow and Murray gave the Penguins depth and a physical presence around the net on both ends of the ice, landing Iginla provides Pittsburgh with firepower and the potential top-six winger the team has been looking for to pair with reigning NHL MVP Malkin and All-Star forward James Neal.
Shero declined to speculate where Iginla would play and indicated his team’s newest winger is hardly concerned about how he will be used.
“He said he would help anyway 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.”
Iginla is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent July 1. He was scratched from Calgary’s lineup against Colorado, ending his consecutive games streak at 441. He has nine goals and 13 assists this season for the Flames, who are well out of the playoff picture. Iginla could be in Pittsburgh as early as Thursday, but almost certainly won’t be available until Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders.
Iginla led Calgary to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, but the Flames haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009 and are currently in 14th in the Western Conference. Flames general manager Jay Feaster thanked the franchise’s all-time leading scorer for agreeing to the trade to allow the rebuilding Flames to stockpile young talent.
“We as an organization owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Jarome,” Feaster said, “not only for what he did for the franchise during his tenure as a player here and as our captain, but also for the fact that now as we recognize that despite our best efforts, and despite the work we’ve put in, we’ve fallen short of the goals we set for ourselves as an organization.
“We respect very, very much the fact that Jarome worked with us to enable this to come about.”
In 1,219 career regular-season games in 16 seasons, all with Calgary, he has 525 goals and 570 assists. He has 28 goals and 21 assists in 54 career playoff games and has played for Canada in three Olympics. Iginla assisted on Crosby’s gold-medal winning goal for Team Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Games.
The Penguins have won 13 straight heading into Thursday night’s game against Winnipeg and have done much of it without Malkin, who remains sidelined with an upper body injury. Pittsburgh also placed defenseman Kris Letang on injured reserve on Wednesday with a lower body injury and No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is being evaluated after getting run over in a 1-0 victory against Montreal on Tuesday.
None of the injuries appears to be serious and if Pittsburgh can stay healthy over the season’s final six weeks, they will be the prohibitive favorite to make it out of the Eastern Conference and vie for the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup.
The bold move to land Iginla only raises the stakes.
“The team on paper doesn’t mean too much,” Shero said. “We have to do it on the ice.”
There are no such hopes — this year anyway — for the Flames, who hope forwards Agostino and Hanowski can one day be part of a new foundation to build around.
The 20-year-old Agostino was selected by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. The junior leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 15 goals and 22 assists in 33 games this season. Yale will face Minnesota on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The 22-year-old Hanowski, a third-round pick in 2009, recently finished his senior season at St. Cloud State, where he was the team captain. He had 16 goals and 13 assists in 34 games this season.