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Iginla 'wanted' Penguins

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 1:42 a.m.
REUTERS
Calgary Flames' captain Jarome Iginla handles the puck during the first period of their NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues in Calgary, Alberta, March 24, 2013. The Penguins have acquired Iginla as the latest part of what the team hopes will be a serious run at a Stanley Cup.

Jarome Iginla wanted the Penguins.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were two of his reasons.

"To play on a team with the two best players in the world - and the roll they're on - I wanted that," Iginla said Thursday in Calgary, Alberta, where he bid adieu to the Flames after 16 NHL seasons.

The Penguins acquired Iginla just after midnight on Thursday, sending two prospects and a first-round draft pick to Calgary in exchange for the Flames' franchise leader in goals, points and games.

Iginla has scored over 500 goals, notched over 1,000 points, and won Olympic gold medals with Mario Lemieux (2002) and Crosby (2010).

He has never touched the Stanley Cup, and he is counting on the team owned by Lemieux and captained by Crosby to erase that from a Hockey Hall-of-Fame resume.

Three teams took a shot at adding Iginla: the Penguins, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings.

The Penguins were preferred because they are best built to win the Cup, Iginla said.

Iginla, 35, is on an expiring contract and will become an unrestricted free agent July 5.

Penguins general manager Ray Shero said he has not discussed an extension with Iginla's representatives or the agents of left winger Brenden Morrow and defensemen Douglas Murray - players acquitted by the Penguins in trades Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Shero's interest in Iginla was the hockey world's worst kept secret, but a deal with Calgary was not struck until after reports out of Canada called the "Iggy Watch" for the Bruins late Wednesday. Shero's staff was informed multiple times there would likely be no deal, he said.

However, the hands of Calgary general manager Jay Feaster were cuffed by Iginla, whose contract contained a clause that allowed him to pick a new club.

Feaster called Shero around midnight. He asked that the Penguins' package include a first-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and the deal was done.

"I called my kids and let them know we acquired Jarome Iginla, and they said, ‘No you didn't, he's going somewhere else; we saw on TV,'" Shero said. "I'm, like, ‘Well, I think we're getting him.'

"If there's a chance to get Jarome Iginla... we're going to try and get Jarome Iginla. There's only one Jarome Iginla."

Penguins players were thrilled by Shero's latest move.Most learned of the trade upon waking Thursday morning."He's (an) unbelievable player, and I know he's a good guy," Malkin said. "He has a lot of experience, and, of course, he (can) help the team to win."

Left winger Matt Cooke said Shero had "made a statement" that the Penguins should expect to win in the playoffs, where they have lost three consecutive series to lower-seeded opponents.

A right winger known for a powerful shot and skating, Iginla has arguably been the NHL's best power forward over the last 12 years - scoring at least 30 goals in each of the last 11 seasons, including two seasons each of at least 40 and 50 goals.

In addition to his on-ice prowess, Iginla is a reputably fiery and vocal leader - the latter something the Penguins have been looking to replace since Bill Guerin retired after the 2009-10 campaign.

Crosby said it would "not (take) long" for teammates to realize that Iginla is as advertised.

"If you spend any time with him, see the way he plays, what he brings to the team - it won't take long at all," Crosby said.

He and Iginla became linemates for Team Canada during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and Iginla set up Crosby's golden goal in the win over Team USA.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday did anticipate Iginla playing some with Crosby, but that he did not "have an inkling" to make a change with the Penguins' top line of Crosby, left winger Chris Kunitz and right winger Pascal Dupuis.

Those three players had combined for 49 goals and 120 points before a home game against Winnipeg on Thursday night.

The Eastern Conference Penguins were seeking a 14th consecutive victory despite playing 10 of those contests without Malkin, the MVP last season and a two-time scoring champion.

Iginla did not play Thursday night. He had been a healthy scratch for the Flames the night before.

He must obtain a working visa before he can play for the Penguins, and that process could take a few days, Shero said.

Iginla, who cited mixed emotions about leaving the Flames, for whom he served as captain since 2003, said he would treat joining the Penguins as he did playing for Canada at the Olympics.

He will try to fit in, and accept any role.

"I'd love to get my first crack at one Cup," he said. "Pittsburgh has the two best players in the world. It's really hard as a player to pass up the opportunity to play on a team with Sid and Malkin."

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