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Cup appeal drew Iginla to Pens

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 8:00 p.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 is a straight shooter.

He is a Penguin because he wants a shot at the Stanley Cup.

“There's no smoke and mirrors,” left winger Brenden Morrow said of his newest teammate. “He's an honest, quality person.”

Iginla said his heart was torn between Calgary and Pittsburgh, but the Penguins had an advantage over the club he had captained since 2003.

“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 seasons.

The Penguins acquired Iginla just after midnight Thursday, swapping prospects — wingers Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino — and a first-round draft pick for the Flames' franchise leader in goals, points and games.

Iginla has notched more than 500 goals and 1,000 points, and he won Olympic gold medals with Mario Lemieux (2002) and Sidney Crosby (2010). At the Vancouver Games in 2010, Iginla called Crosby, Morrow and Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury teammates.

Like Morrow, Iginla has never touched the Stanley Cup.

Iginla is counting on the team owned by Lemieux and captained by Crosby to erase that from a Hall of Fame resume.

Lemieux, who rarely grants interviews or releases comments via team officials, praised Iginla.

“He has so many qualities that will benefit our team here in Pittsburgh,” Lemieux said in the statement.

Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, shared his thoughts on Twitter: “Jarome Iginla is a class act, a proud Canadian, and an all-time Flames great. Thanks for everything, Jarome.”

General manager Ray Shero's interest in Iginla was the hockey world's worst kept secret, but the deal with Calgary was not struck until after reports out of Canada called the “Iggy Watch” for the Bruins late Wednesday.

Shero informed his staff multiple times there likely would 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 late Wednesday and said Iginla's pick was the Penguins.

“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.”

The Penguins, winners of 13 in a row before playing at home against Winnipeg on Thursday, were preferred because they are best built to win the Cup, Iginla said.

Also, they have former MVPs Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — players who, like Iginla, have won scoring titles.

Iginla carried the offensive load with the Flames, who lost the 2003 Final after holding a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“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.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com of via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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