After trade, Iginla, Penguins have kept their part of the deal


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Jarome Iginla approved a trade to the Penguins in late March because he hoped to win a Stanley Cup.

He already has gotten closer to achieving that goal than he had in all but one of his previous 15 NHL seasons.

The Penguins, who are preparing for a best-of-seven collision with Boston in the Eastern Conference final, have won two best-of-seven series in these playoffs. Iginla made it past Round 1 once in Calgary, reaching the Cup final against Tampa Bay in 2004.

He has dressed for 11 games in this postseason; 2004, when he got into 26, was the only time he appeared in more than seven in a single spring with the Flames.

"That's maybe why the body has held up so much," Iginla said, smiling. "Unfortunately, it wasn't part of enough playoffs over the years and long enough runs."

Turns out he was a virtual lock to get at least as far as the Eastern final this year, though, because the Flames worked out trades to send him to each of the teams that will be competing in it. Iginla's contract included a no-movement clause, which effectively meant he got to choose whether to accept a move to the Penguins, or one to the Bruins.

He selected the Penguins.

Iginla's choice inspired varying degrees of shock, indignation and outrage around New England, and the TD Garden crowd wasn't shy about expressing its feelings when the Penguins played there with a week left in the regular season.

And the Garden fans surely didn't care much for it when Iginla scored the goal that put the Penguins in front for good in what became a 3-2 victory.

Iginla made no secret of his respect for the Bruins before and after that game and did it again after the third-round matchup was set. There's a good chance he'll make the point a few dozen more times over the next couple of weeks.

"I expect that to come up again and be a question," he said. "I'm fine with it. I guessed at the time -- even talked, afterward, to some of my ex-teammates in Calgary -- about how there was a good chance we could meet in the conference final.

"They're a very good team. ... I knew it was a possibility and, in my mind, probably a probability that this would be the case."

After Iginla spurned the Bruins, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli brought in longtime Penguins star Jaromir Jagr from Dallas to bolster his team's collection of forwards for the playoffs.

Chiarelli told reporters this week that he was content to add either, although their personal statistics through the two rounds aren't terribly similar. Iginla has four goals and eight assists in 11 games, while Jagr has no goals and four assists in 12 games.

Iginla is producing at better than a point-per-game pace despite spending much of his time on left wing, which is not the side he has played most of his career.

Nonetheless, he never has uttered a syllable of protest -- publicly or, from all indications, privately -- about switching positions at age 35, which further burnishes his credentials as a leader.

Those intangibles are part of the reason the Penguins were interested in adding him. He had been captain for so long in Calgary that, rather than stitching a "C" onto his sweater, the Flames should have just tattooed one onto his chest.

"He doesn't say a ton," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "He's more of a lead-by-example type of guy. A true professional.

"The way he leads and the example he sets, the kind of guy he is, any team would want him in their dressing room."

The Penguins, of course, didn't part with a first-round draft choice and prospects Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski to get Iginla simply because they thought it would be nice to add an icon to their locker room.

They were looking to upgrade their collection of top-six forwards and, although Iginla has moved between lines centered by Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he has filled that niche capably since his first shift here.

And satisfied as the Penguins are with what Iginla has given them, he seems to be even happier with what he's gotten as he prepares to face the team for which he could have been working.

"As far as the experience and enjoyment of it, it's been beyond expectations," he said. "I knew it would be exciting, but it's been great.

"I look forward to this next challenge. There are no worries or what-ifs. It is what it is. We're here, and I'm excited for the battle."

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 28, 2013 4:00 AM


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