PITTSBURGH – General manager Ray Shero’s hat trick of veteran acquisitions has jolted the NHL and sent a clear message to the Pittsburgh Penguins:
This is the year to win the Stanley Cup.
Shero completed his third bold deal of the week in the early morning hours Thursday, acquiring Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames for the Penguins’ first-round draft pick and two college prospects.
There were multiple media reports that Iginla was headed to Boston. In fact, Shero said his sons didn’t believe him when he called to tell them he’d completed the deal for Iginla.
“They said, ‘No you didn’t. We saw on TV he was going somewhere else,’” Shero said.
But Shero got the 16-year veteran, who has played his entire career with the Flames, and served as their captain since 2003-04. Shero called him a “future Hall of Famer.”
“I think we’re all excited to have him,” captain Sidney Crosby said.
Iginla is the third veteran the Penguins have acquired this week. Like forward Brenden Morrow and defenseman Douglas Murray, Iginla is over 30 and eligible for free agency after this season.
“My expectation is that he’ll be a really good fit in terms of the team and the guys we have,” Shero said.
The trades have been well-received in the locker room, because the Penguins have added talent and haven’t given up anyone from the current NHL roster. The Penguins players don’t have the mixed emotions that sometimes come with seeing friends leave.
Iginla has scored at least 30 goals in each of the past 11 seasons. His career best is 52 goals in 2001-02. Iginla, who turns 36 in July, had nine goals and 13 assists in 31 games this season. He was minus-7.
Iginla could make his Penguins debut in Saturday afternoon’s home game against the New York Islanders. Coach Dan Bylsma indicated he didn’t want to break up his top line of Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, but there was no immediate indication of where Iginla will play.
“They have a month to work out things as far as where things go and what the fit might be,” Shero said.
Late-season deals are not unusual for the Penguins. In 1991, a team that was struggling to qualify for the playoffs got a boost when GM Craig Patrick acquired Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson from Hartford. A year later, Patrick got Rick Tocchet and Kjell Samuelsson from Philadelphia. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in both seasons.
Shero has done his share of re-shaping on the fly, too, most notably in 2009 when he brought in Kunitz, Bill Guerin and Craig Adams at the trade deadline on the way to the Penguins’ third Cup.
“They found a way to fit in,” Shero said. “I expect the same thing here.”
Iginla had a news conference in Calgary and said he was looking forward to playing on a team with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and competing for the Cup.
“To leave is tough, but I’m very excited about the opportunity to go to Pittsburgh,” Iginla said.
Iginla has scored 528 goals and 1,095 points. The Flames qualified for the playoffs just five times in his 15 seasons, most recently in 2008-09.
In making the trades, the Penguins have given up former No. 1 draft pick Joe Morrow, this summer’s No. 1 choice, a pair of second-round picks, and prospects Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski. They’ve acquired three players who might not play for Pittsburgh after this season.
But these deals are all about winning a championship in 2013.
The trade deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m. Could there be any more deals for the Penguins?
“We’ve done quite a bit, and we feel good about the team,” Shero said. “We’re not looking to bring in a busload of players. We brought in three significant players, what we believe is a good fit. We’ll continue to talk to teams and see what’s out there. We’re pretty good at this point. We’ll get everyone in and playing and see what next Wednesday brings us.”