Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli on losing out on Flames’ Iginla: ‘we had a deal’

I've called this press conference to say the following: "Damn. So close."

You might recall the strange little sequence of events that transpired Wednesday night, when Jarome Iginla was briefly a member of the Boston Bruins organization before we learned that he was actually on his way to Pittsburgh to join the Penguins. It made for a very strange night, and a whole lot of finger-pointing and mea culpas on into the early morning.

But on Thursday, Peter Chiarelli took to a podium and explained his side of it. Don't think you were the only one annoyed to be told Iginla was a Bruin, only to have the script flipped. That happened to him too.

“A few days before [Wednesday] we had submitted a firm offer with those two players – Alexander Kokhlachev and Matt Bartkowski – and we were informed around noon yesterday that we had the player," Chiarelli said in a press conference Thursday. "We won the sweepstakes, so to speak.”

According to Chiarelli, Flames GM Jay Feaster said Iggy was theirs, pending the finalization of the deal, which included, of course, Iginla formally waiving his no-movement clause. "“We relied on the fact that we had a deal,” Chiarelli said, explaining why he then took steps to protect his outgoing assets by scratching them from their respective games.

But then things went screwy.

“In my experience, when things go silent, things are going screwy from your end, and it was," Chiarelli said. "So later that night, around quarter to 12, I got a call from Jay saying that it was the player’s choice and he opted to go to Pittsburgh, so we were out."

That's right. Blame Iginla, who, according to Chiarelli, nixed a seemingly done deal with Boston to go to Pittsburgh instead.

While I definitely don't like the return Feaster got for Iginla, I had been impressed with the way he handled this franchise-altering trade from a P.R. perspective. He did a great job of keeping things quiet and preventing the Iginla "sweepstakes" from turning into a circus.

Until this, anyway. It's hard to blame Iginla for excercising his contractual right to control his destination. It's not nearly as hard to blame Feaster for telling Chiarelli this deal was done before dotting the most important "I" -- the one that stands for Iginla.

Furthermore, after protecting Iginla throughout the process by refusing to comment on speculation, one wonders what Feaster was thinking in allowing Iginla to take the fall for the unexpected change-up. That's what the Flames' GM did when he spoke to TSN after Chiarelli's comments:

"We all understand in this business that a player who has a no-trade, no-move has the opportunity to decide when and whether to waive that. So we dealt with the teams that were given to us by the player. We had a deal with Boston that we liked. We certainly felt that that would have been an acceptable way for us to go as an organization. The player indicated that he wanted to be with Pittsburgh, and so we got a deal done with Pittsburgh."

In other words, Iggy made us change our minds, and coincidentally, if the players in the Boston package turn out better than the ones ceded by Pittsburgh, it's not my fault, it's Iggy's.

It's disappointing to see Feaster shift blame after everything he did to keep this simple. In so doing, he has successfully mismanaged every aspect of this deal. Way to be.

That said, Feaster isn't the only one who looked silly Thursday. Chiarelli was the first to admit "These things happen all the time."

"More than you know," he said, "About deals going south for whatever reason."

Bearing this in mind, one wonders why he bothered to hold a press conference at all. You could admire his candour, sure, but it's difficult not to interpret his candour as whining over losing a player in what is, by his own admission, a relatively commonplace situation. While it's great to know exactly what happened to kick off Wednesday night's clustercuss, and it's interesting to know he too was gobsmacked by the late-night switcheroo, I'm not sure this presser accomplished much beyond kicking a little dust.