Why Jarome Iginla picked the Penguins
His final goal as a Calgary Flame was as a game-winner. Two nights later, Jarome Iginla wore his Calgary Flames jersey for the final time.
Two nights after that, he became a Pittsburgh Penguin.
On Thursday afternoon, the long-awaited goodbye between Iginla and the city of Calgary finally arrived. After years of debate about when/if the Flames should deal their captain to start a rebuild -- "re-tool" if you're Jay Feaster -- Iginla met with the media for the final time.
"It's a very difficult day and feeling now," said Iginla during the 29-minute press conference that saw no tears from the 35-year old, just smiles.
Iginla said that Feaster approached him last month about the possibility of a trade if the Flames fell out of playoff contention. As that slowly came to fruition, the likelihood of a divorce became more and more real.
In the hours before he was announced as a healthy scratch for Calgary's game on Wednesday night against Colorado, Iginla sat home alone while his family vacationed in Hawaii, managing his stress levels while keeping in touch with Feaster and his agent throughout.
When it came time for him to make a decision, the Penguins won out.
"I talked to Jay and wanted it to be a mutual thing that they were happy with the deal that they got; but also if I was going to leave here I'd love an opportunity, the best opportunity, to try and win," Iginla said.
He'll get a very good chance to win in Pittsburgh, but the same could have been said for Boston had he chosen the Bruins instead. Ultimately, the star power on the Penguins was the deciding factor.
"I knew Pittsburgh was in the mix with Boston and they're both amazing cities, very successful organizations and great teams," he said. "When it comes down to the choice that I had, one or the other, it's really hard as a player to pass up the opportunity to play on a team with Sid [Crosby] and [Evgeni] Malkin."
The timeline for Iginla's arrival in Pittsburgh is still unknown as visa issues have to be taken care of. After Thursday night's game versus Winnipeg, the Penguins have two games left on their current homestand: Saturday afternoon against the New York Islanders and Tuesday versus Buffalo.
Maybe he'll retire as a Flame someday. "Never rule anything out," Iginla said, but the focus is currently on the now; these next two months as the Penguins hope to make a Stanley Cup run, but after this season he'll become an unrestricted free agent, able to choose where he wants to spend the final chapter of his career.
With 11 straight 30-plus goal seasons, Iginla still has something left in his tank, even at his age.
"I hope to play five more years" he said.
"I hope to be productive and a good player for give more years and help a team win."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy