Anyone faulting, or even questioning, Jarome Iginla’s decision to drop himself into the Pittsburgh lineup instead of the Boston lineup just isn’t paying attention to what’s going on in the NHL.
The Penguins are a powerhouse, all the more mighty now that Iginla, the aged star right winger, is joining the roster. About the only thing left for Trader Ray Shero to do now is coax Mario Lemieux out of his owner’s box in Pittsburgh, have him suit up, and maybe have Mario Magnifique ask Wayne Gretzky to come along for the ride.
The Penguins have turned into the ice game’s Miami Heat.
“Well, they’re a lock, right?’’ said a laconic Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli, sizing up Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup chances only a day after being told, and then untold, that Iginla would be a Bruin. “They’re good. They’re a good team.’’
As he is wont to do, Chiarelli, now nearly seven years in command on Causeway Street, took the high road Thursday in explaining the bizarre proceedings that led to Iginla making Boston the non-city of choice for him. Chiarelli looked tired, had every right to be exasperated, but repeatedly opted not to discredit the Calgary organization, though he ultimately outlined how Flames GM Jay Feaster reneged on his word.
“We had the player,’’ said Chiarelli. “We won the sweepstakes.’’
Over the course of slightly less than 12 hours, victory turned to defeat, shocking in itself, but all the more surprising considering that TSN, the Canadian-based media outlet that acts essentially as the game’s central registry, put its stamp on the deal with word on its website around 12:15 a.m. Thursday. Ex-Bruin defenseman Aaron Ward, a TSN analyst and storm chaser of trades, was given credit for the scoop of the trade season.
TSN doesn’t miss. Usually. But this wasn’t usually.
Based on what Chiarelli said, and what Iginla stated at his news conference Thursday, the 35-year-old power forward held, and executed, the right to name his destination. Feaster had two deals in hand, opted to accept Boston’s deal, and confirmed it with Chiarelli, though Iginla was given sway to swat it out of Feaster’s hands for the right to play with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and all the other prohibitive favorites.
Again, perfectly understandable on Iginla’s part. Bruins fans don’t want to hear it, but the Penguins are the better team this year, should win it all, and Iginla has been chasing a Cup since joining the Flames in October 1996. To have watched Ray Bourque here for a couple of decades is to know Iginla’s pain and wanting.
But Feaster reneged. Very bad business. Of course, the caveat is that he reneged because the face of the franchise was positioned to splatter egg all over his face. But that doesn’t exonerate Feaster. GMs live by their word, and if they are deemed untrustworthy, or blatant liars, or simply dithering buffoons who missed something in the details (such as, say, a player’s ability to veto a deal), then eventually no one deals with them.
When Feaster told Boston the deal was done, he had to live with it. Now he lives with the consequences, as does the faltering franchise (three years without a playoff berth) he represents. Either he was leapfrogged by his own ownership group, or thwarted by Iginla and his representation (Ontario-based Newport Sports), or he just messed up.
Feaster has messed up before this season, when making a free agent offer to Avalanche holdout Ryan O’Reilly. Had the Avalanche not matched Calgary’s offer, the Flames could have ended up paying them equalization rights (draft picks) and then losing O’Reilly via waivers. Feaster either missed or misinterpreted the technicality that O’Reilly needed to clear waivers because of his play earlier this season in the KHL during the lockout.
When I asked Chiarelli Thursday afternoon, he said Feaster never mentioned during their noon conversation Wednesday that Iginla had last call on the deal. Days earlier, according to multiple reports, Iginla agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join any of four clubs: Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles.
If anyone is saying now that they knew all along Iginla had veto power, then congrats, because Chiarelli didn’t know it.
“Not how it was categorized to me,’’ said Chiarelli, asked to clarify what Feaster told him on the noontime call.
Another NHL team boss I contacted, one very well-versed in Calgary’s position going into the Iginla trade efforts, told me Thursday that he also was never aware of Iginla’s veto power.Continued...