Jarome Iginla trade puts pressure on Penguins' Eastern rivals

Dave Sandford

Wednesday night's trade between Calgary and Pittsburgh puts a lot of pressure on teams in the East, but not so much Pittsburgh, which got Jarome Iginla for a relative bargain.

When the Calgary Flames announced captain Jarome Iginla would be a healthy scratch for Wednesday's home game against the Avalanche, everyone knew a trade was coming, and it was probably coming soon.

(On a side note, how typical would it have been for Calgary to leave Iginla in the lineup, then watch in horror as he broke his hand in a fight or something?)

TSN's Aaron Ward reported Iginla was traded to the Bruins, telling his 96,000-plus Twitter followers the trade was a done deal. Problem: It wasn't.

Instead, Iginla is heading to a team many believe is the Bruins' main competition for the Prince of Wales Trophy That No One Will Want To Touch. He's going to Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired forward Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino and a 2013 first-round draft pick, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.

Iginla, 35, joins the Penguins after spending his entire 16-year career with the Flames. The long-time Calgary captain has appeared in 31 games this season, tallying nine goals, 13 assists and 22 points.

Big move, one described by many as an all-in move by Pittsburgh. Is it?

Big move, one described by many as an all-in move by Pittsburgh. Is it?

Iginla's deal is up after the season, making him a rental by the Penguins. He's a valuable player, however, one who was highly-regarded by the Bruins. There was a market for the player, and the Flames' return here is still not terribly impressive.

Hanowski is a senior at St. Cloud (Minn.) State. He's not a bad prospect at all, but he also doesn't necessarily have the look of an impact player at the next level. Hanowski has 16 goals in 34 games for the Huskies this season, as they prepare to play Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament Saturday in Toledo. In 153 career games at SCSU, Hanowski has 61 goals and 111 points. He has the size, he's a high-character player (up for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award this season), and he can shoot.

Agostino is a junior at Yale. He leads the Bulldogs with 37 points (15 goals) in 33 games. Yale plays Minnesota Friday in the NCAA Tournament. Agostino has 40 goals and 96 points in 97 games at Yale. He probably rates as a slightly better pro prospect than Hanowski. Agostino is a very good skater and has good hockey sense. I like his goal-scoring ability. But, again, is he an impact prospect? Probably more than Hanowski is, but it's still not great return for everything Iginla gave the Flames over the years.

(To be fair, I'm not sure I'd call these guys "low-level" or "marginal" prospects, but they aren't impact players, either.)

The Penguins didn't have to give up an NHL player for Iginla, and while first-round picks carry value, it's going to be a pick in the high 20s, barring a playoff upset. Pittsburgh might look like it's all-in, but the pressure isn't on the Penguins now. It's on everyone else who wants to contend in the Eastern Conference.

The trade deadline is Wednesday. Who's going to step up and make a move to get better and try to match what the Penguins have done?

There were reports Boston is interested in Edmonton's Ryan Whitney, a native Bostonian and former Boston University star. Does the price go up a bit, with the Oilers knowing the Bruins now feel a crunch to make a move?

Will there be a surprise move at the deadline? We can only hope there is, because now that the top player "on the block" has been dealt a week early, there aren't a lot of juicy trade stories to grab onto.

Perhaps Pittsburgh stepping out and making this move -- at a relative bargain, it seems -- will inspire other teams to try to get better. There are teams that could fall back far enough in the next five days to become sellers, and teams around the playoff bubble that could afford to take on additional money for a short-term fix.

No matter what, trade deadline buyers have a lot of work to do to match what Pittsburgh has done to improve the team without completely giving up on the future. People will talk about all the pressure on the Penguins, but as long as Ray Shero doesn't go completely all-in by giving up on the future, the real pressure falls on someone else.

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