In an unusually revelatory news conference regarding his team’s failed pursuit of Jarome Iginla, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Thursday that he was told by the Calgary Flames on Wednesday afternoon that the star winger would be traded to Boston, only to be informed late that night that the player had chosen the Pittsburgh Penguins instead.
The Bruins thought they were sending defenseman Matt Bartkowski, prospect Alexander Khokhlachev and a first-round draft pick to the Flames in exchange for Iginla, but instead were left standing at the altar.
“We were told around noon yesterday that we had the player, we won the sweepstakes so to speak,” Chiarelli said. “[Flames GM Jay Feaster] just had to talk to Jarome and his agent regarding the logistics of everything. So from that point on there had been some discussions regarding Jarome taking some time, not to decide, just to let things soak in. And then we had our game. Prior to that we made moves, as did they, they scratched Jarome, we made moves, scratching [Bartkowski] and [Khokhlachev]. …
“We relied on the fact we had a deal. Now, these things happen all the time, more than you know, about deals going south for whatever reason. We believe we had a deal. We operated on the premise of the deal. …
“Later that night, around a quarter to 12, I got a call from Jay saying it was the player’s choice and he opted to go to Pittsburgh. So we were out.”
Instead, Iginla was on his way to the Penguins in exchange for the rights to college players Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski as well as their first pick in the 2013 draft.
Chiarelli said he didn’t speak with Iginla during this process, which he said spanned the last couple of weeks, though he did ask to talk to him.
“No, there’s nothing we could have done to convince him,” said Chiarelli, who said he bore no ill will toward Feaster and the Flames or Iginla.
Earlier Thursday, Feaster acknowledged that Iginla's desire to play for the Penguins was the deciding factor in the deal.
"We all understand in this business, a player who has a no trade no move has an opportunity to decide when and whether to waive that, so we dealt with the teams that were given to us by the player and we had a deal with Boston that we liked," Feaster told TSN. "We certainly felt that would have been an acceptable way to go as an organization, the player indicated that he wanted to be with Pittsburgh, and so we got a deal done with Pittsburgh."
Iginla, who has a no-movement clause in his contract, had given the Flames three teams to which he would accept a trade -- the Bruins, Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, a source told ESPN.com. When it came down to decision time, he whittled that list further to just one team: Pittsburgh.
“It’s tough, we’re talking about a really good player,” Chiarelli said of Iginla, who has nine goals and 13 assists in 31 games this season, his 16th in Calgary.
The trade marks the third big move by the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins ahead of next Wednesday's deadline. Pittsburgh acquired veteran Dallas Stars forward Brenden Morrow on Sunday and picked up burly San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray on Monday.
The Bruins, meanwhile, are left with ground to make up.