PITTSBURGH — Jarome Iginla was desperate to join a Stanley Cup contender.
He weighed his options as the NHL’s trade deadline approached in late March.
In the end, the six-time All-Star waived his no-trade clause, surrendered his captaincy with the Flames, and picked the Penguins over the Bruins.
As fate would have it, the two teams will square off in the Eastern Conference finals beginning Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
And the 35-year-old veteran known as Iggy will be right in the middle of it all — just as he had a hunch he might be when he opted to join the talent-laden Penguins.
“I knew that there was a big possibility that we’d be in this situation, and here we are,” Iginla said Wednesday after practice. “And I am excited about the challenge.”
Iginla said his decision to bypass the Bruins didn’t necessarily go down to the wire as many have reported.
“It was a little bit different,” he said. “I had never been through that situation before, having a no-move clause and having never left anywhere before leaving Calgary. I talked to our GM [Jay Feaster] there a month before [the trade] and then probably a week or two before.
“I was asked for a list of teams to see if there was a market and an interest amongst them. After that, I was fortunate to hear there were a few teams interested. Pittsburgh and Boston were a couple that were and I was thrilled with that opportunity.
“I never said ‘yes’ [to Boston] and then ‘no.’ It wasn’t a case of that. It was just a case of being fortunate that both teams were interested and I was fortunate Calgary gave me that chance [to leave].”
Iginla, who cost the Penguins two college prospects and a first-round pick in 2013, spent the past 16 years trying to win a Cup in Calgary. The Edmonton native led the Flames to the finals in 2004, where they lost to the Lightning in seven games.
Iggy’s numbers are not what they once were, but the future Hall of Fame winger who plays on the Penguins’ No. 2 line with James Neal and Evgeni Malkin is fifth among active NHLers with 530 career goals and 1,136 points.
“He’s a fierce competitor,” said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. “He sets the tone.”
Iginla recorded 11 points, tallying five goals, in 13 regular-season games with the Penguins, and has 12 points, including four goals, in 11 playoff games.
The Penguins have been idle since beating the Senators, 6-2, in Game 5 Friday.
“We’re all looking forward to the series,” Iginla said. “I think it’s going to be a great series. It’s been quite a wait, so it’d be nice to get it going.
“We know they’re going to be physical. They play a very good defensive game. So it’s going to be a great challenge.
“We want to get off to a great start against them and just keep going where we left off. I think we’ve been playing better and better as a team, and different guys have had really good nights. Everyone plays hard together as a group.”
Iginla had at least one point in all six games of the opening-round series against the Islanders. He has four multipoint games overall and notched his fifth career two-goal playoff game in Game 4 against the Senators.
Malkin, who did not play in any of the Penguins’ three regular-season games against the Bruins because of injuries, is tied for the team lead with 16 points. Neal had five goals and two assists in the final two games of the Senators series, and has 10 points overall.
“I didn’t really put expectations on myself,” Iginla said. “I don’t think anything’s changed. Every game you go into, you want to be able to be as good as you can be. I think I’ve had some good games, I’ve had some not-so-good games.
“I’ve been very fortunate to play with great players in Geno and Sid [Crosby] and Neal. I’m enjoying playing with them. I think our chemistry is getting better and better as time goes on.”
Iginla won a gold medal with former Penguins superstar and current co-owner Mario Lemieux while playing for Canada at the 2002 Olympic Games and another while playing on the same line with Crosby in 2010. Iggy set up Crosby’s gold-medal-winning goal in Vancouver.
So far, he has enjoyed his brief time with the Penguins.
“It’s worked out great,” Iginla said. “When you come to a team as good and as deep as the Penguins — really, the playoffs, that’s what it’s about.
“We need eight more wins to win the Cup. We’re halfway there.”