The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks, which went 24 straight games without losing in regulation to start the season, have been battling back and forth for the status of being Stanley Cup favorites. Jarome Iginla tips the scales in Pittsburgh's favor.
Kevin Allen of USA Today reports the Penguins acquired Iginla from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski, both college prospects, and a first-round pick. The deal came after it seemed like the Boston Bruins were set to land the All-Star winger.
Although it's a pretty high price tag for a player scheduled to become a free agent at season's end, the trade is still a major coup for Penguins general manager Ray Shero. He adds another key piece to the puzzle and keeps him away from a fellow contender at the same time.
If the Bruins, who have a greater need for a goal-scoring winger than the already star-studded Penguins, traded for Iginla, it could have shifted the power in the Eastern Conference. Instead, Pittsburgh further separates itself from the pack.
It turns out Iginla, who's searching for his first Stanley Cup to complete an impressive career résumé, preferred a move to the Penguins. Bob McKenzie of TSN reports that's the main reason he's joining Sidney Crosby and Co. Thursday.
Bottom line, as was the case with Brenden Morrow, Jarome Iginla is a Pittsburgh Penguin today because PIT is where he wanted to go.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 28, 2013
Iginla is the most prominent addition of the three made by the Penguins already this week. They also added Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray as they are clearly positioning themselves to make a mad dash toward a championship.
The winger, who's spent his entire professional career with the Flames after being drafted by the Dallas Stars, adds another dangerous offensive weapon to a roster full of them. He scored at least 30 goals in 11 straight seasons before this lockout-shortened campaign.
Of course, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the marquee names, but Pittsburgh also features Chris Kunitz, James Neal and Morrow, among others. No other team in the league, including Chicago, can match that type of scoring depth.
Which team is the Cup favorite?
That's a key element come playoff time. It's an extended journey from the opening game of the first round to the point where one team gets to skate around the ice with the Cup. The more players capable of scoring key goals during that time, the better the odds of a deep run.
The Penguins, when healthy, are going to employ two lines that would be No. 1 lines for many other teams around the league. Add in a defensive corps that will be bolstered by Murray and a reliable goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury, and Pittsburgh is the clear favorite.
Shero deserves a lot of credit for helping them reach that position with a flurry of impact moves. Iginla being the biggest one of all.