Pittsburgh Penguins' Jarome Iginla (centre) is congratulated by teammates Evgeni Malkin (left) and James Neal after scoring against the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL playoff action in Ottawa, Wednesday May 22, 2013.Iginla is among the free agents to watch after Vincent Lecavalier took himself off the market by signing with the Philadelphia Flyers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Jarome Iginla didn't dance around the subject.
A day after signing with the Bruins, he knew he'd have to explain why he rejected a trade to Boston in late March for a move to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"At the time, Pittsburgh, they were rolling," Iginla said on a conference call Saturday. "They are two great organizations and they were just on a real roll. At the time, leaving at the deadline, I believed it was a great chance to win."
After the Bruins swept the Penguins in the Eastern Conference final and Iginla didn't explore going back to Pittsburgh because of that team's salary-cap squeeze, he now considers Boston a great opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. But this Bruins group is much different than the one he could have joined for the 2013 stretch run.
Right-winger Nathan Horton and defenceman Andrew Ference are gone via free agency, while centres Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley were traded away.
Despite the roster transformation, Iginla doesn't see much of a difference.
"They have a lot of guys that have been there and played together and won together," Iginla said. "They still have a lot of guys who have played together for a long time, and the dynamic of the team, I imagine, would still be very similar with that many guys in the core and a part of it and experiencing what they've experienced over the last five years.
"I know that they lost some important guys, but they still have a very strong core and a bigger core than most teams have going year-to-year."
Iginla is correct in saying that the core is intact. Captain Zdeno Chara, fellow defenceman Dennis Seidenberg and forwards Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Chris Kelly remain. The same goes for goaltender Tuukka Rask and coach Claude Julien.
The Bruins acquired Jaromir Jagr at the trade deadline when they didn't get Iginla, but he is not expected to return. General manager Peter Chiarelli has no hard feelings toward Iginla and envisions a similar role for him in 2013-14 than he did before.
"Jarome has played in this league and had success in this league for a long time, and he's been a leader in this league for a long time," Chiarelli said. "So I think he's going in with eyes wide open. But he knows what to expect and my expectations of him haven't really changed that much either. It's a strong group, and it'll be a seamless transition into the uniform based on what I know of him and how he plays and will continue to contend for a Cup."
As the Bruins look to go from Stanley Cup runners-up to champions again, the dynamics could change a little based on the experience that went out the door in free agency and the Seguin-Peverley trade with the Dallas Stars that returned right-winger Loui Eriksson.
"When you talk about leadership and losing people like (Ference) or (Peverley) or guys like that, it means the group also expands and the leadership expands to the younger guys," Chiarelli said. "We've got some younger guys like (Krecji) and (Lucic) and these guys that are starting to really grow into that."
At 36, Iginla brings leadership as well. He was the Calgary Flames' captain before the trade to the Penguins and has the kind of personality that younger players gravitate to.
Being a veteran in unfamiliar territory isn't easy—Iginla learned that in Pittsburgh. That's why he's not going to force anything as he slides into a new role with the Bruins.
"You're not trying to come in and create anything new. You're just trying to come in and play hard with the guys," he said. "When you get into the playoffs and stuff, you're trying to be under control and control the emotions and all that and as far as playing. Boston has a core. They've been together a long time. They've been through so much already over the last five years and have had so much success. I look forward to coming in and learning."