The epic demise of the Calgary Flames this season has many Cowtown fans wandering the streets muttering about which Sutter to fire, which millionaire to trade and which underperformer to buy out.
Just a couple of months ago — or one pass to Sidney Crosby ago — it was inconceivable that captain Jarome Iginla would be part of the trade talk. But on the cusp of his 33rd birthday and with a power forward’s body that ages quicker than a typical triggerman’s bones, it behooves the Flames to seriously consider trading their all-time leading scorer as the franchise enters a rebuilding stage. (Iginla had just one goal in 15 games down the critical stretch.)
Dealing the captain of the Flames would be a serious about-face for a team that was supposed to be a contender. But Calgary has shown one of two things this season: It has a group of players not suited to be among the contending teams in the league or it plays an out-of-date system that can’t score enough to win consistently. Either way, one Sutter is responsible; GM Darryl, who put the team together, or coach Brent, who establishes the system.
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After the team’s board decides what to do with the Sutters, it will have to figure out what to do with Iginla, in the best interests of the team.
One street suggestion was trading Iginla to Boston for the 2010 second overall pick (where they’re likely to land after the lottery), which the Bruins acquired from Toronto last year for Phil Kessel. It’s more speculation than trade rumor, but worth commenting on.
The Flames did something similar in December, 1995 when they traded 29-year-old Joe Nieuwendyk to Dallas for the rights to 18-year-old Iginla, whom the Stars had just drafted 11th overall that June.
Nieuwendyk was a two-time 50-goal scorer whose production had started to wane, yet still went on to great success, including two more Stanley Cups, with the Stars and Devils.
Could Iginla be the remedy for the offense-challenged Bruins next season? With Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as its centers, Boston would dearly love to have a proven sniper like Iginla, even if he might have just four or five premium seasons left in the tank.
Because the Bruins have some good forward prospects in the system (Joe Colborne and Jordan Caron to name a couple) and plenty of early draft picks this year and next, they could afford to deal the second overall pick. That said, it would be a calculated risk for GM Peter Chiarelli to give away Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, who are both destined to be stars in the NHL for the next 15-plus years.
And how about for the Flames? A trade such as this is an admission of starting over, but at the same time it escalates a process that will take at least four or five years to bear fruit. Calgary has very few offensive prospects in its system and desperately needs to restock.
The alternative in Calgary is to hope this year was an aberration and next season will be different. The risk in that is the Flames continue to be a middling team for years and Iginla withers away on the vine. No results, no return. Just like what happened with Mats Sundin in Toronto.
It’s an interesting fantasy trade for both teams, fraught with risk and intrigue. I’d do it if I were Boston and if I were Calgary.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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