It's something Calgary Flames fans don't want to hear: A rebuild is in dire need.
That rebuild starts with dealing fan favorites and perennial All-Stars Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Iginla's contract expires at the end of the season, while Kiprusoff is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.
The Flames organization, for inexcusable reasons, has passed on numerous golden opportunities to sell off veteran assets and receive younger players to start a rebuilding process. It backfires every season, such as the Jay Bouwmeester fiasco.
The Flames have not won a playoff series since defeating the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference finals back in 2004—the same year they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final—and they have narrowly missed the postseason for three consecutive years.
It's the same old pattern: The Flames believe they are close to contention, so they sign and/or trade for veteran players in moves that turn out to be complete disasters. Here are a few examples:
- In the summer of 2009, Flames GM Darryl Sutter traded defenseman Jordan Leopold and a third-round pick for Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester was coming off of back-to-back 15-goal seasons with the Florida Panthers. Hehasn't scored more than five in a season since joining the Flames.
-On March 4, 2009, Sutter traded his first-round pick, as well as second-line center Matthew Lombardi and enforcer Brandon Prust to the Phoenix Coyotes for Olli Jokinen. The Coyotes used that pick to draft Brandon Gormley, who is ranked as the Coyotes' top prospect. Jokinen wasn't much of a factor for the rest of the season and was traded to the New York Rangers in 2010. He came back to the Flames in 2011 after signing a two-year contract, but he never turned out to be what the Flames paid for.
-On January 31st, 2010, the Flames traded franchise cornerstone defenseman Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and promising prospect Keith Aulie to Toronto for Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Ian White. Phaneuf is the anchor of the Maple Leafs blue line and provides plenty of leadership to a young team. Aulie was traded to Tampa Bay, but he netted a nice return in young forward Carter Ashton. Hagman came nowhere close to finding the 20-goal potential he showed in Toronto. Mayers played 27 games with Calgary before signing with San Jose after the season. Ian White couldn't stay healthy and didn't provide the offense from the blue line that he did in Toronto. Matt Stajan's four-year contract extension signed after the trade has given the Flames an inconsistent, injury-prone player.
Clearly, the push for the playoffs has not helped the Flames out a tiny bit. If they had avoided all of these trades, they would probably be among the best teams in the Western Conference every year, but they're left to wonder what could have been.
After missing the playoffs last season, we were certain that GM Jay Feaster was ready to blow up the roster. Instead, the Flames signed defenseman Dennis Wideman to a five-year, $26.25 million contract. Wideman has never shown anyone that he is worth that much money. The Flames would then go on to sign forward Jiri Hudler to a four-year, $16 million contract.
Even if these two players pan out, it's unlikely it'll be enough to make the Flames a contender.
The Flames have to trade Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff. The rebuild has to start now, and few would disagree with me.
The Flames strongly lack top-notch prospects, with Sven Baertschi and Mark Jankowski being the only ones pundits are keen on.
Iginla is 35 years old, but he still manages to put up 30-goal seasons. Although he would love to stay with the Flames, there is no reason for them to keep him. Iginla deserves a shot at the Cup, and with only a few years left, he has to realize that Calgary is not going to contend anytime soon.
Iginla also displays tremendous leadership, and that could be valuable for a young team such as the St. Louis Blues looking for a locker-room voice. The Flames must trade him while his value is high; he could easily fetch a first-round pick and top prospect or two in return.
Miikka Kiprusoff is still one of the league's premier goaltenders and is consistently among the league leaders in wins, shutouts, save percentage and goals-against average. But he's 36 and his production is getting slightly worse every year. He's no longer a clutch goalie and can't be relied on much longer. He has played 70-plus games for seven consecutive seasons, and that workload will eventually begin to take a toll on his body.
Plenty of teams would love an experienced goaltender who can win them 30-plus games a season (which Kiprusoff has also done every year since the lockout.) There is a large market for goaltenders of Kiprusoff's caliber, and rival general managers know that they don't come around that often. Kiprusoff still has a ton of gas left in the tank, but before his age starts to show, the Flames need to trade him now when they can get greater value in return.
The Flames also have Leland Irving in the system, who will soon be ready to be a full-time starter.
The Calgary Flames are unwilling to rebuild, which has proven to be a foolish decision. It's time to follow the steps of their their provincial rival, the Edmonton Oilers, and start over. The Oilers have had plenty of fire sales that stocked them with draft picks and young players to build from. The Oilers are going to be a powerhouse in the next few seasons.
While it is a long, slow process that teams have no desire of committing, a drastic rebuild is long overdue for the Calgary Flames. They need to trade their veteran players while their value is still high so that the team can start over with plenty of young talent, which will help the Flames become a future contender.