NHL Trade Rumors: Ranking Top Contenders Who Should Pursue Jarome Iginla

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NHL Trade Rumors: Ranking Top Contenders Who Should Pursue Jarome Iginla
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL trade deadline is 16 days away, and there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

The 35-year-old forward is not signed beyond this season, but there is no report that he is close to signing an extension to remain in Calgary.

Since the Flames are in 14th place in the Western Conference standings, many feel that this will finally be the year when Iginla is traded to a Stanley Cup contender.

Per Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:

All eyes will be on Calgary RW Jarome Iginla with speculation building he's going to be dealt. The asking price set by Flames GM Jay Feaster will likely be: A No. 1 pick, a prospect and a roster player...The Penguins, Predators, Sharks, Red Wings and Bruins will make a pitch for Iginla. Word is Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby wouldn't mind if Iginla was on his wing.

As a power forward with impressive offensive skill and great leadership qualities, Iginla is the perfect trade deadline addition for a number of teams that will be expected to contend for a championship this season.

Let's look at three contending teams who should aggressively pursue the Flames star before the April 3 deadline.

 

1) Boston Bruins

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins are 19-5-3 and have a great chance to finish the season as the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but they need another goal scorer to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Chris Kelly's injury ("out indefinitely", per the team) has forced Rich Peverley to move to the third line center spot, which means Jay Pandolfo and Jordan Caron are playing on the wing on that line. Pandolfo and Caron are not going to produce offensively on a consistent basis and neither player has the offensive skill needed to score goals against quality competition.

The Caron-Peverley-Pandolfo line has scored a combined four goals with a minus-nine rating this season and needs to be upgraded with a proven goal scorer, and since the Bruins don't have that on their NHL or AHL roster, this addition will have to come from outside the organization.

The streaky goal scoring of first line wingers Milan Lucic (zero goals in his last 12 games) and Nathan Horton (two goals in his last 13 games) also creates the need for another top-six forward.

Boston's No. 1 trade target among forwards should be Iginla because he would add the necessary goal scoring and powerplay skill that this team needs to make a deep playoff run.

Iginla's presence in the lineup would force players such as Lucic and Horton to play well consistently or face the possibility of having their ice time cut. That sort of competition would be good for the Bruins, who at the moment, don't have anyone in their bottom-six challenging the players on the top two lines for more ice time.

The third line has to be improved, and there's no better player to give that trio a much-needed boost of scoring and toughness than Iginla.

If Iginla wants to leave Calgary before the deadline so he can win the first Stanley Cup of his hall of fame career, there's no better destination in the East than Boston.

As one of the few legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference standings that has an abundance of salary cap space (around $12 million, per Capgeek), a deep blue line and a need for a top-six forward, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bruins were a top contender to land Iginla if the Flames make him available.

 

2) Los Angeles Kings

Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Kings don't have a huge need for scoring (ranked ninth in goals scored, 12th in power-play success), but they could certainly use another goal scorer on the wings in a top-six role.

Justin Williams and Dustin Brown are the only wingers on the team with more than 10 points scored this season, and veteran wingers Dustin Brown and Kyle Clifford have combined for just five goals.

Iginla would be a great fit in Los Angeles because his style of play as a top power forward is very similar to the gritty, physical, two-game that the Kings expect from all of their players. Kings head coach Darryl Sutter knows Iginla very well from his time in Calgary, which makes Los Angeles a good destination for the Flames star since he would already know the coach and understand his system.

Acquiring Iginla and taking on the pressure to win the Stanley Cup for him would also give this Kings team a boost of energy, hunger and determination that it may not have in the playoffs this season after winning the Stanley Cup last year.

Playing alongside talented playmakers such as Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter would be great for Iginla because he does not have a legitimate top-six center to play with in Calgary right now, but that hasn't stopped him from tallying 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 26 games this season.

Luckily for the Kings, they have a young goaltender who has proven himself at the NHL level in Jonathan Bernier to offer the Flames in a potential deal for Iginla.

Calgary needs a goaltender to take over the starting job after current No. 1 Miikka Kiprusoff's career with the team ends (which could be at the end of next season when his contract expires), and Bernier is an ideal replacement for the Flames because he's ready to be a full-time starter in the NHL right now.

Reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner and Kings starting goaltender Jonathan Quick has been inconsistent this season, but he's still an elite player and he's signed for the next 10 years with a $5.8 million salary cap hit. Bernier is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and is a valuable trade chip for the Kings use and acquire a top-six forward for a deep playoff run.

Another positive for the Kings is that they have over $9 million in cap space, so taking on Iginla's $7 million cap hit for this season (he's an upcoming UFA) wouldn't be a problem.

Even though the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks occupy the top two spots in the West standings, the Kings are still the team to beat in the conference because of their depth, physical style of play and spectacular goaltending. Los Angeles' roster is built for playoff hockey.

 

3) Detroit Red Wings

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The Detroit Red Wings have played well this season despite losing important players such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler to free agency or retirement last summer.

They are in fifth place in the Western Conference standings, but their lead over the 12th-place Columbus Blue Jackets is only five points.

From a defensive standpoint, Detroit has performed better than expected and ranks 10th in goals against.

But for this team to make the playoffs and get out of the first round, general manager Ken Holland needs to acquire a goal scorer before the deadline. The Red Wings rank 17th in goals scored, 22nd in power-play percentage and lack the scoring depth needed to compete with the best teams in the Western Conference.

Daniel Cleary, Johan Franzen, and Drew Miller have combined for just two goals in the last five games, and the absence of Darren Helm from the lineup because of an injury (he's appeared in one game this season) has also hurt the team's forward depth.

This team is too reliant on superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. These two players, along with 27-year-old rookie Damien Brunner, are the only forwards on the Red Wings roster who have tallied more than 14 points in 2013.

Which team is the best fit for Iginla?

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If he was acquired by Detroit, Iginla would likely make a smooth transition into head coach Mike Babcock's lineup because of his impressive offensive skills and willingness to play defense. Iginla would also be a great fit alongside Zetterberg or Datsyuk, who are two of the best playmakers in the NHL and would create lots of quality scoring chances for him each game.

Another thing to consider is that Babcock coached Iginla on Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympic games, and both of these men played pivotal roles in the team's gold medal triumph.

The Red Wings have a ton of salary cap space (over $8 million, per Capgeek) and a need for a goal scorer with great playoff experience, which makes Iginla an ideal target for Holland at the trade deadline.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.

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