In one of the crazier nights in NHL history that was filled with a roller coaster of emotions, the Calgary Flames traded longtime captain and star winger Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night in exchange for a 2013 first-round pick and two prospects:
Throughout the evening, the excitement surrounding the Iginla-to-Boston speculation (via CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty) skyrocketed to another level, especially when it became known that a few of Boston's top prospects and Iginla were healthy scratches for their respective teams.
Hockey fans in Boston who went to bed and dreamed of Iginla helping the Bruins win their second Stanley Cup in three years were in for a real surprise when they woke up and saw the news. There were undoubtedly a lot of angry people in Beantown Thursday morning, many probably still upset over the Bruins' shootout loss to the rival Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night.
If they weren't before this trade, there's no question right now that the Penguins are the favorites to lift the Stanley Cup in June, and there is enormous pressure on them to accomplish this goal.
Let's break down what this trade means to the Penguins' chances of winning the 2013 Stanley Cup, the future of the Flames and the NHL trade deadline.
Penguins are Stanley Cup Favorites
Penguins general manager Ray Shero has pushed his chips into the middle of the table and is all in. There is no question that the Penguins are doing everything possible to win the Stanley Cup this season, and since they have quite a few players who could leave the team in free agency at the end of the year, Pittsburgh probably won't have the same level of depth next year.
Pittsburgh has a little over $10 million in salary cap space (via Capgeek) next season with just 16 players under contract, and the team also has 10 players eligible for free agency this summer, including Iginla and recent acquisitions Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray.
Keep in mind that superstars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang also have contracts that are expiring after next season, and both players will likely make an average of $7 million per season or more in their next deals.
What does this all mean? It's championship or bust in Pittsburgh. The Penguins now have a team loaded with talent and depth, but over the summer, there will probably be a lot of change and turnover.
How will Iginla impact Pittsburgh's lineup? For starters, the league's best top-six forward group just got a lot stronger.
|1||Pascal Dupuis||Sidney Crosby||Chris Kunitz|
|2||James Neal||Evgeni Malkin||Jarome Iginla|
These are easily the two best lines in the NHL. The two best players in the world are playing center and they each have two quality wingers to play alongside them.
Iginla and Crosby are good friends and have experience playing with each other from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with Team Canada, when Iginla's pass to Crosby set up the gold medal-winning goal against the United States.
It wouldn't be surprising if Crosby and Iginla played on the same line this season, but it won't be easy for head coach Dan Bylsma to break up his top line when it has been the most productive and consistent trio in the league. Crosby and Kunitz have become one of the NHL's top duos and rank first and second in scoring, respectively.
It's possible that Iginla could move to the left wing and replace Dupuis, but then again, he won't be upset if he's put on the second line and has to play with Malkin and Neal.
Pittsburgh already ranked first in goals scored and second in power-play percentage before this trade, and now their offense has gotten even deeper and more talented.
Iginla gives Bylsma another true power forward who will impact games physically, drop the gloves if needed and score a lot of goals (he has 11 straight seasons of 30-plus goals). Before this move, Pittsburgh did not have a player like this. Iginla is also one of the league's best leaders and is a proven playoff performer with 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) in 54 career postseason games.
At the end of the day, Ray Shero deserves a ton of credit for the job he's done as general manager. He has built a tremendous roster, and no team manages a lot of high salary-cap hits better than the Penguins, who still find ways to improve their team at the trade deadline each season despite having a huge payroll.
In acquiring Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray, Shero added three quality players for the playoffs without giving up anyone from his NHL roster and only one top prospect (Joe Morrow, who was involved in Morrow deal). That's extraordinary. Not only did the Penguins make major improvements, they kept all of their most valuable trade assets.
The 2013 General Manager of the Year Award should go to Shero in what should be a unanimous decision by the voters. He's having an incredible trade deadline, and, according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he could make even more deals.
Another aspect of Iginla's arrival in Pittsburgh that cannot be overlooked is the energy and motivation he will further provide the Penguins during the playoffs. This locker room has many players with championship experience, so adding a veteran chasing his first Cup like Iginla will give the team something really special to play for.
When former Bruins legend Ray Bourque was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000, he joined a team that had players like Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy who had already won a Stanley Cup.
Trying to help Bourque win his first Cup was something the Avalanche rallied around, and it was a huge factor in them accomplishing this goal during the 2000-01 season. We should expect a similar situation this season in Pittsburgh.
After all these trades, there are still concerns about the Penguins' depth and talent on the blue line, as well as their goaltending. A possible first-round matchup with the New York Rangers would not be a favorable one for the Penguins, especially when you consider that the Blueshirts have the best goaltender in the NHL.
Pittsburgh—and Iginla, in particular—will be under immense pressure to win the title this season, and it will be interesting to watch how they handle these expectations.
Post-Iginla Era Finally Begins in Calgary
Iginla was/is a legend in Calgary and was a fan favorite throughout his 15-plus seasons playing in the Saddledome. He's the most iconic sports player in the history of the city and was the face of the Flames franchise for most of his tenure with the team.
But with his contract expiring and his chances of winning the first Stanley Cup of his career fading, it was time for the organization and Iginla to move on. Now he has an opportunity to have his own Ray Bourque moment.
The Flames could not win in this situation, and regardless of the assets that general manager Jay Feaster was able to acquire in return, he was likely going to be harshly criticized for the move.
But did he fail to acquire enough quality prospects for Iginla? He sure did. Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Feaster was able to get two mediocre prospects, who, if they even make it to the NHL, aren't likely to make much of an impact. Further, he failed to acquire a talented young defenseman in this deal, which is something that the Flames don't have on their NHL roster or in their prospect pool.
With 2012 first-round picks Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta, in addition to Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington and current NHLer Simon Despres, the Penguins have more defensive prospect depth than any team in the NHL, yet Calgary still settled on two forwards in the deal.
To trade your franchise player/legend for two prospects that aren't even in the Penguins' top 10, as well as a draft pick that could easily be one of the last selections in the first round, represents a total failure by the Flames. Even if Iginla wanted to go to the Penguins and Feaster had no choice but to make a deal with Shero (which looks like what happened), that doesn't mean that this return is acceptable.
What will really anger fans in Calgary is the fact that their team could have avoided this situation entirely. By not trading him a few years ago when his value was higher and the team needed to rebuild, in addition to his contract expiring at the end of the season, the Flames put themselves in a position where the only outcome possible was failure.
Holding on to great players too long can really set a franchise back, and this is what happened in Calgary. This is a very frustrating time for Flames fans, who are among the most passionate and loyal in the league. Depending on how these two NCAA prospects develop, it's possible that over the last decade, the Flames will have gotten very little in return for three core players who were traded: Iginla, Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr.
With a couple veteran players who playoff contenders may want to acquire before the deadline, such as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, don't be surprised if the Flames make more trades before the April 3 deadline.
When asked about the trade deadline at his postgame press conference when the Iginla deal was announced, Feaster talked about what he won't do over the next six days (via Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun):
Another situation Calgary will have to figure out is who will wear the "C" as team captain, which was a role that Iginla served in since 2003. Francis shared his thoughts on the matter:
There's no player on the Flames roster that is captain material right now, so it wouldn't be surprising if the team decides to have three alternates for the remainder of the year.
Iginla meant everything to the franchise, but it was time for both sides to move on. The Flames need a full, proper rebuild, and it didn't make sense for Iginla to spend the last few years of his Hall of Fame career playing in championship-less obscurity.
With this long trade saga finally over, the Flames can now focus on building a roster that will contend in the future. That process begins with the development of their young prospects and making sure they make the most of their own first-round pick in this year's draft, which could end up being the No. 1 overall selection.
The post-Iginla era in Calgary starts Friday versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.
2013 NHL Trade Deadline
Iginla was this year's trade deadline star, much like Rick Nash was last season, but don't expect the Penguins/Flames trade to be the only meaningful deal made near the deadline.
The Bruins will likely be very aggressive in searching for an upgrade(s) to their roster after failing to acquire Iginla.
With almost $11 million in salary-cap space (via Capgeek), plus a lot of top prospects, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli has the financial flexibility and the assets he needs to make a major deal or two. Among the Bruins' needs are a top-six forward and a defensive defenseman for their second pairing.
The amount of quality rental players has quickly dwindled over the last week with Morrow, Iginla and Murray off the market.
However, players such as Ryane Clowe (San Jose Sharks), Mark Streit (New York Islanders), Ryan Whitney (Edmonton Oilers), Jaromir Jagr (Dallas Stars) and Derek Roy (Dallas) could generate a lot more interest on the trade market following Wednesday's events. None of these players are as talented as Iginla, but on the right teams, they could play significant roles and make a huge impact in the playoffs.
Even though the Penguins are the Stanley Cup favorites, they are not invincible. There are several teams that could beat them in a seven-game playoff series, including the Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings.
All of these teams are expected to improve their roster in the trade market as well, and they all have valuable assets to dangle.
Trade deadline day is still going to be exciting even with Jarome Iginla off the market, and it will be fascinating to watch just how the other Stanley Cup contenders upgrade their teams for the playoffs.
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 in Boston. All salary information courtesy of Capgeek.