NHL Trade Rumors are starting to push itself toward the forefront of league affairs, as the season heads into December, closes in on the midway point and teams begin to decide whether they are buyers or sellers.
Perhaps one of the teams that might have to decide soon are the Calgary Flames, with their superstar winger and captain Jarome Iginla. Despite a hot streak as of late, he and his team have struggled to score goals. And because of that, the Flames are near the bottom of the Western Conference, which has led to rumors that Iginla could be moved.
There have been reports now that Flames management have assured Iginla he will not be traded this season. But of course, that can change if the team continues to struggle. With the Flames saddled with bad contracts, salary cap trouble and without a great amount of depth in the organization, it might be the only option to trade Iginla.
Here are 10 teams who could make a play for Iginla.
In the Iginla sweepstakes, the Flyers are on this list purely because of past patterns that suggest the Flyers have never been afraid to make a move to try and put them over the top (whether it was in the offseason or midseason). And if Iginla were to somehow go to Philadelphia, he would probably have the best chance he's ever had to win a Stanley Cup. The Flyers have a hot goaltender, one of the best offenses in the league and one of the best teams in the league.
Of course, the Flyers might have to blow the team up to land Iginla. I'd say it's a safe bet Calgary would ask for either Jeff Carter or Claude Giroux or possibly both. Other than that, maybe Calgary also asks for picks and a minor/junior leaguer.
But the Flyers, who are in their own salary cap mess and will most likely have to trade some of their own pieces after the season to try to bring Ville Leino back, won't make that move. History says they just might, but right now, Iginla's a luxury, not a necessity.
When you think of the Washington Capitals, you think of all the firepower and all the potential. Ovechkin, Green, Backstrom, Semin. There's a lot to like. There's also the lapses in judgment, the defensive breakdowns and the playoff meltdowns.
Like the Flyers, Iginla would be more of a luxury than a necessity. But maybe he wouldn't be such a bad fit on this team. He'd bring a veteran presence that perhaps could bring the focus needed for the Caps to finally get over the hump. He'd add a defensive, hard-checking, playmaking mentality that could be a good fit on the second line. Plus Washington has the high-end prospects (if they wanted to dangle defensemen Karl Alzner or John Carlson out there) that Calgary desires and a little bit of cap space.
Again, Iginla would be a push-the-Caps-over-the-top type of move that isn't necessary. But perhaps it's the push the Caps need to finally vanquish their playoff demons.
St. Louis is a young team that could use a veteran presence around an extremely young core that includes T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo. But Oshie is out for at least three months with a broken ankle, David Perron is suffering from a concussion and St. Louis is 20th in the league in goals per game. Iginla, even though his skills are starting to diminish, would be a needed offensive spark plug.
But St. Louis' front office, including GM Doug Armstrong and President of Hockey Operations John Davidson have been committed to building this team around its young core. And it's highly doubtful the front office would give up an Oshie, Pietrangelo or a Patrik Berglund (since the Flames would be looking for young talent with offensive upside) to take a shot now with Iginla.
Iginla added to that young core and goalie Jaroslav Halak would definitely make the Blues a playoff team, but Armstrong and Davidson aren't going to mortgage the future for a shot now either. Expect them to make a move for more of a role player.
This is an interesting case. Montreal leads the Northeast Division, has perhaps the hottest goalie in the game and a definite Vezina (if not Hart) candidate in Carey Price, a defensive system that smothers yet doesn't sit back and a relatively young core that works hard. Iginla would definitely provide pop to the offense and the power play, while bringing a toughness and work ethic that seems to fit with this team.
But the Canadiens have only a little north of $1 million in cap space and many key players with expiring contracts after this year, including Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot, Maxim Lapierre, Hal Gill and the injured Andrei Markov. Iginla is still due $21 million over the next three years ($7 million cap hit). Unless Calgary somehow takes a big contract back in return (I'm looking at you Scott Gomez), that wouldn't work. I don't know if Montreal would be willing to deal draft picks or prospects like Louis Leblanc either.
Montreal will probably make a move, but expect it to be for a power-play quarterback on defense or a second/third line winger to add a little pop.
The Maple Leafs desperately need scoring. Right now anyone with a pulse that could put a puck in the net could be a good fit in Toronto, where the season is slowly slipping away and there is immense pressure to win. Toronto definitely has the cap space to make a move and has a recent history of dealing with Calgary after the Leafs acquired Dion Phaneuf last year.
Of course the problem would be what Toronto would give up. Brian Burke was able to get Phaneuf for role players, one of which was center Matt Stajan. The asking price for Iginla would almost certainly be higher, and one would think the Flames would ask for the Leafs' top prospect, Nazem Kadri in return, and other young talent. But Toronto's system is just as thin as Calgary's and any deal would be tough to swing.
Iginla's presence, skill and leadership would definitely be an asset to possibly propel Toronto into the playoffs for the first time in the post-lockout era. But it's highly unlikely. The Leafs need a center much more and seem intent to go after Dallas' Brad Richards.
Another interesting scenario. The Predators are constantly looking for offense and forwards who can score, and this year is no different: 27th in the league in goals per game (2.22), only the Leafs, Devils and Islanders have a lower average. Yet Nashville is always competitive, always somehow gets hot, and always somehow gets 100 points and makes it to the postseason. Iginla would be a big plus and a big boost to the offense, he also might bring them over the hump and get Nashville it's first ever playoff series win.
Nashville also has the cap space (more than 10 million) and the young prospects (defensemen Ryan Ellis and forward Taylor Beck, both of whom are playing in the OHL) that can entice the Flames. And with the Flames focusing more on the wings, left wingers Linus Klasen and Blake Geoffrion could be dangled out there as well.
The Predators are a team that are known for drafting and developing young talent, but unless they feel Iginla can definitely put them over the top, they probably won't make a move.
His whole career, Sidney Crosby has been looking for a winger to play with. Every year, there's been a list of wingers who tried to play with Sid the Kid but couldn't really fit. Chris Kunitz has been Crosby's left wing for most of his career, but Kunitz has been struggling the last couple of years. Some of the best success Crosby's had being on a line was when he was paired with Kunitz and Bill Guerin. Now imagine Crosby and Jarome Iginla together. The same pair that connected on the Olympic-winning goal for Canada last year could be a dynamic duo and finally answer the question to who's playing with Sidney.
The Penguins have a cap space issue, and in order for the trade to work would probably have to ship Kunitz off and possibly Matt Cooke or Tyler Kennedy as well. There's also Mark Letestu and Eric Tangradi, either of which could be enticing for the Flames.
It may not be something that's been talked about, but it's a deal the Penguins brass may want to think about. Pittsburgh is usually very active around the trade deadline, and if they have a chance, it might be an option.
The Rangers, and especially Glen Sather as the Rangers GM, have a history of going after the big fish out there, whether it's free agency or trade. Iginla could definitely help, as he would be a boost to a more often than not stagnant offense. He'd probably make them a playoff team, although with the Rangers you never really know, and he would if nothing else be a proven scorer to help take the pressure off Marian Gaborik.
The problem lies in cap space and tradeable assets. They're not trading Henrik Lundqvist, they're not trading Gaborik, and with the seasons Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov are having, I doubt they're going anywhere either. Those would be the pieces, as well as perhaps Derek Stepan or Michael Del Zotto that would have to be included in some way to get it done.
The Rangers really need a No. 1 center. But their history makes them likely to make a play for anyone who could help offensively, as they did with Olli Jokinen last year.
There are two teams that I feel if Iginla is moved, are the teams that would be most likely to make a play for him and be the most realistic chances for him to land. Tampa Bay, the team that ironically beat him in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final is one of them. He'd be a veteran presence that would provide secondary scoring that would take the pressure off of Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis and be a real leader for a relatively young team.
Tampa Bay has the allure of $10 million or so in free cap space, plus two pretty strong top prospects in Brett Connolly and Carter Ashton, both forwards. If they had to, perhaps the Lightning could throw Vinny Lecavalier to rid themselves of that contract and give Calgary some instant offense.
The only setback would be that Stamkos' entry level deal is up after this season, and he is due for a big raise. Holding that money aside could proclude a deal for Iginla, as well as Tampa choosing to instead look for a goalie. But I think this could be one of teams with a real shot at landing him.
This is the other. And it's becoming more and more likely that this will be the team to land Iginla or another big name at the trade deadline. The Kings have been linked to almost every major forward who's reportedly available. It's a young team with one of the better young forwards in the game in Anze Kopitar and perhaps the best young defenseman in the game in Drew Doughty. It's a team that feels it needs one forward to put it over the top offensively and Iginla can be that guy.
Los Angeles has the dynamite combination of cap space and tradeable assets. Brayden Schenn, Andrei Loktionov, Davis Drewiske, Oscar Moller, take your pick. The Kings are so stacked with prospects that GM Dean Lombardi was willing to trade Teddy Purcell, who's having a pretty nice year in Tampa, last year to land Jeff Halpern. They have the pieces to make it work.
Los Angeles has one very big thing going for it: it's a young team with a big window of opportunity that feels it can make a run now. The Kings will land someone, and if Iginla does get moved, there's a good chance it'll be to LA.