The Calgary Flames currently sit 13th in the Western Conference, fast approaching a third consecutive losing season.
With the rebuilding process looming, the team’s expensive superstar, forward Jarome Iginla, has become the subject of trade speculation and rumors in recent months. While an Iginla deal is far from complete and nothing credible has tied the Philadelphia Flyers to the former Art Ross Trophy winner, he could be a great fit on Broad Street.
Iginla comes with a $7 million cap hit for the next two seasons, meaning the Flyers would need to get financially creative to bring Calgary’s crown jewel onto the roster. But the benefits Iginla would bring a young offensive core in the next two seasons may be worth the big price tag.
These are nine reasons the Flyers should consider Jarome Iginla to be worth the major salary hit.
Jarome Iginla may not come cheap, but his current contract ends after the 2013 Stanley Cup. This means that the Flyers, if they landed him, would only have to worry about the expensive contract for one full season.
While Paul Holmgren has been a brilliant GM since taking over the Flyers’ front office, his Achilles’ Heel has been inking players to long, binding deals. His propensity for promising playing time far into the future has filled up roster space in recent seasons, leading to the trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter this offseason.
Taking on an already-existing contract allows Holmgren to utilize Iginla’s benefits in the short-term without over-committing to an individual’s future.
If the Flyers get what they need from Iginla in under two years, that $7 million cap hit will disappear when he hits the free agent market in July of 2013.
Any team that trades its captain in the offseason is going to worry about leadership.
Thus far, the 2011-12 season has been kind to the Flyers, as the rookies have stepped up and other young players have begun to grow into elite players. Much of this can be attributed to the addition of Jaromir Jagr to the roster, who has apparently spread his famous work ethic to many of the youngsters on the Philadelphia roster.
However, Jagr has been injury-prone and is only signed to a one-year deal. Bringing on a player like Iginla keeps an experienced forward on the roster for next year, one who will hold players accountable and keep the team focused on the ultimate goal: a Stanley Cup.
When nine of the team’s 15 prominent forwards are under age 26, the value of Iginla’s experience cannot be overstated.
Philly loves tough.
Recent fan favorites have included Dan Carcillo, Donald Brashear and Riley Cote.
And while these players, as well as current forwards Zac Rinaldo and Jody Shelley are all well and good, the ideal kind of toughness for a Cup-hungry city like Philadelphia is the type that comes from a goal-scorer who isn’t afraid to get dirty.
When former captain Mike Richards was putting up points, the city still loved his attitude toward opponents like Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban more than his statistical production. The Legion of Doom got its legend not simply from points on the board, but from the opponents who found themselves on the ice when guys like Eric Lindros and John LeClair started throwing shoulders.
Iginla brings that fight-your-way-to-victory mentality, the kind that leads to more than one Gordie Howe hat-trick in any given season.
Sean Couturier is on the Flyers’ roster for the long-haul, and while the 18-year-old is certainly excited to be playing in the NHL, he faces the challenges that come with being a boy among men.
Jarome Iginla found himself in a similar experience in the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he played his first games on NHL ice as an 18-year-old. The following regular season, his 50-point campaign was good enough for runner-up in the Calder Trophy race.
Couturier seems poised to be both a scorer and a back-checker, a penalty-killer and a power-play threat. For an 18-year-old, that kind of potential can only be realized with the help of someone who has played through it.
Having Jarome Iginla at Couturier’s side to help him take the right steps in his development could be the difference between Couturier becoming a superstar and remaining a bottom-six forward, waiting to blossom, for the rest of his career.
The Flyers have put together a successful season thus far, especially considering the questions surrounding the team’s youth and all the new faces on the roster.
Thus, veteran leadership, in the form of Jaromir Jagr and Chris Pronger, has been crucial to the team’s success through the first two months of the season.
However, both Jagr and Pronger have missed time with injuries to their beat-up bodies, with Pronger slated to miss at least a month due to knee surgery.
Pronger’s absence leaves a sort of power vacuum, making the Flyers look less like a cohesive NHL team and more like a rag-tag group of pick-up players that can dazzle defenses, but fall apart when the pressure is on.
Having Jarome Iginla on a scoring line would certainly be a welcome contingency plan if Pronger misses more of the season.
If Iginla arrived in Philadelphia this season, it is unlikely he would find himself with a letter stitched to the front of his jersey.
However, on a team of young offensive players, Iginla would undoubtedly find himself behaving as a captain.
With the team’s veteran offensive players like Danny Briere and Claude Giroux known primarily for their slickness and on-ice agility, having a player like Iginla who can get his hands dirty and win battles with size and strength instead of speed and skill would provide a model for less experienced players.
Iginla’s on-ice style mirrors Mike Richards’ (thankfully, his off-ice style does not), a forechecking tenacity that the Flyers don’t see from many of their leaders these days.
Perhaps the only thing more valuable than a wily veteran who has experienced the thrill of guiding a team to the Stanley Cup…is one who hasn’t.
At age 34, Iginla’s years in the NHL are beginning to wind down, and a player as decorated as he can only have one final desire to cap his fantastic career: winning hockey’s Holy Grail.
The Flyers have veterans in the locker room who provide motivation, like Jaromir Jagr and Chris Pronger. But both those players have been to the promised land, making them unable to provide the push to achieve the previously unattainable by any means necessary.
If Iginla joined the Flyers’ roster, the team may very well find that his insatiable desire for a cup rubs off on other players, building a collective desire to win by any means necessary.
No knowledgeable NHL fan would argue with the notion that Claude Giroux is fast becoming a superstar. But being a superstar isn’t easy.
Jarome Iginla won his first Maurice Richard Trophy in 2002 at the age of 24. At that time, he was a rising star in the NHL, playing for a highly competitive team that looked to him as a leader, in a city whose praise was exceeded only by its expectations.
This scenario will soon become familiar to Claude Giroux, and having a teammate that can keep in all in perspective will be invaluable.
Iginla has experienced the pressure and the praise, the highs and the lows, the thrill of a playoff run and the agony of it ending all too soon, with the local media turning to the star player for answers.
As Giroux matures as a player and a person, he will need the personal guidance of a figure like Iginla to drown out the media and focus on the game he plays so well.
This offseason, Paul Holmgren invested in the long-term future by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and a pick that turned out to be Sean Couturier.
Fans had mixed reactions to the trade, primarily because the Flyers seemed less likely to win a cup immediately and more likely to be trying for a championship a few years down the road, the sort of investment that makes sports fans in Philadelphia uneasy.
However, the Flyers find themselves in the mix in the Eastern Conference, despite inconsistent goaltending and an abundance of injury problems. This could conceivably be the year.
If Holmgren added Iginla, it would send the message that, while the team is investing in the distant future, it hasn’t forgotten about the present. By acting as major buyers before the trade deadline, the Flyers may find themselves committing to a Cup run this year, without sacrificing much of the future.
If the price is right, Holmgren would have to bring Iginla onto the roster. No good general manager, especially in a city as cup-hungry in Philadelphia, should pass up the opportunity to hoist Lord Stanley’s prize.