The Calgary Flames’ slow start has some folks talking about captain Jarome Iginla’s future.
A recent report from ESPN.com mused on the possibility of the Los Angeles Kings targeting Iginla at the trade deadline if the Flames were out of the playoff race, though it also acknowledged Iginla’s no-movement clause.
However, CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported a source told him last summer Iginla won’t agree to a trade unless the Flames make it public that the move was their idea and not his.
Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail suggested it’s far too early to start questioning Iginla’s performance, noting the Flames captain also had a slow October last season, but rebounded in November to earn player of the month honors.
Duhatschek believed there would be a long lineup of suitors for Iginla if the Flames were to shop him.
Friedman suggests that because some in the Flames organization want Iginla gone, it will ensure the speculation won’t completely go away. If the team is still struggling by mid-season or appear in danger of missing the playoffs, we can expect the rumors to ramp-up in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
Iginla maintains he’s happy in Calgary and wants to help the Flames win a Stanley Cup, but it has become clear in recent years this team is nowhere near Cup contention. Even making the playoffs this season is not a certainty.
It’s possible Flames management will approach Iginla later this season about waiving his no-movement clause, especially if GM Darryl Sutter loses his job.
Sutter is believed to be on thin ice this season due to the Flames’ inability to return to the rank of Cup contender. Another season of futility should see him replaced by someone looking to rebuild, using an Iginla trade to kick-start the process.
While there’s no doubt interest in Iginla would be considerable, his contract ($7 million per season until the end of 2012-13) and no-movement clause will significantly reduce the number of clubs willing to pursue him at the trade deadline.
At 33, Iginla wouldn’t have interest in joining a rebuilding team and will prefer to go to a contender to chase that elusive Stanley Cup.
Of those, the Kings would undoubtedly be considered a prime candidate. They have sufficient cap space to manage Iginla’s contract and also the depth in young, affordable talent Calgary will want in return.
Still, taking on Iginla’s contract would eat up a significant chunk of the Kings’ cap space over the following two years. Jack Johnson, Wayne Simmonds and superstar Drew Doughty all need to be re-signed in that time and Iginla’s contract would make fitting them all under the cap a chore.
For now, of course, it’s all conjecture. The Flames could improve, make the playoffs and douse talk of Sutter being fired or Iginla being dealt…at least until next season, when another slow start would set the cycle in motion again.
In the meantime, the Flames face more pressing issues.
Center Daymond Langkow was forced to cease training after experiencing “numbness below the waist during heavy exertion.”
Langkow suffered spinal cord damage when he was hit in the neck by an Ian White slapshot during a game in Minnesota on March 21. He’s been trying to come back, but Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun cited a source claiming it’s “50-50” he’ll ever return to NHL action.
The silver lining (if such a thing can be said about this situation) is if Langkow remains on long-term injury reserve for the rest of the season, Sutter won’t have to make any salary-dumping moves that might adversely affect team chemistry.
Francis suggested White, who’s eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, is expendable following the Flames’ recent re-signing of defenseman Mark Giordano to a five-year, $20.1-million contract extension.
With more than $18 million now committed to four defensemen (Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich) and more than $56.5 million committed to 18 players for 2011-12, there doesn’t appear to be any room to retain White beyond this season.
Forget about the possibility of moving Bouwmeester, Regehr or Sarich, as they have no-trade or no-movement clauses – and even if one of them requested a trade, their expensive salaries would prove tough to move.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.