Dreams Do Come True – Pens Add Jarome Iginla, Terrify Rest of NHL
March 12, 2013 1 Comment
(UPDATE: 3/28/13 03:34 AM – the Penguins have acquired Jarome Iginla for forwards Ken Agostino, Ben Hanowski, and the Penguins’ 2013 1st Round Draft Pick. The Rest of this article is dated hogwash. I am naming all of my illegitimate children Ray or Rae Shero, because Showtime has turned the National Hockey League into an Xbox.)
Jarome Iginla is my favorite active non-Penguin in the NHL, assuming we now consider Alex Kovalev “in-active.” The thought of Iginla, who I call “Sugar“, wearing a Penguins’ jersey has me riled-up enough to skip work mid-week and write an article addressing the Penguins’ prospects of adding him at the NHL Trade Deadline.
As much as I would like to play Xbox GM and tell you that the Pens adding Sugar before the Trade Deadline is all but a done deal, the reality is that it does not appear to be in the cards. Even before this recent Elliotte Friedman column in which Elliotte outlines Calgary’s probable strategy for dealing with Iginla’s expiring contract, the actual likelihood of Sugar changing addresses at the Deadline would appear to be low.
Mr. Friedman is about as clued-in as anyone writing on the subject (unlike catty gossips Damien Cox and Bruce “Malkin to the Kings!” Garrioch, who irresponsibly make up wild Trade Scenarios to sell papers to the sexually-frustrated denizens of Ontario), and his insight should be taken as accurate. The quotes from Flames GM Jay Feaster about an organizational decision not to do a full rebuild has a decided ring of truth to it, given the unsightly collection of overpaid veterans on the roster. Feaster may have a mandate from Ownership to keep the group “competitive”, and no team gets more competitive by trading their Franchise Player and Captain.
(As an aside: this alleged mandate from Ownership rings true to anyone who followed the proceedings of the Lockout, in which Flames Majority Owner Murray Edwards could have been described as a key lieutenant to the Commissioner as well as a “shark”. My view is that Edwards is fine with the Flames being mired in mediocrity as long as the organization continues to churn out a profit.
He would presumably like to win the Cup and see the Flames as an annual Playoff entrant, but he also would not seemingly want to endure a full rebuild, which could mean drastically-lower attendance and Gate Revenues. Just a thought, but I covered this extensively, and the Flames have seen their annual Franchise Worth accrue value under the current plan. As I write this, the value of the Calgary Flames has gone up from $135 Million in 2006 to $245 Million last year, according to Forbes.)
Still, there is a powerful logic to the idea of Sugar joining the Penguins. Aside from his obvious chemistry with Sid Crosby, Sugar is tailor-made for Coach Disco’s aggressive forecheck. The Wingers who succeed as contemporary Pittsburgh Penguins are “Power Wingers” along the likes of Bill Guerin, James Neal, Matt Cooke, and especially Chris Kunitz. Both Disco and Penguins’ GM/Executive VP Ray “Showtime” Shero crave North-South types with blue-collar work ethics installed on the wings of Sid and Geno. Sugar is the mold from which the contemporary Power Forward is cast:
Now that I’ve sold you on how fantastic Sugar would be in Pittsburgh, don’t get overly excited. The prospects of Iginla suiting up for Pittsburgh are
rather slim glorious, and here is an outline of why:
1) The Man is Calgary’s Franchise Icon
If you have been a Penguins’ fan long enough, you might remember those silly rumors out of Toronto back in 2004 or so about the Penguins trading Mario to Montreal or some such place so that he could “finish his career on a winner.” If you were at all like me, you likely laughed obnoxiously to yourself at how ridiculous such drivel was, promptly slammed your laptop closed on the back of the hot sophomore from Towers you were reading said trash on, then went back to your life of drunken promiscuity.
The Canadiens could have sent their best 10 players, along with a swimming pool full of Grand Marnier and low-class Red-Light District strippers, and the Penguins still would not have even considered dealing Mario. Even with known Grand Marnier aficionado and Reactionary Craig Patrick at the phone and annual Gross Revenue losses in the tens of millions, dealing Mario would have meant shuttering Civic Arena and moving the club to Kansas City or wherever.
Excuse my absurdity for comparing anyone to Mario, but Sugar is Calgary’s Franchise Icon. He is the most-important player in the team’s history. He may not have been part of the ’89 Cup Team, but he has since eclipsed the likes of Theo Fleury, Lanny McDonald, Mike Vernon, Al MacInnis, and Joe Nieuwendyk as the Flames’ seminal player.
The Flames would not leave Calgary if Iginla was dealt, but you might see something resembling a public boycott. Older NHL fans may remember the Flames low period during the 1990s, when the franchise was doing things like trading Fleury and Nieuwendyk for financial considerations and Waiving Future Hall of Famers. The Nieuwendyk trade obviously worked for both parties, but you understand the point I am making: the Flames underwent a complete rebuild not so long ago, and the pain-period was pretty brutal for the franchise.
If you think anyone, including Pittsburgh, is acquiring Sugar for a few spare parts and a low-1st Round Draft Pick, you are tripping balls. Any potential deal for Sugar would have to be a menagerie of elite prospects and NHL-ready young players, preferably at Calgary’s position of need (Center). We are not talking about a deal for Alex Ponikarovsky here.
(UPDATE: Showtime acquired Jarome Freaking Iginla for a few spare parts and a low-1st Round Draft Pick. I may be tripping balls. I am positive Sugar leveraged his way to Pittsburgh with his No-Trade Clause, but Flames’ GM Jay Feaster still got taken to the cleaners here, unless Seth Jones falls to #30 overall.)
2) Iginla has a full No Trade Clause (UPDATE: which he will use to ensure he lands on Sid Crosby’s wing and not in Boston)
…which he presumably would refuse to Waive for any team that was not a legitimate Stanley Cup Contender.
I can thankfully stop having Night Terrors about Sugar wearing a Flyers’ jersey, because that mismanaged sideshow has gleefully played and traded their way out of the NHL’s elite. The Flyers are not a Cup Contender on par with Pittsburgh or Boston or Manhattan that happens to be playing poorly; they have come by their mediocre record the old-fashioned way, which for them means losing out on the nihilistic purchase of Shea Weber and plugging their gaping holes on defense with parking pylons.
As of today, this is my field of “Legitimate” Stanley Cup Contenders for 2013: Pittsburgh,
Manhattan, Boston, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Chicago. There are teams such as San Jose, Montreal, and Carolina lurking, but it would be surprising to see the Cup Finals not played by two of the six teams listed above.
Of those teams, only the Rangers would have to perform any type of major roster surgery to graft Sugar into the lineup under the 2013 Salary Cap. The Rangers already have $16 million in Cap Money committed to the Wing position in just Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik, so Penguins fans can be cautiously-optimistic that the Rangers would look for help on Defense before trying to shoe-horn Sugar onto their squad.
(UPDATE: 3/16/13 – Happy St. Patrick’s Day. A few hours ago, the Pens blanked the Rangers 3-0. The Rangers did not look like an imposing Cup-Contender ala Boston or Pittsburgh. The Rangers have a few players performing at an exceptional level – namely Hank Lundqvist and Rick Nash – but my take is that they lost too much depth from the lower-half of their roster.
It doesn’t help when the likes of Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards fail to produce statistically, but losing the likes of Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Mike Rupp from the bottom-six causes an impact. The loss of top defenseman Marc Staal to injury does not make things any easier for the defense-first squad. The Rangers are a playoff team, but my view is that they would get soundly beaten in a seven-game series against Pittsburgh or Boston, barring always-possible heroics from Lundqvist.)
Speaking of which: the Penguins would seemingly look to add a seasoned veteran to their defensive corps before pursuing upgrades to the League’s Best Offense. The Penguins have absolutely no problem scoring goals. While adding a future Hall-of-Famer who happens to have plenty left in the tank is never a bad option, the Penguins would seemingly look to address their holes in Defensive Coverage before going after Sugar…if he was available and if he was willing to Waive his NTC for Pittsburgh.
(UPDATE: 3/28/13 – The Pens add Doug Murray, AKA Crankshaft, from San Jose. To my credit, Showtime did address a hole in the defensive corps before acquiring Sugar, but I did not realize Showtime would be spending his week pillaging the Western Conference.)
A more-realistic and terrifying prospect is the idea of the Boston Bruins fortifying their Top-6 with Sugar. They have an attractive roster player for trade in David Krejci and a deep prospect pool. I would presume that Sugar might be inclined to waive his NTC to play on a smash-mouth Bruins squad, centered by either phenom Tyler Seguin or Team Canada teammate Patrice Bergeron. As a Penguins’ fan, I have no desire to face a Bruins squad bolstered by Jarome Freaking Iginla.
In a similar vein, you obviously do not want to see one of the Western Conference juggernauts add Sugar, but regrettably there a few teams aside from the Penguins that could offer him a comfortable landing spot as well as a strong chance at competing for the Cup.
3) The Penguins do not have what Calgary wants, i.e. Top-6 Centermen (at least none to trade)
Here is Calgary’s roster. It is not pretty. It is a bunch of guys who were considered very good or even elite players five or six years ago, buttressed by a bunch of grossly-overpaid NHL role players. To put it aptly, as far as reconstructing this team goes, there is no such thing as a Luke-warm Hell.
If the Flames were to wave the white flag and go for a full rebuild, they would want a groundswell in exchange for their signature piece. They would seemingly want some mobility on Defense (which the Pens have in spades) and someone who could be considered a potential Top-6 Centerman (which the Pens have but are obviously not parting ways with).
Let’s play Devil’s Advocate and say Calgary wants to move Sugar and that Sugar would prefer to come to Pittsburgh. Do you know what I would ask for if I was Jay Feaster? Simon Despres and/or
Joe Morrow, Beau Bennett, the Penguins’ 2013 1st-Round Pick, and maybe an inexpensive roster player or RFA like Dustin Jeffrey.
(UPDATE: Feaster settled for two mid-level prospects and the Penguins’ 2013 1st-Round Pick. As I type this, it continues to amaze me that Showtime acquired Sugar, Brenden Morrow, Doug Murray, and a 3rd Round Pick for three picks and three prospects while retaining Despres, Bennett, and the rest of the Penguins’ collection of defense prospects. Amazing.)
Ludicrous? Probably, but again, if I am Feaster, I am trading the Best Player in Franchise History. Feaster will potentially get skewered for trading Iginla at all, and probably be publicly-executed at the Saddledome if he moved Iginla for a substandard package. It is imperative that Feaster land a veritable gift-basket of prospects, if Calgary opts to go for a complete rebuild.
Showtime likes to deal, but he also likes to horde mobile, puck-moving Defensemen like canned goods in the Zombie Apocalypse. I do not see him giving up the requisite package needed to secure Sugar’s release from Calgary, especially if Feaster were to insist upon Bennett or Morrow.
The Pens could offer a competitive prospect package for Iggy, but the team is not prying him loose for a conditional 3rd-rounder ala Billy Guerin. If you want to really lock in on a potential trade partner for the Flames, look at teams that have a blue-chip Centerman coming up the pipeline or an excess Top-6 Center at the NHL level.
4) Why Mess with Success?
The potential addition of Sugar would create a quality problem for Coach Disco, in that he would be forced to break-up the most productive line in Hockey and reconfigure his forward units. Again, it’s a quality problem, but Showtime may be reluctant to alter a Pittsburgh attack that has been scoring at will as of late.
If I am making an Iginla trade on Xbox, it involves me putting him with Sid (obviously) and keeping Jimmy with Geno (duh). I personally think Geno and Jimmy benefit more from the presence of Chris Kunitz than Sid does, so for argument’s sake I will put Kuni with Geno and Jimmy and give Beau Bennett a shot with Sid and Iggy. That’s a fierce Top-6.
(UPDATE: the Pens added Brenden Morrow, who will be given every opportunity to play with Geno and Jimmy once Geno comes off Injured Reserve. Coach Disco must feel like a kid given 40 new GI Joes.)
This scenario drops Pascal Dupuis to the 3rd line with Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke, and assumes that Tyler Kennedy is likely moved as part of a package for Iginla.
On paper, it looks like an obvious improvement. As you know however, Chemistry is a very delicate thing in Hockey, and Showtime may not want to rock the boat by re-doing a team that is already at the top of the Conference.
5) Calgary will remain competitive until the Bitter End
Here are the UPDATED Western Conference Standings, as of 3/16/2013. As you can see, eight points separate 3rd Place from Last Place, with Calgary manning their traditional spot somewhere between 9th and 12th Place, only 2-4 points out of a Playoff Spot.
With 20 or so games remaining in the season, it would be difficult to envision Feaster cutting the balls off his team by moving out Iggy is the team is nipping at the heels of a Playoff team on Deadline Day. Sugar is a classy and proud Captain, and if Calgary has any chance whatsoever of competing for the Cup, he will not abandon ship for the cozier confines of Pittsburgh or Boston or L.A.
(UPDATE: Calgary is brutal, and Iginla finally decided enough was enough. Feaster did indeed cut the balls off his team, although he was not negotiating from a position of strength. The Calgary Flames are now officially the Western Conference version of the Florida Panthers, complete with playoff virgin Jay Bouwmeester.)
Calgary would have to go into a complete tail-spin, which given the lack of dominant teams in the Western Conference does not appear to be in the cards. Surprisingly, there is a greater divide between the Haves and the Have Nots in the Eastern Conference, in which teams like Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto (gasp) have distinguished themselves as “In” while teams such Florida, Buffalo, and Washington can almost be considered “Out”, barring miracle runs.
Given that only Chicago and Anaheim have separated themselves from the pack to this point, the smart money is that the Flames might even look to add pieces in attempt to get some of that juicy Playoff Gate Revenue rather than deal off their Captain for 40-cents on the dollar.
Having Said All of That…
You never say never. There are a few facts that would seem to validate the masturbatory Ontarian rumors coming out of Malkin to the Kings! and his pals. Consider:
1) The Penguins have a Manager who almost always aggressively upgrades his team at the Trade Deadline
2) Again, Sid and Sugar have Chemistry and Familiarity. Do not discount this.
3) Adding Iggy keeps him away from Boston, Manhattan, et al. Do you want to play a Chicago team that can ice a Toews-Hossa-Iginla line, and then puts Patricks Kane and Sharp on the ice? Or a Bruins team featuring Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla banging along the boards? Rhetorical.
4) Sugar has never won a Cup, and that is obviously a powerful motivator for veteran NHL players. Hell, it has been two Lockouts since Sugar has been in the Playoffs; the Man is probably dying to get onto a powerhouse roster such as Pittsburgh, even if he is too classy and proud to admit such a thing.
5) While the Penguins do not have Centermen to offer, they do have a plethora of puck-moving, smooth-skating Defensemen and a few interesting roster players. Showtime might decide that the 2013 Penguins’ Defense is simply beyond repair, and might in fact decide that winning every game by a roller-hockey score is the Penguins’ best chance to capture the 2013 Cup. Doubling-down on the Offense and adding a battering ram like Sugar might be worth the cost of an elite Defense prospect or two.
As recently as two years ago, I would have considered the idea of adding Sugar to the Pittsburgh Penguins to be a wildly-unrealistic scenario. However, in March 2011, Showtime went out and made the two trades I had been making on Xbox for years: James Neal for Alex Goligoski, and Alex Kovalev for a handful of scratch-off lottery tickets. The day I learned the Penguins had reacquired Kovy remains one of the Best 20 Days of My Life, righting an eight-year old wrong and reinforcing to me that delusional fantasies about your NHL team can in fact come true.
So yes, Pittsburgh could acquire Jarome Iginla, if the stars align just right. The Flames would have to plummet to the Western Conference basement, Flames Ownership would have to sign-off on a complete tear-down, Sugar would have to waive his NTC, and Showtime would have to put up an incredible offer. None of those stipulations are out of reason.
(UPDATE 3/28/13 – What do you know, all of that happened, except Showtime just played the market like a minstrel, handing over a few C+ prospects and the last pick in the 1st Round for Jarome Freaking Iginla. What a human.)
Despite all my rationale for why a trade for Sugar is doable,
Don’t Be a Mark and expect Showtime to add Iginla because Showtime is the Greatest Manager in the History of Hockey. It’s really fun to picture him in a Penguins’ jersey, taking a feed from Sid and ripping a bullet over the glove of Hank Lundqvist, which I will do continuously for the next three years or so.
This is too Awesome for words.