Flames Must Shop Iginla and Kiprusoff.

I’ve recently received criticism from a few Flames fans for suggesting their team commence its long-overdue rebuild by shopping captain Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

Contrary to their critiques, my opinion isn’t governed by dislike of Iglina and Kiprusoff, of the Flames or the city of Calgary.

I lived in the Stampede City for four years back in the mid-’90s and have fond memories of my time there. I returned briefly in 2004 during the Flames run to the Stanley Cup Final and was impressed by the support the team received from Calgarians.

I understand how much “Iggy” and “Kipper” mean to the Flames and their fans. From a sentimental standpoint, I’d love to see them retire as Flames. From a realistic one, I believe they’re at the stage in their careers where it’s time to move them while they still have good trade value, using that return to commence a genuine roster rebuild.

It’s been nine years since the Flames miracle run to the Cup Final. Iginla and Kiprusoff are also nine years older, and age is slowly but surely taking its toll. The current Flames roster bears no comparison to those plucky overachievers of 2004, and Iginla and Kiprusoff aren’t capable of carrying them on another magical playoff run.

The suggestion has been made ownership prefers the duo retire as Flames. Such loyalty toward players from a franchise is a rarity in today’s NHL. Usually, though, it’s reserved for teams with considerable depth, ensuring the burden of carrying the team is less upon ageing (but still effective) stars and spread out among the younger talent.

The Flames, unfortunately, don’t have that luxury. An honest look at their roster reveals no superstar talent in their prime, or about to come into their own, to whom Iginla and Kiprusoff can pass the torch.

Jay Bouwmeester is a good defenseman, but never reached the expectations of being the third overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, even after he dealt to hockey-mad Calgary. Mark Giordano is a solid, under-rated defenseman. Dennis Wideman has skill, but he’s not an elite defender.

Alex Tanguay remains a reliable veteran playmaker but has limited years of production left. Curtis Glencross is an energetic heart-and-soul guy, but not a franchise player. Jiri Hudler is a career second-liner. Mike Cammalleri, once a high-scoring winger, was notable last season for being traded in the middle of a game. Matt Stajan’s claim to fame is being the last player left in the package the Flames received from Toronto for Dion Phaneuf. Sven Baertschi has promise, but has yet to establish himself in the NHL.

Does that look like a lineup capable of over-achieving and reaching the Stanley Cup Final? Only the most delusional Flames fan would believe it.

It would also be delusional to assume just making the playoffs this year is a sign of real improvement. Too many teams in the Western Conference carry more depth in talent than the Flames. Even if they somehow sneak in, the odds are against them pulling off a first round upset are long.

Of course, trading Iginla and Kiprusoff won’t happen this early in the season. As long as the Flames remain in post-season contention, both will be retained. Besides, with Kiprusoff currently day-to-day with a lower-body injury, he’s not going anywhere for the time being.

If they should make the playoffs, there’s a possibility management could re-sign the duo this summer to shorter, more affordable deals, freeing up cap space over the next two off-seasons to surround them with younger talent.

Sadly, Calgary has not proven to be a prime destination for such UFA talent in recent years. Brad Richards spurned an offer in 2011, and the Flames weren’t among the preferred destinations last summer of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

With over $48 million committed to 15 players next season and a salary cap dropping to $64.3 million, the Flames won’t have a lot of cap space to re-sign Iginla (perhaps to a more affordable $5.5 million) and still have enough space to attract talented depth.

They could try to bolster their depth via trades, but they don’t have much to offer up beyond Iginla and Kiprusoff.

Bowmeester might fetch a decent return, if a rival club is willing to swallow his $6.680 million cap hit for this season and next, and he were willing to waive his trade clause. Giordano could be shopped, but the return wouldn’t be as great. Tanguay? Doesn’t appear he’d be keen to move, and his previous experiences away from Calgary weren’t happy ones. Hudler’s a recent addition so he won’t be shopped, Cammalleri’s salary and low production hurts his trade value, and moving Glencross could do more harm than good.

It’s possible the reason Iginla and Kiprusoff haven’t been moved yet is unwillingness on their part to waive their respective movement clauses. Perhaps they want to finish their careers with the Flames, no matter what. If so, they’ll have to bear the criticism from some of their fans for not accepting a potentially team-improving trade.

Of course, that’s just conjecture on my part. I have no idea what’s going through their heads, nor does any other fan, blogger or pundit.

If, however, they are willing to accept a trade if the deal would help the Flames, and management or ownership refused to go through with it, then it’s time this club invested in a more visionary front office.

Perhaps ownership is fearful moving the duo would hurt the Flames fans support, just as trading away Al MacInnis, Joe Nieuwenyk and Theo Fleury did back in the mid-to-late 1990s. If so, those fears must be set aside.

The reason the Flames dumped those stars back in the 1990s was they couldn’t afford to re-sign them. They were considered “small-market” back then because of an under-valued Canadian dollar. Having spent nearly two decades among the league’s elite, the Flames decline came as a shock for their fans, who felt their club was doomed to second-tier status.

Those days, however, are long gone. The strong Canadian dollar means the Flames are no longer considered small market. They’ve kept pace with the rising salary cap, though it can said much of that money was poorly invested. After watching the Flames slowly but surely descend into mediocrity over the past three years, most of their fans would accept the decision to rebuild.

The argument can be made there’s no guarantee any return the Flames got back for Iginla and/or Kiprusoff would eventually become players who could turn this club around. Still, considering the few promising prospects in their system and currently in the lineup, it’s a risk worth taking.

One-time Flames GM Al Coates was willing to take such a risk in 1995, trading Nieuwenduk to Dallas for a little-used center named Cory Millen and a highly-touted prospect who would eventually become their captain and the face of the franchise.

That prospect, of course, was Iginla.

The bottom line is, the Flames currently aren’t a good team, and they’re not going to get any better without some bold rebuilding moves soon. The boldest is to move Iginla and Kiprusoff while they still have value for the best possible return.

15 Comments

  1. I think the flames and Feaster should be given more credit than the media has allowed them to date. They have rights to an NHL ready goaltender playing this year in the KHL and if Baertschi is playing they actually have two top six right wingers other than Iginla. I think Iginla will be treated like Ray Bourque at the deadline. I am less sure about Kiprusoff, GM’s are twitchy about moving franchise goaltenders. But Feaster has more of a plan in place than people give him credit for. I think Bouwmeister will be the first to go, followed by Iginla and MAYBE Kiprusoff. I also think he has quietly conceded a top five finish in the draft sweepstakes this year.

  2. Finally, a well articulated article exploring this “beaten to death topic” originating from a sports writer outside of Calgary. However, as impossible as most media would have everyone believe, albeit harder, it might ot be impossible to “re-build” in Calgary without trading Iggy or Kipper. Assuming Ramo can come over next year and provide #1 type goaltending, this may actually be easier than every media person outside of Calgary would have us believe. I would be interested in seeing a simliar article from you exploring this “re-building” alternative.

  3. The 1995 Iggy/Nieuwy trade isn’t a fair comparison as Nieuwendyk was in the prime of his career and Iginla was a top-rated prospect. If Iggy was traded away in 2006, then perhaps the comparison would be more apt.

    The Flames upside to trading Iginla right now would be increased cap space and perhaps a decent second-rounder. That’s it. You might get a Sven Baertschi-type come along, but maybe you’d get Chuck Kobesew.

    We also have to keep in mind that Iginla is worth more to the Flames than he would be to any other team because of the home-town hero aspect. He still sells sweaters, he’s a great rep for the team and the city, and he does get people out to the game. His contribution to another team would be some solid second-line depth scoring, which is fine on the ice, but he wouldn’t be the face of the organization and increase the draw at the gate.

    I agree that now’s the time to consider moving him, but we have to be realistic about what the team could get for him. Again, the 1995 trade should not be mentioned during this debate.

  4. I agree with Sam I am, in the last week the Flames destoyed the highly touted Hawks “score didnt reflect” and beat the wings. A couple other games this year they did the same but didnt walk away with the Win because of some small mistakes. The team is actually fun to watch this year and as Sam puts it, they are not given as much credit as they should. However in saying that, with Kipper, Cami, Sven, Backs all on the shelf right now I would give the Flames a week or so at the most, if they are not top 10 at that point start moving guys. Meaning Kipper and Iggy. Both will fetch you a first round pick. Iggy has more of a say in where he will go, so look at Boston / Pittsburgh as leading candidates. A first round pick to them at the end of this season will be mid-high 20’s (which they can pass on because of their overall depth). With Kipper you have a little more wiggle room on moving him, a team which is mid pack with somewhat questionable goaltending will jump all over Kipper because they know he will definitely make them that much stronger and can actually win you some games. These teams will do the same in giving you back a first rounder. Now the Flames will have three first round picks this year and the chances of them landing a MacKinnon (preferably), Drouin and Jones is very good. Possibly even Fucale to replace Kipper. Once the season is done or these guys “kipper / Iggys” contracts are up bring them back if they want to resign and let them retire as a Flame.

    • The Hawks were on a second game of a back to back, and didn’t arrive in Calgary til the morning. They made the Flames look that good, and still won the game

    • Uhm the oilers of last year destoryed the hawks badly as well so.Sorry the flames are the oilers of the early years.

      • I actually should mean the early 2000 and are going be the oilers of now.

  5. Just to put Iginla’s perceived value into perspective, I am a Flyers fan living in Philadelphia. Iggy has come up in the local media as a potential target for an injury plagued team suffering from a lack of secondary (and even primary) scoring. Than name coming up for Iggy are not Schenn or Couturier, as is mentioned in any Bobby Ryan deal, but Scott Laughton. Straight up. maybe its a Philly over valuing, but I cant see Laughton alone being a center piece that would make the Flames deal their Face.

  6. Don’t forget that the Niewendyk trade, Al Coates had to “settle” for getting Iginla in that trade – the guy that he really wanted was Todd Harvey. Thankfully, the Stars didn’t want to trade him.

    Also, Kipprusoff has another year left on his contract after this one. So he might be less attractive in a trade right now, unless Irving/Taylor play lights out, and there’s an injury to another team’s starter.

    As for Iginla, all you need to do is watch his contract status approaching the deadline. If he’s not signed to an extension by then, he’s on his way out of town as even Jay Feaster wouldn’t risk his career on losing Iginla for nothing.

  7. Not sure the value of a trade. This is Iggy’s last contract year, and Kippy has one more year on his.

    Any team that picks Iggy up, is looking at a short term deal. He’ll be over 35 and a UFA next year.

    Kippy is already over 35, and the following year, he’ll be UFA.

    What is the incentive for other teams to trade? How can you find future long term talent when what you offer has such short term potential for a team?

  8. @Stewie, Iginla has to much class to pull a Sundin. Thats why in two weeks if the Flames are 10pts back you will see him quietly go to Feaster and give him a list of teams.

    • Pretty much Jay, you bashed someone that wanted to stay with a team, even if that team wasn’t good?

  9. I think the Flames and the Leafs should consider a merger. Then they might be able to ice one complete NHL caliber team.

  10. the time to trade Iginla was 3 years ago when they could’ve gotten more than just a pick 20th or later. had they done it then chances are it would have been two 1st rounders or a 1st and a top prospect and they would be playing now. imagine that for a minute Iginla would have a chance to come back to Calgary for a victory lap (maybe with a Cup ring already) with a team that actually had a chance to not only make the playoffs but go past the first round, something they haven’t done since he led them to the Cup final 9 long years ago.

  11. While you make a good point about trading Iginla and Kiprusoff now over the next two years the Flames have the opportunity to totally revamp their entire team. Not only is Iginla a UFA come the summer but so are Cervenka, Comeau, Babchuk and Begin and the following year they have Cammallari, Stajan, Stempniak, Jones, Bouwmeester, Smith, Sarich, Jackman and Kiprusoff also becoming UFA’s and that doesn’t take in any RFA’s.
    While both Iggy and Kipper would be the most sought after and bring value immediately from teams looking to solidify their playoff roster there are othe players that teams would want or they could well be worth keeping.
    To me this spells out a real opportunity to make some key trades, move some players for solid building blocks and once again make the Flames a hot commodity in Calgary.