With the trade deadline quickly approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that are likely to be dealt by March 1st.
Jarome Iginla is a legend with very bad luck. He’s a six-time All-Star, a two-time Maurice Richard winner, and a past Art Ross recipient. He’s third among active players in points, second in goals, and fourth in assists. He’s a sure-fire future Hall of Famer. However, in his 20-year NHL career, Iginla has not won a Stanley Cup. The face of the franchise for the Calgary Flames for 16 seasons, Iginla holds just about every career offensive record for the team. But, when the Flames made a Cup run in 2004, his 22 points in 26 games were not enough to seal the deal as the Flames fell in Game 7 of the Finals to the Tampa Bay Lighting by a score of 2-1. After years of first rounds exits in Calgary following that close call, Iginla asked for a trade in 2013 at the age of 35 in his hunt for a title. Ironically, Iginla vetoed a trade to the Boston Bruins, instead opting to join the Pittsburgh Penguins, only to have the Bruins end his Cup hopes in the Eastern Conference finals. The Bruins would then fall to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup. Many have opined that if the Bruins had Iginla rather than Jaromir Jagr in 2013, they would have won their second Stanley Cup in three years. Iginla tried to erase his mistake by signing with the Bruins for the 2013-14 season, but it was too late. A much better fit in Boston than in Pittsburgh, Iginla’s efforts again were still not enough, as the President’s Trophy-winning Bruins lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round.
While Iginla had some close calls in Calgary, Pittsburgh, and Boston, his next decision was as far off as possible in his search for Lord Stanley. Iginla signed a three-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche, expecting the young team to grow into strong contenders during his tenure. In 2016-17, his third year with the team, the Avalanche are instead the worst team in the NHL. Mere games away from statistical elimination, Colorado stands no chance at making the playoffs this season and, if he’s not traded, Iginla’s title championship dreams may forever remain unfulfilled. His play has dropped off as he approaches 40 years old, with just 14 points in 50 games. It is expected that Iginla will call it a career at the end of this season. With nothing to lose in trading the valuable veteran and with a General Manager in Joe Sakic who understands the importance of a respected veteran winning a title (see: Ray Bourque, 2001), the Avalanche seem likely to move Iginla.
Iginla is in the final season of a three-year, $16MM contract that he signed with Colorado when free agency opened in 2014. His $5.33MM cap hit will be pro-rated to about $1.5MM at the Trade Deadline.
Iginla has been a high-end point producer deep into his playing years. With Boston in 2013-14, Iginla had 61 points in 78 games and in his first two seasons in Colorado, he had 106 points combined while playing every single game. In 2016-17, Iginla has hit a wall. The 39-year-old has just seven goals and seven assists through 50 games for the Avalanche. It is almost a foregone conclusion that, traded or not, Iginla will have the lowest scoring season of his career. His shooting percentage is also a career-worst and significantly below his average and his hits are way down as well; Iginla is no longer an elite sniper nor an elite checker. As could be assumed, all of this has led to Iginla averaging his least amount of ice time in 18 years.
Despite all of this, one of the game’s great veterans is still a valuable asset. He may not be a high-end scorer or defensive player any more, but on the right team and fueled by a desire to finally win a Cup, he can still be effective in those areas. His leadership and locker room presence is also invaluable, especially to young teams. Iginla may be at the end of the line in his career, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t go out with a bang.
50 GP: 7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points, -16, 100 shots, 7% shooting percentage, 59 hits, 14:44 ATOI
Iginla has made it known that he would like to be traded. Obviously, he will only be interested in top teams with realistic shots at making it out their respective conference, giving the 20-year veteran a final shot at the Stanley Cup. However, these teams will also have to have the cap space to squeeze in his pro-rated cap hit. The Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, and a return to the Pittsburgh Penguins would all be logical destinations and have previously expressed interest in one way or another, but all three teams would need to make other roster changes to fit Iginla in under the salary cap.
Instead, two teams that jump out as having the space and the need for some bottom-six depth and playoff experience are the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets. The two biggest surprises of the season are also in need of some additional depth and have the cap flexibility to add Iginla without having to surrender too much trade capital. With solid goaltending and defense already in place in Minnesota, Iginla likely has his best shot at a Stanley Cup by joining the Wild and strengthening their forward corps.
Likelihood Of A Trade
The Avalanche have no reason not to trade Iginla and actually would face some significant backlash if they chose not to. Assuming someone with space and need comes calling, Iginla will almost surely be traded. Finishing off a phenomenal career with a championship would certainly be a fitting end for Iginla.