Johnson: Boston the most likely destination for Iginla
The other teams on his supposed list don’t make as much sense
Virtually three years ago to the day, strolling through the press box at Boston’s TD Garden pre puck-drop, a 5-0 battering by the bar-brawling Bruins in the offing, a curmudgeonly, crookbacked sports scribbler happened to bump into an old acquaintance, Andrew Ference, out injured, on the way to the coffee urn.
Idle chatter, naturally enough, turned to Jarome Iginla.
Even back that far, trade gossip was swirling around the Calgary captain as the Flames were staring the first of three consecutive playoff misses right in the kisser.
Ference, of course, knew Iginla well from his time here, had seen him at his dominating zenith, was one of those that followed his lead through four improbable playoff series and into a seventh-game for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup in that never-to-be-forgotten spring of 2004.
So the simmering negativity surrounding the face of the franchise prompted him to let out a disdainful snort.
“Well,” he cut in briskly, “we’ll take him.”
A little late, yes, a few more miles on the odometer, certainly, but they still may.
If Iginla’s widely quoted pared-down list of accepted trade destinations — the Bruins, Pittsburgh, L.A., Chicago — is in fact correct, Boston, at least in terms of need, both team and player, seems the most likely relocation haven for the captain come April 3rd.
For any of those four franchises, authentic Cup contenders all, adding a 35-year-old Jarome Iginla to the mix would be at least a nice luxury.
Not a necessity, though. And never underestimate that part of the equation.
The B’s, by their lofty standards, haven’t enjoyed an exceptional season (third highest point total in the conference prior to Monday night), meaning they might want to make a splash. They aren’t exactly locked and loaded with naturals on the right side. They’re out East, which from a Flames standpoint would keep Iginla from returning to Calgary too often to possibly embarrassingly upstage old friends and admirers. With malcontent Tim Thomas’s $5 million off the books, Boston has some cap room to play with in terms of re-signing Iginla. And Calgary’s assistant GM, John Weisbrod, is a Boston organizational alumni.
So there are some interesting dynamics in play.
Just don’t expect 19-year-old goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban to be heading back this way if something is eventually agreed upon. And teenage blue-chip rookie defenceman Dougie Hamilton? Why, silly people. Dream on.
The Penguins were scratched off the prospective suitors list as soon as they snapped up Stars’ all-heart captain Brenden Morrow on Sunday. Sidney Crosby’s crew, truth to tell, never did make a whole lot of sense as an Iginla drop-off point, outside of fanciful Canadians pining for an Iggy-Kid post-Olympic reunion. It would’ve been sheer folly to break up the Crosby-Chris Kunitz-Pascal Dupuis line, arguably the game’s best right now, and with James Neal patrolling the right side alongside Evgeni Malkin, there really is no place for Iginla on the top two lines or, as a matter of fact, on the first power play unit.
Morrow always seemed a better, less disruptive, fit there anyhow. He’ll go to the banks of the Allegheny, accept whatever role is assigned him and work his tail off, grinding away to beat the band. Difficult to envision Iginla uprooting himself after 17 years here to play a supplemental role, regardless of how enticing the destination.
Chicago? See: Pittsburgh. The Hawks have the luxury of Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa as their top two right wingers. So where do you slot a Jarome Iginla in? On the left side? Difficult to see him switching from Republican to Democrat this late in the game.
L.A., naturally, continues to be an interesting option. They’re looking to improve by the deadline. Word out of Let’s-Do-Lunch-Land, though, is that there’s no earthly way another goaltender, 25-year-old Jonathan Bernier, will be a part of any negotiation. As well, given his age and mellowing temperament, Iginla doesn’t really personify the Kings’ abrasive, sandpapery style anymore and despite their successful collaboration of yore, coach Darryl Sutter has never been the sort to go all misty-eyed with sentiment, overcome by nostalgia. He’ll doubtless take a hard-edged, dispassionate look at what the current Jarome Iginla model, circa 2013, might add to his group and make a recommendation to general manager Dean Lombardi on how far to proceed.
The Kings are still the defending Stanley Cup champs, remember, deep and difficult to play against. Skipper Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford currently man the right side of L.A.’s lineup. It could use that little more scoring punch an Iginla might bring, but the lineup’s not bad, not bad at all, as is.
The fifth option, and a very plausible one, is that nothing gets done by trade deadline day, that Calgary’s asking price is too hard-line and too steep for a 35-year-old, however decorated or revered, set to become a UFA.
Morrow netted a prospect, defenceman Joe Morrow, and a swap of picks from Dallas. Would a bit more than that be enough to entice the Flames and satisfy yowling fans hereabouts?
The very fact the Bruins were also heavily involved in the Morrow bidding further indicates that, for the moment at least, Calgary’s demands — a pick and a prospect? a pick, a prospect and a player off the roster? — might be slightly out of whack with reality.
So with the trade deadline bearing down on us, of the three remaining destinations on Iginla’s reported list, Boston shapes up as the most likely.
But, as hard as it might be to believe given the whirling tempest of speculation, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll wind up there, or anywhere else, by April 3rd.
We may still find ourselves asking the Will-He-Stay-or-Will-He-Go? question as late as late June.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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