Media no longer allowed to ask Flames about Iginla’s contract status
Issue continues to loom, but NHL club attempts to limit the distraction by limiting the headlines
Media members were warned —this is the final chance to bring up Jarome Iginla’s contract status.
After Sunday’s gathering, all inquiries about the Calgary Flames captain’s future with the club will be met with frowns and mutterings, rolled eyes and hot collars. Perhaps even a noogie or two.
Scorn will be risked.
So, according to general manager Jay Feaster and Iginla, this was it. Get it off your chest.
Not that anything new was covered in the afternoon scrums.
Feaster echoed the standard — that the organization wants Iginla to retire as a member of the Flames.
Iginla reiterated his own feelings — that there would be nothing better than playing on “a great team” in Calgary.
But the fact of the matter is, Iginla, 35, is in the final months of his deal.
Meaning, like it or not, it is an issue. And will be till he signs, or doesn’t.
But what the team and the player want to avoid is a headline-hogging sideshow.
“We have a goal and a mission,” said Iginla. “We’ve been out of the playoffs for three years. This is going to be a shortened, intense season. We don’t need any distraction. I definitely don’t want that to be the talk.
“It’s part of hockey and you always talk about those things during a season, but I don’t want to contribute to that (distraction).”
Hence Sunday’s scheduled air-clearing.
“That’s why we felt it was best to address it in this way,” Feaster said on Day 1 of training camp. “We all recognize that Jarome is entering the last year of his deal — we fully understand the situation. But we’re not going to negotiate in public. We’re not going to talk about it publicly.”
He added that, during the summer with the looming collective bargaining agreement negotiations, neither side was interested in rushing to a new pact — not the team, not Iginla (through agent Don Meehan).
Now, though, they’ll chat. Iginla has drawn a $7 million salary since the 2004-05 lockout.
“Once the season gets started, we will have conversations,” said Feaster. “The most important thing from the club’s perspective is that nothing has changed as far as our desire to see our captain be here . . . for the rest of his career.”
All well and good in theory, but suppose Iginla remains unsigned as the April 3 trading deadline nears?
Would you consider swapping him?
“We’re fully cognizant with where we are with his contract,” said Feaster. “With any player . . . if you don’t get a deal done, we all know what the options and alternatives are. It’s a balancing act that you weigh as you go through the process. I don’t think it’s any secret what the options are. It doesn’t mean if we don’t have a deal that we don’t continue (to negotiate) . . . it doesn’t mean we trade Jarome.”
Iginla has skated 15 full seasons in Calgary — good for 1,188 games, good for 1,073 points.
It’s enough to make you forget he was originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in 1995, 11th overall between Florida’s pick of Radek Dvorak and San Jose’s selection of Teemu Riihijarvi.
“I believe in this organization and this team,” said Iginla. “I think we can be a very good team. This is home for me. So my preference would be to play here on a great team and win. I think we can do that. My focus is going to be on helping this team . . . firstly leading to the playoffs and ultimately (winning the Stanley Cup).
“I believe the organization is going in the right direction.”
But if wins aren’t coming — and they don’t seem likely — then what?
“Being out of the playoffs the last three years, I know there’s questions,” said Iginla. “You get written off that you’re not a good team, but we didn’t miss by very far. We haven’t taken that next step to being a better team. But we’re still a good team. We’re better than we’ve shown.”
Yes, but what if the team isn’t doing so hot coming into the trade deadline? Then what?
“That’s definitely not where my thoughts are right now,” replied Iginla. “I honestly think we will be a good team. I don’t want to do what-ifs or anything like that. I truly believe it will be positive. That’s where my head is at today.”
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