30 Thoughts: No gasoline poured on Flames' trade rumours | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in Canada30 Thoughts: No gasoline poured on Flames' trade rumours

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 | 09:17 AM

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Flames captain Jarome Iginla is trying not to let trade speculation become a distraction in Calgary. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Flames captain Jarome Iginla is trying not to let trade speculation become a distraction in Calgary. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Amid rampant rumours that Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla is trade bait, everyone involved, namely the team, the player and his agent, remain silent on and off the record.

Crazy weekend for the Calgary Flames -- an ugly loss in Columbus, a home victory over St. Louis. Oh, and trade chatter about some guy named Iginla.

This is a complex and complicated situation. The primary sources -- the Flames, the player, the agent -- are keeping silent, on and off the record.

When I'm going to say something on Hotstove Tonight or report in a blog, I send a note to the affected party. There's always a response, whether it's "Thanks for the heads up" or "Sorry, I can't comment on this" or "That's not accurate" or "You're a complete idiot."

But nothing on the Jarome Iginla stuff. Zero.

After beating the Blues on Sunday, Iginla told reporters: "Honestly, we've made it this far in the year. There is a lot of speculation -- about our team and me individually. Now, with an important win for our team, it will work itself out in whatever it is -- a week away. I don't want to contribute to it."

I can't fault him. Saying nothing is good strategy because every syllable puts gasoline on the fire. So what do we know and what's guesswork?

Let's do this interview-style:

Q: Is he available?
A: Depends on who you are. Right now, he will only consider an elite group of teams with high Stanley Cup aspirations. The Flames would like him to expand that list because it increases their chances of a better return. Would St. Louis, for example, want in on this possibility? But Iginla's no-move protection allows him control of this process, so that is totally up to him.

Q: OK, what are the teams?
A: There are multiple reports of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings. I was nervous Saturday about specific teams because there was conflicting information. Initially, the four mentioned to me were Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles and Anaheim Ducks. I don't like to guess and wasn't certain.

Here's the kicker, though. There are some excellent sources who say Iginla would go to the Vancouver Canucks.

Q: What?
A: For all the drama around the Lions Gate Bridge this season, the Canucks are third in the Western Conference and tied for the sixth in the NHL. That said, Vancouver is probably Calgary's 28th choice as a trade partner (guess who's last) and it fits with what Kevin Weekes said on Hotstove Tonight this past weekend.

Weekes said Iginla is not interested in being a rental. If that is correct, it opens the possibility he would like a contract extension as part of the process. It's an interesting wrinkle. Iginla's summer home is in Kelowna, B.C., and that would be easy on his family. But I can't see it happening with the Canucks as they have enough contract concerns heading into 2013-14.

Q: Is it 100 per cent certain he's getting dealt?
A: There are some skeptics out there who won't believe it until they see it. "Does he really want to go?" one executive said Sunday.

With the salary cap going down next season, what if a potential trade partner only sees him as a rental? Will Iginla accept that? What if the limited market means Calgary doesn't get what it wants? Will the Flames trade him anyways? These questions that must be answered.

Q: What do the Flames want?
A: They want good young players, whether at the NHL level or prospects. They are also looking for high draft picks. It is not an insignificant price. Reports out of Pittsburgh indicated the Penguins considered it too rich for them.

There are two factors conspiring against Calgary. One is the low number of teams currently part of the process. The other is that Iginla's had a certain comfort zone for a long time. He's been the Alpha Flame. How easily will he adapt to a new situation where he'll be asked to play differently?

A chance to win the Stanley Cup should invigorate him, just like it should invigorate Brenden Morrow in Pittsburgh. But everyone involved has some decisions to make first.


1. Flames head coach Bob Hartley said he'd give Miikka Kiprusoff all three stars in Sunday's win. There is interest, especially since Kiprusoff's actual 2013-14 salary is $1.5 million US. Again, though, Calgary is asking high, leading to resistance. Kiprusoff is 36 and has been hurt, resulting in a save percentage of .866 before Sunday. You can't find anything that low since 2000. Can a few more games like that one ease concerns?

2. Remember this about the Penguins, they're still $7 million under the cap. Is Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney following them around because he has something Pittsburgh wants?

3. The Morrow trade doesn't necessarily mean a Dallas sell off. Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk was otherwise tight-lipped about it, but he did say they are trying to re-sign Jaromir Jagr. The goal is to keep, not trade him.

4. You could tell the Morrow deal was hard on Nieuwendyk. They played together for three seasons. There is a friendship and respect factor between them. "We had conversations during the season about this," Niewendyk said. "You have to do the right thing by Brenden and by the team." Morrow's average playing time was 19:14 in 2010-11, 17:02 last season and just below 15 minutes this year. The Stars weren't going to re-sign him. Not only does this allow Morrow to chase a Stanley Cup, but also look good for prospective employers.

5. Nieuwendyk wouldn't discuss who else pursued Morrow or how the final 24 hours went down. Boston pitched, but there were others. According to sources, Morrow was informed after Saturday's win over Colorado (no one quoted in this blog is used as an anonymous source). Whatever offers Dallas received, the Penguins were the only team he was asked to consider. It was tough for him, but a phone conversation with Penguins GM Ray Shero sealed it. He'll love it there. Who doesn't?

6. There were a lot of punchlines about the last deal consummated between the Stars and Penguins, but it should be noted that Dallas has done good work with some young defencemen since then (Brenden Dillon, Jamie Oleksiak). Yes, Joe Morrow was a healthy scratch in the AHL this year. He's 20. It happens.

7. Accuracy Award: Two weeks ago, I wrote that I thought head coach Guy Boucher would survive the season in Tampa Bay because Lightning GM Steve Yzerman recognized the goaltending wasn't good enough (good call on that one.) I still think that was his plan and he didn't want to make a change now. What happened? It sounds like he and Boucher disagreed on how to adjust to the netminding problems. Boucher's system had defensive risk; Yzerman wanted more caution. Falling behind 4-0 to both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators ended debate.

8. Someone asked if Boucher would get another NHL job. I was surprised at the question. Yes, he can be hard on his players and loves meetings a lot more than they do. But in his first season, he took Tampa from 80 points to 103. That won't be forgotten.

9. It was pointed out by one executive that people shouldn't forget how much ailing assistant coach Wayne Fleming's absence affected the group. His experience and expertise was a calming factor.

10. One of the reasons Yzerman wanted to hold off before deciding on Boucher was to give Jon Cooper another AHL playoff run. Cooper is going to be an NHL coach and soon. Nine players in Sunday's Lightning lineup won last season's Calder Cup with him in Norfolk. This year's team, now based in Syracuse, leads the AHL with 86 points. A lot of Lindy Ruff speculation. Will the in-season change alter Yzerman's plans?

11. Another coaching/management decision being watched closely is in Phoenix, where Maloney, head coach Dave Tippett and their staffs are unsigned after this season. It's believed the league was more than willing to extend them, but they want to know the future of the organization before committing.

12. Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini on Ladislav Smid: "We've had serious talks." Despite some tortuous questioning, no further information was provided. Safe to say, both sides are trying to see if there is a match.

13. Tambellini also nuked the possibility of a Shawn Horcoff trade. People are always looking for centres and $26 million of Horcoff's $33-million contract will be paid off after this season (he also has a no-move clause). Plus, it was not lost on the Oilers that things improved on the marathon road trip when Horcoff returned.

14. Also shot down: a good one about Brian Campbell. Campbell is owed $21.4 million over the next three years, but if the Florida Panthers ate a little bit of that -- say, $2 million per season -- there would be a ton of interest. Panthers GM Dale Tallon says it's not happening, however.

15. UFA-to-be Mike Ribeiro said he isn't interested in a short-term contract. He has three children -- aged seven, eight and 13 -- and he wants the next move (or non-move, if the Washington Capitals are the team) to be the last one for them. Not a lot of centres on the market, either.

16. Western Michigan defenceman Danny DeKeyser arrives in Toronto on Monday and begins poring through NHL offers on Tuesday. The Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay and St. Louis are considered favourites, but agent Wade Arnott says anyone who makes an inquiry will be heard.

17. The Lightning already landed Nebraska-Omaha defender Andrej Sustr. If they get DeKeyser too, that's "a game-changer," according to one exec.

18. The biggest NCAA decision to come this week may be Jacob Trouba's. Michigan's incredible streak of 22 consecutive NCAA berths ended Sunday. It's been rumoured that Winnipeg's first-round pick in 2012 (ninth overall) would turn pro once his college season closed. Time to find out if that's true.

19. When Ondrej Pavelec has a .900 save percentage or better (17 starts), the Winnipeg Jets have 12 regulation wins, one overtime win, two losses and two shootout losses. That's 28 of 34 possible points. When he's below .900, they have 10 regulation losses, one overtime win and one shootout win. Certainly, not all of those lower-save games are his fault, but it shows that as he goes, they go.   

20. Zach Bogosian scored two absolutely beautiful goals over the past week, the winner in a 20-man shootout versus Toronto and a blast against Ottawa. Bogosian could always fire the puck, but he wasn't doing it a lot. One reason? He is holding his stick differently after the wrist surgery. Only now is he getting comfortable.

21. Montreal Canadiens defencemen had 26 goals and 132 points in 82 games last season. This year, they have 20 goals and 84 points in just 31 games. One of the things assistant coach J.J. Daigneault did when he came over from the New York Rangers organization was tell them to set short-term and long-term goals, individually and as a group. When asked what kind of goals, he laughed and said those are kept pretty private, but he did share that he told them there was no reason they couldn't lead the league in defensive scoring.

22. I asked a couple of opponents about the Columbus Blue Jackets run into the playoff chase. Here's the scouting report: "They put the puck in great positions," one coach said. "They chip it to where they're coming with speed or they always seem to put it where their forecheckers can get it." They do get outshot a lot, averaging 26.6 per game, which is 28th, but they get you to shoot from where they want and don't give up too many A-level chances.

23. Blue Jackets rookie GM Jarmo Kekalainen said the team will begin contract talks with Sergei Bobrovsky. With every win, you can hear the cash register. A good comparable looked like Semyon Varlamov, who signed a second contract worth $8.5 million over three years. If Bobrovsky keeps it going, will that be enough? They play 12 of their last 17 on the road.

24. Capitals rookie head coach Adam Oates has a rule for Mike Green: "I don't want to see you below the top of the faceoff circles" in the offensive zone. That, Oates said, was how Ray Bourque played. Good enough for the coach, so it will be good enough for Green.

25. Brooks Laich of the Capitals used post-lockout injury time to change his skating stride. He said he used to put the weight on his toes, but now has it toward the rear of his foot and feels much smoother. He joked he finds shooting pucks in practice boring, but can skate or discuss skating for hours. In fact, he talked about it so much one day last week that he was late to a special teams meeting in Winnipeg. Good conversation, though.

26. Oates' plan for Alexander Ovechkin is also becoming clearer. He's going to be the captain's biggest defender in hopes of increasing the trust factor between them. For example, "People don't realize the physical impact he has on a game," emphasizing the playoff upset of the physical Bruins last season. "Ovi's the guy who took on every guy." Is 65 goals remotely possible? "I think the number's irrelevant." He just wants to see improvement.

27. In a year where a number of Buffalo Sabres have been openly angry about their individual situations, credit Drew Stafford for quietly accepting his benching in Montreal last weekend. Stafford blamed just one person -- himself.

28. It gets forgotten now, but there was a time in the last decade when the NHL was far, far ahead of the NFL when it came to concussion research and treatment. In the last few years, football has made significant adjustments. First, it changed the way defensive players could hit. Last week, it added a new rule that running backs cannot lead with the crown of their helmets outside the tackles. Imagine Jim Brown or one of my childhood gods, Earl Campbell, being told that. Times change.

29. It doesn't mean anyone wants a wimpy or soft game. The NFL is still a brutally tough league. It just means that behaviour has to change because we are learning about the dangers of head injuries. The accusations of bias against NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan are silly (see Carl Hagelin/Daniel Alfredsson, Brian Boyle/Chris Neil or Ryan McDonagh/Max Pacioretty), but whether the sport likes it or not, those same adjustments must be made in the NHL.

30. Alex Kovalev retired last week. I've used this note before, but it's one of my favourite Hockey Night moments. The first playoff series I covered was Montreal-Boston in 2004. The Canadiens fell behind 3-1 as Kovalev faked an injury to get a call in overtime of Game 4 (it didn't work and Boston scored). He was getting destroyed for it, but Glenn Healy, Kovalev's former teammate with the Rangers (and now my HNIC colleague), stood up for him. At the morning skate for Game 5, Healy and I were talking. Kovalev came up to him and basically said, "I heard what you did. Thank you, and I'm going to prove you right." Kovalev had four points in the last three games as Montreal came back to steal the series. Of course, Healy was completely insufferable about it.

Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC

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