September 9th, 2002


Toss that Wet Blanket Aside

Iginla Signing a Positive from All Angles

AP Photo

Time to Talk Hockey Pundits should give doom and gloom a rest.

by D'Arcy McGrath

Amazing the efforts some will go to in order to toss a wet blanket on an all smiles event in Calgary.

One would think a fully signed up Flames roster, including the now extremely wealthy Jarome Iginla, would shift the focus from money to the ice with training camp less than a week away.

Think again.

With the blue ink on Iginla's contract still wet, negativity has reared its head in other Canadian cities, notably Edmonton and Ottawa.

First into the fray was an article from the Edmonton Journal that opined "There's no chance they'll be able to afford him at $7.5 million in 2003-2004. They didn't sign him to trade him now, but if the Oilers could not afford Doug Weight, how can Calgary pay one guy 25 per cent of their payroll next year?"

That very same day the Ottawa Sun chimed in with a similar theory.

'But calls around the league indicate there's a lot of skepticism as to whether Iginla, 25, will ever complete the second year of his new contract in Calgary. '

'After making $1.7 million last season, Iginla is scheduled to make $5.5 million next year, plus incentives. In 2003-04, Iginla will pull down a whopping $7.5 million.'

'I would think they'll trade him before the second year," an NHL executive said last night."'

'"You have to wonder if a market like Calgary is going to be able to support that kind of contract because it just doesn't make sense to me."'

The Ottawa Sun writer has used this unnamed NHL executive for years, mysteriously getting dream quotes able to fit seamlessly into every single article without ever naming a source.

Sounds fishy? Chances are it is.

It's a noble act to be so concerned about fellow Canadian teams and their fans, to take the time to put such thoughts to paper, but one has to seriously consider the possibility that less than genuine sentiment exists in the thoughts of these writers.

Within a month both Edmonton and Ottawa had to mover their stars. First Ottawa shipped the lamentable Alexei Yashin off to the New York Islanders within a draft day trade that landed the Senators first round pick Jason Spezza, as well as hulking defenceman Zdeno Chara.

Then, in July, the Oilers shipped captain Doug Weight to the St. Louis Blues for a package that has proven to be quite lean for a squad that could ill afford a poor transaction.

I'm not suggesting a certain green eyed critter specifically, but one has to wonder.

Lets look at this logically.

When a small market team bares its teeth and does the unexpected, it's only natural to smell a rat. Can the Flames afford Jarome Iginla? Surely not ... and then the typewriters start a clicking.

The Flames may deal Jarome Iginla; it's certainly a possibility.

But to suggest that this is in their plans a mere hour after a press conference for a deal hatched in a different city, might be jumping to conclusions a smidge, especially considering the announcement came with a large degree of surprise.

Bottom Line

No matter how you look at this situation, it's a win-win for all parties.

Jarome Iginla can play hockey.

The Flames have a full roster to start the season.

Ken King can sell tickets.

The Flames will have to take a look at their player budget again next summer. That analysis may result in the need to shed some salary, it may not.

If the Flames can absorb Iginla at 5.5 million into their fiscal plan, then should an increment of 1.5 million next year result in a show stopper? It all depends.

It depends on other player's contracts, and the increments that they gain. The Flames have Derek Morris to sign, to name a key piece.

It depends on additional revenue that the team is able to garnish, either through season ticket sales this season, or potential playoff revenue this spring.

It depends on the long term plans of the Flames ownership group, and whether or not they see it smart to take a hit, and keep all their players, with one year to got to a new collective bargaining plan. If the owners win big in 2004 a roll back or revenue sharing may make them wish they didn't move Jarome Iginla a year earlier.

If, however, the trade route is sought, the Flames, with a signed Iginla, now hold all the cards.

Dealing Iginla as late as Thursday, without a contract, would see the Flames receiving a diluted package in return.

Now, with Iginla's cost structure assured for two years, the team would receive a package fitting for one of the league's best young players.

So toss that wet blanket aside Calgary, and bring out the smiles. This city has endured enough hockey hardship in the past half decade without looking for rain clouds on a sunny day.

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