SUN Hockey Pool

Smart keeping Iginla

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

The former Flame gave his phone number to this scribe, but there was a string attached.

If any of those crazy trade rumours about Jarome Iginla panned out in the off-season, he wanted a heads-up.

“You can call me for reaction when we trade for Iggy,” he said after confirming the digits.

Even with a month remaining in the 2009-10 NHL season, players from around the league were starting to ask Calgary media about Iginla’s status if the Flames missed the playoffs.

Would he really be traded?

There was speculation that may happen, but that will not be the case.

Wise move.

From a traditionalist’s point of view, it would be wonderful for Iginla to spend his entire career as a Flame. Too few elite players start and end a career with one team — Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic are among the rare exceptions — and for all he’s done as the face of the franchise, Iginla would appreciate the opportunity to do the same.

But keeping Iginla is as much a pragmatic move at this time.

The argument to trade the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, goals and points is based solely on dollars, but you have to question the sense.

A deal sending Iginla away from Calgary would allow the Flames to change the way they would spend $7 million over each of the next three seasons. The theory being the Flames could use that money on two or three players and maybe even nab a top prospect.

Does anybody believe such a plan of attack would work?

Not for next season. Maybe never.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter tried that approach in the Dion Phaneuf trade, and nobody can call any of the players brought to Calgary in return anything close to a star.

Unless the Flames receive a high enough draft pick to ensure themselves a franchise player — we’re talking about Edmonton’s first-overall choice or the No.-2 selection the Boston Bruins received from Toronto for Phil Kessel — it doesn’t make sense to trade Iginla.

For starters, the NHL’s second-worst offence can hardly afford to lose its lone gamebreaker.

Sure, Iginla scored only 32 goals and sputtered down the stretch, but where would the Flames be without him?

Does anybody truly want to find out? It would be even worse than allowing Michael Cammalleri to walk.

Trading Iginla would hurt off the ice, too. Even if he’s not the Hart Trophy candidate he was a few years ago, Iginla has a tremendous amount of respect around the NHL.

The kind which puts the Flames in a better light with players.

Want to woo a free agent? Iginla being part of the mix provides a certain kind of currency you can’t buy.

Down the road, Iginla may very well decide the time has come to move along. It may be to chase a Stanley Cup. Or it may be because he’s fed up.

Until that day comes, the Flames are best to keep their franchise player as long as possible.

Especially while trying to return to being a playoff team.


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