Jarome Iginla is joining forces with the hottest team in the NHL. To say that's a dream scenario for his fantasy owners would be an understatement.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, who are already locked in a 13-game win streak, landed the longtime Calgary Flames captain in a monumental deal that became official early Thursday morning. This should be viewed as a best-case scenario for his fantasy owners, as the 35-year-old forward is added to the League's highest scoring offense (3.38 goals per game) and second-best power-play unit (23.8 percent).
If those numbers are any indication of what's to come, Iginla is likely to see a complete turnaround in the plus-minus category to close out the season. He's a combined minus-17 over his last 113 games with Calgary, but has a legitimate chance of finishing the season with a positive rating. The Penguins have 14 games remaining on their schedule, and Iginla should be in the lineup for the vast majority of those.
Despite scoring only one goal in his first 16 games, Iginla managed to reach the century mark in shots on goal and post 22 points and 22 PIMs in 31 games this season. He brings a wealth of experience and firepower to a Penguins lineup that has remained dangerous despite injuries to reigning Hart Trophy-winner Evgeni Malkin and top-ranked fantasy defenseman Kris Letang.
Historically speaking, Iginla is one of only two active players (Jaromir Jagr being the other) with 500-plus goals, 1,000-plus points and 800-plus PIMs in his career. That consistent category coverage, along with the fact that he's notched 30-plus goals in every season since 2000-01 (he scored 28 and 29 in 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, respectively), simply makes him worthy of legendary fantasy status.
So with Iginla's trade destination finalized, where will the veteran wing fit into the Penguins' lineup?
Let's start with the line anchored by the NHL's leading scorer, Sidney Crosby. There have been 30 Penguins goals this season where both Crosby and Chris Kunitz have recorded a point (most in the NHL). Crosby and Pascal Dupuis, meanwhile, are also among the League leaders as a point pair. Considering the well-established chemistry of that trio, it seems unlikely that Dan Bylsma would interrupt such a prolific combo this late in the season.
Malkin has missed the past nine games with a shoulder injury, but took part in an optional practice Wednesday. A potential return date for Malkin remains up in the air, but it's possible that top-10 fantasy forward James Neal could move back to left wing when Malkin comes back so the line could incorporate Iginla. In the short term, Iginla could fit in nicely alongside Neal and Brandon Sutter, who has replaced Malkin on the team's second line. If Iginla works well with Sutter, that duo could even shift back to the third line together upon Malkin's return. As of Wednesday afternoon, Bylsma said he isn't ruling anything out.
Penguins players who could potentially see a dip in fantasy value as a result of the Iginla acquisition include Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy and rookie Beau Bennett. But keep in mind that Iginla hasn't even skated with the club yet. Therefore, his placement within the lineup remains to be seen.
In any case, this trade -- together with the team's recent acquisition of former Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow -- means the Penguins will have a top-9 forward arsenal unlike any other team in the NHL today. If you're a fantasy owner with one or more of the team's forwards in the fold, your fantasy offense is in good hands for the stretch run.
Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen
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