Flames right to wrap up Iginla
Donít stop me, even if youíve already heard this ...
The contract starry right winger Jarome Iginla signed with the Calgary Flames recently -- $5.5 million this season, $7 million next season and a $500,000 signing bonus, plus other incentives for finishing in the top five in the voting for Most Valuable Player, scoring title, etc. -- will keep the National Hockey Leagueís best power forward in Calgary for just one more season.
Then, as doomsayers would have it, the Flames wonít be able to keep him because his $7 million salary would be some 25 percent of the teamís salary and they wonít be able to afford him.
Hey, it happened in Pittsburgh with Jaromir Jagr. And it happened in Edmonton with Doug Weight. Those are the cases they will point to.
Yeah. Yeah. I know the NHLís Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Playersí Association ends after the 2003-04 season -- is fast approaching and most contracts in the League now are for the next two seasons. And thatís all, because most experts figure a a labor dispute is inevitable.
War chests by players and owners reportedly are growing for that inevitability.
But if a team canít afford to keep itís most recognizable player like Iginla, well, then, it hasnít done its homework. More precisely, it hasnít done its job of producing entry-level salaried players who can play.
That, my friends, is the gist of this puzzle we call Management 101. Just ask the Minnesota Twins.
OK, so much for my rant. Now I'll tell you why I think the Flames did the right thing.
Many believe it's a matter of time before Flames GM Craig Button swaps Iginla for a handful of players. They are dead wrong.
First, the Flames are a year older -- and presumably better -- after starting last season with an impressive 13-2-4-2 record. The lack of depth caught up with this team over the long haul. Still, a playoff spot is almost a necessity -- and in the fiercely competitive Western Conference that may only be a dream right now.
But with Iginla helping to make the team more competitive, you would like to think that the fans who promised to buy tickets if the Flames made the commitment to keep Iginla with this latest contract will buy into the teamís plea to come out to see it. No one is naive enough to believe that selling tickets and making the fans happy is the first order of business for the Flames -- and there is reason to believe the team will be more entertaining.
The other reason why I donít think the Flames will just trade Iginlaís contract after this season is Button himself.
Let me explain:
After the 1995 Entry Draft, Button couldnít control his emotions.
"I think everyone can do the math," he said. "Bryan Berard and Wade Redden were givens to go 1-2 ... and there were others like Daymond Langkow people were talking about."
But Button, who then was the chief scout for the Dallas Stars, slyly smiled.
"I watched the scouting lists all season and couldnít believe that Jarome Iginla wasnít rated higher," Button said. "I sweated out every minute of the second half of the year and every minute until our turn to pick came at No. 11.
"What heart, soul and passion for the game. A prototypical power forward. Wow!"
Iíve often thought of that anecdote over the years, especially after Dallas traded Iginla to Calgary in order to get Joe Nieuwendyk. Even if Nieuwendyk did help the Stars to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 and 2000 with his veteran skills, Iíve often wondered whether Stars GM Bob Gainey had to hog-tie Button the day he sent Iginla to the Flames.
Knowing all of this, Iíve got to think that Button would have to be chained if someone in the Flames front office tells him that he has to trade Iginla, who enters this season as the reigning NHL scoring champion and only player in the League to top the 50-goal mark last season.
No, I donít think the affects of any labor dispute will start in Calgary.