by PuckStopsHere on 03/29/13 at 07:33 PM ET
The Calgary Flames are not a very good team. They have the second worst record in the West Conference. Their future doesn't look any better as most of their key players are aging and approaching free agency. They have few young players with significant potential to take their place.
For the last several years Jarome Iginla has been the heart of the franchise. This week he has been traded to Pittsburgh in exchange for no roster players. In return the Calgary Flames get Pittsburgh's first overall draft pick which will be very late in the first round, possibly as late as 30th overall. They also get two college players in Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hankowski, who are not considered strong prospects. There is a reasonable chance that none of these players will be significant NHL players. Quite possibly none will ever play in the NHL at all. This isn't a very good return for a player of Iginla's stature and it isn't clear why they didn't wait until closer to the trade deadline to make their move.
It is expected that Calgary will have a fire sale. Many of their older players including Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Tanguay, Mike Cammalleri, Jiri Hudler and others could be traded for young players. Calgary might also like to move Mikka Kiprusoff but he is on record saying that he won't report to the new team for family reasons (he has a new baby), but this doesn't help his team.
For Calgary to be successful they have to get some top level young players in return for their veterans and if the Jarome Iginla trade is indicative they won't. The remaining players to be traded have less value than Iginla so it would be surprising if they get a better return.
A Calgary team that trades away much of their veteran talent will have to spend money to reach the salary floor. They will be forced to bring in free agents to fill their roster spots next year. These are no players who are going to be part of a turnaround in Calgary. These are players who will hold down a roster spot but likely not help the team improve. Under those circumstances it will be hard to acquire significant free agents with any value. They will overpay for B level free agents, much like the Florida Panthers did to make the salary floor.
If there is a hope for Calgary the hope comes from the draft. If Calgary is a bad team they will get a top pick in the draft for a few years. Hopefully these picks will become top level NHL players and they will become a core that helps Calgary turn their fortunes around. These trades won't help unless it puts the Flames closer to last place (a position they could wind up in without making significant trades).
This CBA system makes it unclear to me how to rebuild. I don't think the model of selling off all your veteran talent for prospects works unless those prospects are top level players - for example when Calgary traded Joe Nieuwendyk to obtain Jarome Iginla - trades like the more recent Iginla trade won't help. Perhaps Calgary could have made such a move if they acted a couple years ago and traded Iginla then. They waited too long. As he approached free agency his value dropped to the point Calgary couldn't get anything significant for him.
The Calgary Flames are going to have a period of several years where they are even worse than they are now. There is no other path that is clear to me. Perhaps they could fluke onto a top player but that isn't exactly a plan. The most coherent plan at this point is to be really bad for the next half decade or so and obtain high draft picks that they hope become stars in the future. The future looks bad in Calgary and it will likely get worse before it gets better.
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