This season would be the last on Jarome Iginla's contract with the Flames, leaving his future with the team up in the air. (Getty Images)
Should a season-saving NHL CBA be reached soon, the Calgary Flames and long-time captain Jarome Iginla must eventually reach a decision over his future with the franchise.
At 35, Iginla is entering the twilight years of his NHL playing career. He's also eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.
Though still capable of posting solid offensive numbers – he reached the 30-goal and 67-point marks for the 11th straight season in 2011-12 – Iginla's best years appear to be behind him, along with his chances of winning a Stanley Cup with the Flames.
Since the lockout was imposed in mid-September there's been little news regarding Iginla's plans whenever the NHL returns to action.
He's remains faithful to the Flames organization, while GM Jay Feaster has been reluctant to consider moving his captain. It appears, however, Iginla's future with the club could well depend upon his, and the Flames’, performance in a lockout-shortened season.
Entering this season, the Flames have approximately $66.6 million invested in 23 players. If a season-saving CBA is implemented soon, it's expected the salary cap will be reduced to around $60 million. Teams sitting above the new cap (like the Flames) could be allowed to carry that payroll without penalty for this season, provided they're cap compliant the following season.
With more than $47.8 million committed to 14 players for 2013-14, that shouldn't be an issue, but of course it would depend on if the Flames re-sign Iginla and how much it would cost to do so. He was set to earn $7 million this season, but it remains to be seen if the Flames would be willing to pay him that much again, and for how long.
A new, expensive contract for Iginla could also significantly cut into Feaster's cap space for 2013-14 and, in turn, hamper his efforts to bolster the Flames’ depth.
If the Flames and/or Iginla struggle through a shortened season, it could finally push Feaster to shop Iginla to the highest bidder, provided the Flames captain is willing to waive his no-trade clause.
Regardless of Iginla's performance, his star power would unquestionably garner strong interest if he were to be placed on the trade block, which could lead to a significant return of promising young talent for the Flames.
Iginla was linked last season to the Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins in the trade rumor mill.
Most would still probably have serious interest in Iginla if he became available later this season.
Should the lockout wipe out this season, Iginla would become an unrestricted free agent, forcing he and Feaster to consider Iginla’s place with the Flames in the NHL's post-lockout world under a new CBA.
Playing a shortened season would allow Feaster and Iginla time to evaluate the latter's role with the club going forward, plus leave time for contract negotiations if both sides wish to strike a new deal.
If both sides feel the veteran winger would be better suited elsewhere, a shortened season would allow Feaster time to shop Iginla for a decent return, rather than lose him for nothing to free agency.
Nothing can happen, of course, until there's a new CBA in place, and until that happens, Iginla's future in Calgary remains uncertain.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.