July 03 2012 04:17PM
Lost in all the free agent hustle and bustle is that, as July 1 arrives, Flames captain Jarome Iginla is eligible to sign a contract extension with the Calgary Flames. A veteran of almost 1,200 NHL contests and one of a select few to score 500 goals and 1,000 points, Iginla's also the second-longest tenured captain in the NHL (behind Daniel Alfredsson).
All of these factors will play into his next contract.
Precisely whose contract figures we can compare Iginla to is tricky, as quite frankly, there's nobody with comparable numbers in the league except maybe Alfredsson.
Comparing the league's captains, there's a good deal of variation. Ignoring guys that were injured for significant portions of last season, the “average” captain scores 21 goals and 55 points and makes approximately $5.7 million per season.
Based on this metric, Iginla has a reasonable current contract. For an extension, based on other captains and the presumption that while he may not be a perpetual 30 goal scorer, he may average around 20 goals a season for the forseeable future, around $6 million may be an acceptable cap hit.
Of course, comparing captains somewhat downplays that a lot of NHL contracts are based upon rewarding players for past performance – both longevity and production.
In terms of longevity, 15 other NHLers are within 100 career games of Jarome Iginla. There is a good deal of variation in terms of player roles, though. Notable in this group are Daniel Alfredsson and Shane Doan, both of whom were in the captains comparison group.
Within 100 career goals of Iginla are: Marian Hossa, Jason Arnott and Alfredsson. Within 100 career points of Iginla are: Ray Whitney, Joe Thornton and Alfredsson.
Man, Daniel Alfredsson's coming up a lot here.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY?
There are roughly 27 NHLers who were within five points of Jarome Iginla last year in scoring. Between them, their salaries range between $821,667 (Jamie Benn) and $9.5 million (Alex Ovechkin). When you add in players within three goals of Iginla's output, the range tightens slightly to between $1.6 million (Max Pacioretty) and $6.9 million (Patrick Marleau).
Given Iginla's experience, resume and productivity, it's likely that his asking price would be somewhere towards the upper end of that pay range.
To say Iginla has been consistent would be a bit of an understatement. He's scored 30 goals (or more) in each of the last 11 years. He's made $7 million (or thereabouts) in each of the past 8 seasons. The 2012-13 season, the final year of his current contract, will be season #9 of making $7 million or more.
During each of those years, Iginla's been the highest-paid Flames player. As long as he's captain and among the team's leading scorers, that's not likely to change.
A LOOK AT ALFREDSSON
If it seems like Daniel Alfredsson is coming up a lot, it's probably because he's a pretty good comparator for Iginla. Both guys have played about the same number of NHL games and have produced at roughly the same level, although Alfredsson is four years older and has struggled with injuries more than Iginla has. The Sens captain remains probably the best available comparable however.
When Alfredsson turned 35, he signed a four-year deal with the Ottawa Senators worth $195. million – his annual cap-hit was around $4.875 million. That replaced his prior contract, which was worth a cap hit of $4.816 million. Iginla likely won't come that cheap, but it seems probable that his pay-scale will at least follow the same general trend as Alfredsson's
A LOOK AHEAD
It's unlikely that the Calgary Flames will allow Jarome Iginla to become a free agent. He's the face of the franchise and represents, well, most of everything that's good about hockey. He's also one of the most recognizable sports icons in Canada.
That said, he's also 35 and is, at this point in his career, strictly a one-way player. He's shown flashes of the Jarome Iginla of 2004, but that was eight years ago and time usually only runs in one direction. While Bob Hartley probably won't use Iginla precisely the same way as Brent Sutter did, it's likely that Jarome will be placed in similar situations and face similar challenges given the make up of the team.
But he's probably also going to score 30 goals again.
As far as contracts go, the market value for a Jarome Iginla appears to be in the vicinity of $5 million and $7 million per season. While Jay Feaster probably won't give Iginla a blank cheque, his importance to the franchise (both on-ice and in the stands) likely means he'll be offered a deal very similar to the one he currently has. If he anticipates a slight downturn in production as he nears 40, he may accept a bit of a haircut. But don't expect the captain to come cheap.