Objectively assessing a trade can be difficult and the common belief is that whomever receives the best player in the deal wins. This isn’t entirely true as assets can develop, emerge and teams can go through many changes that aren’t immediately obvious or quantifiable.
The first pronouncement on the Iginla deal was that the Flames got the short end of the stick. Many fans and observers were underwhelmed with the initial return for Iginla. However, since he has now signed with the Penguins’ divisional rival – the same one that shut both he and the team that traded for him out in the conference finals – the scales would appear to be tipping back in the Flames’ favour at this point.
Now seems as good a time as any to take another look at the overall deal and reassess the value received on either side relative to the costs and risks involved.
First, the trade itself: March 28th, 2013 – to the Penguins Jarome Iginla. To the Flames the rights to Ken Agostino, rights to Ben Hanowski, and a 2013 1st round pick.
I have listed the trade as it appeared on that day, including the rights to the players and a 1st round pick whose place was as yet undetermined for the purpose of highlighting the exact nature of what Feaster and Shero negotiated.
The Penguins got Iginla for 28 games, 13 regular season and 15 post-season during which he chipped in 11 regular season points (5-6-11) and 12 post-season points (4-8-12),averaging over 15 minutes a night in the post-season. He was a contributor in the Penguins’ run to the end of the regular season and was a factor in their first two post-season series wins, but was shut out during the conference finals against the Bruins managing only five shots and going -4 on the series with only 2 penalty minutes.
He was not alone amongst Penguins forwards in this regard as Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin and other star players were effectively kept under wraps by the Bruins during the Conference Finals.
The trade benefited the Penguins by providing depth to a team that is clearly within their window of opportunity to win championships. Ray Shero is under pressure to capitalize on the talent they have assembled at this moment and produce a legacy of winning before the inevitable decline. In this way the trade was a responsible use of assets and, disappointment and defeat aside, was a reasonable bet on a player with a consistent record.
From the Other Side of the Table
Going the other way, the Flames got two prospects ranked around the middle of the Penguins’ system by Hockey’s Future and a 1st round selection. The Flames’ development system this spring was facing a shortage of capable prospects at or near ready to jump to the NHL. They have some promising forwards in the system but most are several years’ away from challenging for an NHL job. Hanowski addresses this need and the inclusion of the 1st round pick is a given for any team trading away franchise core players and that is fully cognizant of their imminent need to rebuild. Agostino is still in the NCAA with one more year of eligibility in Yale and is also close to making the jump to the AHL.
Both Hanowski and Agostino are forwards who projected well in the Penguins’ system as bottom six-support players who can contribute offensively and play an intelligent game. Shero deemed them expendable on account of the aforementioned window of opportunity, despite the fact that this left the team with a noticeable shortage of left wing prospects in the system.
The 1st round pick turned out to be 28th overall and returned prospect Morgan Klimchuk, a player whose resume carries some of the same attributes as Agostino and Hanowski: someone who displays hockey intelligence, brings offense to the game, plays a competitive style and appears to display a strong work ethic. He also projects to be a good complementary player who can contribute to a strong team.
The cost to the Penguins wasn’t insignificant as they now have a weak prospect base on the left wing and felt confident that the 1st round pick would fall somewhere between 27th and 30th.
To the Flames the cost of the deal had more perhaps to do with organizational pride than anything. The Flames franchise defined itself by Iginla for the last decade and the act of trading him away signaled a move that had been resisted, denied even, by every facet of the franchise for the past few years. That being said the alternative would have been to lose Iginla to free agency and thus watch as a core asset turned to ash in their hands.
On trade day the Penguins won the trade. The day they were eliminated from the playoffs the deal was more or less even, following the draft the deal swung in Calgary’s favour and the moment that Iginla signed with the Bruins as a free agent it was a clear win for the Flames. Years from now, if none of Agostino, Hanowski or Klimchuk play more than a combined 100 NHL games the deal would probably look like a horrible loss for the Flames, but as revisions and hindsight take their toll on the deal one needs to be mindful of the weak position from which Feaster bargained.
If any one of the players the Flames got in return for Iginla becomes an NHL player who can legitimately play in the top six or post a career of 600 NHL games or more then the deal becomes a win for the Flames. Iginla’s career numbers were based on his time in Calgary, and aren’t likely to change significantly now that he has left. The team didn’t sell a young star too soon, and had benefited from every ounce of his value internally before finally finding him a new home. Any fault one finds in the trading of Jarome Iginla should be centered around waiting too long to make the move, and less so on the deal once it was finalized.
Did the Penguins get value in the move? Arguably no, as they likely would have made it as far as they did with or without Iginla. He was a contributor but is past the stage in his career where he could carry a team through a playoff series on his own.
Did the Flames get value from the deal? Iginla was an expiring UFA and it was clear to everyone that he was not going to re-sign in Calgary. Therefore, logically it would have been a good move to trade him for the rights to Linus Omark and a signed Gino Odjick helmet. Given the state of the Flames franchise heading into a complete rebuild and faced with the prospect of losing an asset without compensation, the only reasonable thing to do was to trade him. When one factors in the veto power Iginla had in negotiating his final destination the return is understandable, laudable even. The Flames got value for Iginla though, not because of any superior negotiating power, but because their backs were against the wall and they had only two options.
Perhaps as the years go on and Hanowski, Agostino and Klimchuk develop, and as Iginla’s career gradually winds down, perceptions will change.