It's late November and the Calgary Flames are near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, so it's time for the Jarome Iginla trade speculation to ramp up again.
On Sunday, Eric Francis of the Calgary Sunreported sources close to Iginla believe the Flames captain is “quietly struggling” with the realization his dream of winning the Stanley Cup in Calgary isn't going to happen.
Francis believes ‘Iggy’ will either have to waive his “no-trade” clause or sign elsewhere in 2013, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, if he hopes to win a championship before his career ends. The problem, according to Francis, is Iginla doesn't want to do anything that would tarnish his image among Flames fans, though they'd probably understand if he moved on to pursue a championship elsewhere.
Team president Ken King and GM Jay Feaster deny they'll shop Iginla, so if he's to be dealt, he'll have to make the trade request himself. But if Iginla doesn't want a blemish on his good name, it'll take King and Feaster to ask him to accept a trade.
When trade rumors linking Iginla to the L.A. Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins popped up last season, he claimed he didn't want to be traded, adding he would only consider waiving his clause if management asked him – and then only if the return would provide immediate help for the Flames.
Neither side wants to be seen as the bad guy and as long as each waits for the other to make the first move, nothing will happen until his contract expires.
That could change later in the season, but even if Iginla agrees to be dealt, finding a Cup contender won't be easy because of his $7-million cap hit for this season and next.
As talented and respected as Iginla is, none of the current contenders – the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, L.A. Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and the defending champion Boston Bruins – has the cap space to comfortably absorb his salary.
Rumormongers will undoubtedly suggest the Capitals offer up right winger Alexander Semin, plus some draft picks and prospects, as their salaries are nearly identical (Semin's earning $6.7 million this season), but the Flames would never make that deal.
Semin isn't a heart-and-soul franchise player like Iginla, plus he's eligible for UFA status next summer, and could bolt if he didn't like playing in Calgary.
The rumor of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby loving the notion of Iginla, his linemate from Canada's 2010 Olympic gold medal-winning team, playing alongside him in Pittsburgh has been kicking around the Internet for nearly two years.
Even if that were true, not even Crosby would want Penguins management to jeopardize his team's depth and current chemistry to land Iginla.
If Iginla agrees to be traded, it’s unlikely to occur before this summer, when teams will have more cap space and willingness to spend it, barring concerns over the outcome of the next round of CBA talks.
Another Western Conference team currently in free fall is the Anaheim Ducks, winners of only one game in November.
Their 6-5 collapse against the Chicago Blackhawks last Friday spurred Randy Youngman of the Orange County Register to wonder if it was finally time for GM Bob Murray to shake up – perhaps even break up – his floundering Ducks.
The Ducks’ poor performance even has right winger Teemu Selanne and left winger Bobby Ryan wondering if big changes are in store.
Youngman pointed out Murray isn't prone to making panic deals and won't withdraw his support of coach Randy Carlyle.
If Murray wants to light a fire and won't dismiss his coach, a major trade is the only option. Youngman believes such a deal would have to involve either Ryan or center Ryan Getzlaf, as right winger Corey Perry – winner of the Hart and Richard trophies last season – would presumably be untouchable.
Selanne would also be untouchable, as he's consistently been their best player and would prefer to retire a Duck at season's end. And don't expect sophomore defenseman Cam Fowler to be available, as he's set to be their blueline anchor for years to come. There's been some grumbling this season over the performance of goaltender Jonas Hiller, but there's no one in the system or the trade market to adequately replace him.
It seems unfathomable Murray would move Getzlaf or Ryan, but as Youngman pointed out, they do have excellent trade value.
Murray doesn't appear to have many palatable options and could remain patient in hopes his club will overcome this slow start, as it’s done in previous seasons, and play its way back into playoff contention.
If, however, the Ducks don’t snap out of this skid soon, look for Murray to either replace his coach or move one of his stars.
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.