Father time is often the toughest opponent for aging NHL players, and future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla is no exception.
Once one of the most feared goal scorers in the league, Iginla regressed to being a support player on both the Avalanche and Kings last year.
Still suiting up at the age of 39, it was rumoured that this past season would likely be the last for the former Flames great.
However, Iginla has expressed interest in returning and chasing that elusive Stanley Cup championship.
Iginla not retiring. LA experience rejuvenated him. "I would like to keep playing but have to wait to see what the options are."
— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) April 12, 2017
While there’s still a chance that Iginla has played his final NHL game, the door remains open for him to sign as an unrestricted free agent.
Despite no longer being a top line winger, Iginla could still be a contributing force on the wing for a playoff hopeful.
A team like the Calgary Flames.
The biggest reason for an Iginla-Flames reunion would be Calgary needing some depth on right wing.
Currently the Flames’ top right wingers are a pair of Mikes, with Micheal Ferland and Michael Frolik occupying top-six roles.
Both are serviceable forwards with some offensive upside, but bringing in an established talent like Iginla would solidify Calgary’s offensive core.
It’s also up in the air as to who the Flames will have on the right side next season, with Ferland, Alex Chaisson, and Curtis Lazar all being restricted free agents, alongside pending UFA Kris Versteeg.
At least one of those names will likely not be with the Flames next season, opening up a potential spot for a winger such as Iginla.
Although his production has taken quite the hit over the last few years, Iginla was able to provide some solid offensive numbers with the Los Angeles Kings, scoring six goals and nine points in 19 games to close out the season.
Nothing earth shattering but surrounded with the right talent, Iginla can still play at the NHL level.
— NHL (@NHL) April 11, 2017
It will also be interesting to see if Iginla would jump at the chance to play with and mentor Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk, as well as other young stars up front for Calgary.
Iginla’s leadership capabilities are well documented, and could help an impressionable Flames team that struggled to find their identity over the first few months of last season.
Now, this is all contingent on the Flames being able to muster up enough cap room to sign their former leader.
Dennis Wideman’s monster $5.25 million contract is set to come off the books, along with contracts to Michael Stone, Deryk Engelland, Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, and Versteeg.
Depending on who the Flames bring back to the fold next year, those UFAs could free up close to $10 million in 2017-18.
Iginla won’t be making anywhere close to the $5.33 million he signed for in 2014, but his pedigree will likely fetch him a contract in the $2 to $3 million range.
The Flames have never been a team to make hockey moves based on fan reaction, but bringing back Iginla for a final victory lap would create quite the storyline.
Traded to Pittsburgh more than four years ago, many felt that Iginla’s exit from the Flames was needed but fans never got to say a proper goodbye.
An inexpensive, one-year contract could give Calgary some depth firepower on the right side while also giving Iginla the proper sendoff.
Ultimately, this decision is entirely Iginla’s, as it should be.
He can either decide to re-sign with the Kings, test his luck by signing with a Cup contender (if you can call a non-playoff team a contender), or maybe strap on the skates one more time at the Saddledome.
If he choses the latter, it’s a safe bet to say that most Flames fans would welcome their former captain back with open arms.