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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 12:51 PM

Iginla's future in Calgary unclear

Eric Duhatschek

All the chatter Tuesday morning at the Pengrowth Saddledome revolved around the future of Jarome Iginla in a Calgary uniform – and the inevitable question of what they might get for him in return if the Flames entertained offers for his rights.

My view is that a deal would only make sense if they could land a top-two prospect – either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, in the 2010 entry draft – in return. Otherwise, it’s too much of a gamble – to deal the face of the franchise, a productive player, an excellent leader, someone who still has some good years left – if all you get in return is a solid NHL player. That sort of deal would set the franchise back for years.

But the discussion also reminded me of the history of just how Iginla got to Calgary in the first place – and the broader story of the draft choice that just keeps on giving. One could argue that the single most productive pick in the long history of the NHL entry draft came when the Atlanta Flames chose Kent Nilsson in the fourth round, 76th overall, in 1976 – this after trying and failing to secure Nilsson’s rights the year before by getting his first name wrong.

After getting 562 points in 425 games from Nilsson, the latter fell out of favor with coach Bob Johnson, and so general manager Cliff Fletcher traded him to his friend, Lou Nanne of the Minnesota North Stars, for a pair of second-round draft choices. With the first of those picks, the Flames selected a relatively obscure college star from Cornell named Joe Nieuwendyk.

Nieuwendyk unexpectedly became a star, but after nine years in Calgary (and one Stanley Cup), he got into a contract dispute with the team. Eventually, general manager Al Coates ceded to Nieuwendyk’s trade demand and sent him to Dallas for the rights to Iginla. This past season, Iginla played his 1,000th game for Calgary; he has twice won the Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, and led them to the 2004 Stanley Cup final.

Currently, Iginla, Nieuwendyk and Nilsson rank 1, 4 and 6 on the Flames’ all-time scoring list.

If the Flames could somehow turn Iginla’s rights into a Hall or a Seguin, well, that would keep the legacy of that obscure 1976 fourth-rounder going for another generation. Something to think about for whoever happens to be running the team next year – Darryl Sutter, if he keeps his job, or whoever they eventually settle on to replace him.

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James Mirtle

James Mirtle joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the Toronto Maple Leafs. A graduate of Ryerson University and Thompson Rivers University, he has written about hockey from junior on up the past decade and has a background in new media, statistical analysis and blogging. You can follow him on Twitter here.


David Shoalts

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David joined The Globe in 1984 as a layout and copy editor in the sports section. He attended the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College. After graduating in 1978, he worked at the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and later the Toronto Sun. He has covered the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL since 1990 and became a hockey columnist in 2003.

Eric Duhatschek

Eric Duhatschek

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. Eric has covered four Winter Olympics, 19 Stanley Cup finals, every Canada Cup and World Cup since 1981, plus two world championships.


Matthew Sekeres

Matthew is The Globe's national sports correspondent in B.C., covering the Canucks, Lions and other sports happenings on the west coast. Montreal-born and Ottawa-raised, Matthew is a graduate of Carleton University's School of Journalism. He has worked at four metropolitan dailies and for TSN. Matthew has covered the Beijing Olympics, three Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, nine Grey Cups and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Allan Maki

Allan Maki

Allan joined The Globe in 1997 after spending 19 years as a reporter and columnist at the Calgary Herald. Born in Thunder Bay, he graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 1977. A past president of the Football Writers of Canada, Allan has covered every Grey Cup since 1980. He's been to seven Olympic Games and covered everything from rodeos to the World Series to the Super Bowl.


Darren Yourk

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