Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Time To Sign Iginla?

Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
With winger Jarome Iginla likely headed to free agency on July 1, there became a bit of speculation as to if the Wild should go after their number one nemesis in franchise history (Iginla has the most points by any opposing player against the Wild).

So lets dig into the question: Should the Wild make a play for Iginla?

Iginla, 37, is coming off a fantastic season. He scored 30 goals (tied for best on the team) and 31 assists in 78 games for Boston this year. In the playoffs, he paced the Bruins with five goals in 12 games (Boston was eliminated by Montreal in round two).

Of all the impending unrestricted free agents this summer, Iginla rated third in points per 60 minutes played, averaging 2.01. His 1.08 goals per 60 minutes was second in the league among UFAs as well. Again, this was done at the age of 37 (most players at that age have issues getting contracts).

Here is a look at the P/60 numbers for Iginla from the past three seasons, which has made increases during that time:

But what made the difference for Iginla this season compared to previous ones, was the fact he was playing on the top line of a top five possession team in this league. It was a far cry from his last days in Calgary when he was playing with Alex Tanguay and Mike Cammalieri.

Here are Iginla's top linemates and the percentage of time he was on the ice with them from the past three seasons (my god, the difference):

2013-14: Krejci 93.3%, Lucic 88.6%
2012-13 (PIT): Malkin 62.9%, Kunitz 35.7%
2012-13 (CGY): Tanguay 63.6%, Cammalieri 35.1%
2011-12: Jokinen 49.4%, Tanguay 44.0%

As a result of his staying on a line with Krejci and Lucic for most of the year, both his Corsi For and Fenwick For numbers bolted up from the previous years.

But as you can also see in the above photo, he did not have good CF% rel and FF% rel numbers with Boston (meaning the team did slightly better with him not on the ice). Boston has been a great possession team in recent years, so it is not a surprise his numbers took a spike. But as you can see (sans the 13 games he played for Pittsburgh), he previously has not done well when it comes to CF% rel and FF% rel.

Deployment wise, Iginla got a high majority of his faceoffs in the offensive zone, but was not playing against some of the opposition's best players. He was getting more of his ice time against above average players, as you can see in the below graph.

Iginla took advantage of his deployment and the lack of great opponents he faced this year. Had his year been a little tougher, he probably finishes around 25 goals. 

Its hard to predict what Iginla will do next year. It appeared that his career was on the decline but has turned it around since being traded to Pittsburgh last year. He should be able to score around 25 goals and 50 points, should he wind up on a decently good team (Detroit has been rumored to be a potential landing spot). But should we expect another 30 goal season from the aging star? Probably not. Its hard to imagine him having great success like he did on a line with Krejci and Lucic, anywhere else.

Should Minnesota dish out a contract a one to two year deal worth $5-6 million annually to get Iginla here? No. Iginla would not be worth that cap hit, even in a short term contract. The team is better off finding someone younger with a more proven history of possession numbers to boost their scoring woes.

It hurts to say (because he has hurt us so often in the past) but Iginla is better off playing against the Wild than for them. 

Stats and tables/graphs in this post are from Extra Skater and Hockey Abstract

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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