Well, not a lot has changed since this morning on the Jaromir Jagr front. To recap the latest from this morning: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/penguins/s_743173.html
I have no intention of getting into any debate as to whether Jagr is or isn’t a good fit for the Penguins, especially any discussions based of his behavior from 10 years ago. People change a lot over the course of one year – Ben Roethlisberger, anyone? – so it stands to reason that there is a possibility that Jagr is a different person in 2011 than he was 2001.
I do feel comfortable making some observations based off my reporting:
= Mark Madden of 105.9-FM has been reporting that the New Jersey Devils are the third team in on Jagr along with the Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. I’m told that isn’t true by a New Jersey scribe in contact with Jagr’s agent.
= Given that Svoboda doesn’t want to reveal this alleged other team, smart money is still on it being a KHL club – giving more reason for skeptics to believe Jagr’s camp is trying to drive up what would be a tax-free offer to play again in Russia.
= Jagr said this to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun:
“In Pittsburgh, I played there 10 years. I still have a house there. I was too lazy to sell it. Obviously Mario Lemieux is the owner. The team they got, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, plus other great players, if I went there it would be a lot easier.
“But on the other side, Detroit has great players and play closer to my style, a Euro style. That’s a plus. And Nicklas Lidstrom is there, plus Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg – great, great players.”
Read what you will into that, especially if he doesn’t come back and you are in the market for a house.
= The Penguins’ silence on this subject strikes me as potentially telling, and surely intriguing. How much of it has to do with impending RFA Tyler Kennedy, with whom the club is not close to a new contract? The Penguins prefer to keep Kennedy, but are they asking themselves this question about what is more of a risk to a cap-strapped club: Jagr for one year at, say, $2.5 million or Kennedy at $2 million (perhaps more) on a multi-year deal?
Debate among yourselves on that topic…
= Keep in mind that this is the last season the Penguins will bring back this nucleus – Crosby, Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin and Marc-Andre Fleury – without any contractual distractions. As of July 1 2012, Crosby and Staal will enter their respective contract seasons. This is not to suggest the Penguins have one last shot to win the Stanley Cup, but this season does potentially stand out as the last one during which they are guaranteed to have this group of players on the roster. Adding Jagr might make more sense given that situation.
= Consider the Penguins as they were in December – without Staal, without Malkin at his best, and with Crosby at a Lemieux-like level. Best team in hockey? Looked that way. Even if Crosby takes a step back after the concussion layoff, there is potential for Malkin to step up again to elite status, and Staal to be actually on the ice instead of on ice. Add Jagr, even the 39-year-old Jagr, to that mix, and muse about where the Penguins would stand as a contender. Maybe the risk is NOT bringing Jagr in and letting him go to a Red Wings team that the Penguins could face in the Final?
= Jagr fits two Penguins needs that are unlikely to be filled from within or outside the organization: a proven half-wall force on the power play and secondary scoring skill. The Penguins considerably lack the latter, as the past two postseasons have proven. I would argue the Penguins biggest need – in addition to filling out the roster, which can be done if Jagr is signed at around $2.5 million – is finding a player who can win a couple of playoff games that aren’t impacted by Crosby and Malkin.
= Back to the club’s silence on this topic: That doesn’t mean GM Ray Shero hasn’t extended an offer or that coach Dan Bylsma hasn’t spoken with Jagr. Doesn’t mean those things have happened, either. Again, I find the silence so intriguing because it makes me think Shero and staff are seriously considering bringing Jagr in.
= Not to put too fine a point on it, but… if Lemieux picks up the phone and asks Jagr to come back, I don’t see how Jagr says no given everything he’s said about his relationship with his boyhood idol. That is the only prediction I will make on this subject.