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JagrWatch continues; some thoughts to consider.

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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.

 

Cheers,

Rossi

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Comments

  1. john says:

    1. Rumor is that Detroit is willing to pay around three million. Rumor is that the Pens don’t want to go over two million. Seems to mesh with LeBrun’s argument that Detroit is offering or willing to offer more than the Pens.

    2. Rumor floated is that it will take around two and a half million for Jagr on a one year deal.

    3. Rumor from Rossi is that, all things being equal (or pretty close to equal), Jagr wants to play for the Pens.

    1+2+3 = Svboda is trying to get the Pens as close to Detroit’s offer or likely offer as possible (and north of 2.5 million).

    Of course, this is Jagr, so who knows?

  2. john says:

    Follow up:

    1. If it’s all about the money, why wouldn’t he be talking to a team like Edmonton or someone like that would could be interested and has to spend money to get to the cap floor and then use that as leverage against the KHL? Seems like Wings and Pens are last two teams to leverage against other opportunities. Only makes sense if he plans to pick one and is leveraging those two against one another.

    2. People talk about extra factors tipping in the Pens favor. Here’s another one: Detroit plays in the West, and the travel schedule absolutely sucks.

  3. Joe Kemmerle says:

    I’m located in the Philly area. I heard Keith Jones on the local sports radio station the other day. He said while he was at the finals, he discussed with hockey people the Flyers having to trade a player to fit Bryzgalov under the cap. Said the Flyers were deep at center and might move one of those guys. He compared Flyers depth at center to the Penguins and then mentioned he heard from hockey people that Malkin is being shopped. Have you heard anything about that?

  4. Jim Duron says:

    Getting Jagr would help the Power play and that alone would be worth it to me.
    I was just stunned by how awful it was last year. I am really stunned that no one has brought up the issue that this team most likely has too many defensemen and trading one and high priced one like Martin would free up a lot of cash. I still think the Pens need that big physical D-man in front of the net though, englund seems to be that guy but was benched. Martin seems to me the odd man out given his salary, and the number of other Pen D-men who can do the same things and they will have to look at Depres(sp?)too. Just my opinion.

    Jim

  5. AgingGoalie says:

    Whoa, guys…this is at least the second time I’ve seen someone suggesting that Martin could/should be traded more or less now. Let’s relax a little here. Remember how awful Lovejoy and Niskanen were in the Tampa series? Actually, now that I read that, they would have had to improve significantly to be considered awful. Engelland has one season kinda sorta under his belt (he played only 63 games in the regular season, and zero in the playoffs). If you trade Martin, you reduce the team to only having 3 NHL-proven defensemen who have a clue (Orpik, Michalek and Letang), and you force yourself to rely on some combination of Niskanen, Lovejoy, Engelland, and AHL guys who are barely out of their teens (some of whom have never played a regular season NHL game at this point) to make up the other 3 spots on a game-by-game basis. That totally destroys what Shero attempted to build (and with some success) last year, and returns you to the “Geez, that D is fairly iffy” days.

    They have adequate depth at D at this instant…but if you remove one of the top 4 guys, that position suddenly turns into a weakness, because you’re going to have at least 2 of your 3 pairs with at least one guy who is not particularly good, totally untested, or both.

    They don’t have forward assets that are both (a) players that they’re going to be willing to trade and (b) players that are going to bring a solid return. So it’s hard to see them being able to bring in a proven top 6 winger via trade.

    The free agents available, quite frankly, aren’t worth the time of reading the list. There are one or two that I might consider trying to sign if I were in Shero’s chair, but none that I would even think about counting on to win an important game here or there. As Rossi points out, Jagr still can do that (as anyone who saw the Czech/US game at the worlds well knows).

    Kennedy…is a massive risk. He had one OK season. But before we all get carried away, even this year he ranked 129th in points and 84th in goals in the NHL. He also managed to come in 168th in assists and 273rd in +/-. And his previous career high in goals was 15. I don’t know that you cut him loose at this point…but I’d be perfectly willing to qualify him and then live with an arbitration award for a year or two while we see what else he has to offer, if that’s the scenario that plays out.

    Bottom line…you’re likely not going to get anyone better than Jagr internally or via trade or free agency, and you could very easily do a whole lot worse.

  6. Aron says:

    I never thought of the Penguins actually using the Jagr thing as a ploy to get Kennedy’s cap hit down… Shero’s got this thing on cruise control, while we are all anxiously waiting for something…anything.

  7. GC says:

    Sign Rupp period. We are losing toughness. Look at Boston. Goodard is gone, maybe Asham. Rupp fills his role perfectly and should have gotten more playing time in the playoffs. I will take Jagr. Malkin – Jagr ?, Crosby – Neil ? Stahl back on the third line.

  8. sjb says:

    Well Rob, New news is that Mario has spoken with Jagr, so hopefuly that means the Pens are serious and Jagr will be persuaded more easily now that 66 is courting him as well.

  9. Ross says:

    I personally believe this would be a great idea…sign Rupp for cheap, dump rest of the UFA’s, sign Jagr for 1 year deal, and then sign one of these names in free agency: Leino, Zherdev, Joel Ward, Alex Tanguay, Jussi Jokinen, Chris Higgins, Erik Cole. DONE. So then a lineup of Neal-Sid-Kunitz, Malkin-Staal-Jagr, Cooke-Letestu-(Free Agent Signing), Adams-Rupp-Jeffrey

  10. Bob says:

    I hope the Pens sign Jagr … I am old enough to remember what a great player is was, and it seems that he still has some gas in the tank. Plus, if he signs, the Penguin fans would embrace him again and dispel the memory of those who booed him when he came to Pittsburgh as a member of the opposition. Personally, I never understood that mentality. Boo Bonds, definitely! But not Jagr … he did so much for the Penguins the ten years he was with the team. I am ready to buy my Jagr jersey as soon as he is signed … if he is signed! My fingers are crossed …

  11. espo33 says:

    The pens weren’t the best team in hockey last year with those guys out. They were beating crappy teams or winning in SO. Anyone with a real hockey IQ should have known they weren’t a great team and didn’t have a team that could compete in the playoffs.

  12. Brad says:

    Who would you rather pay 2.5 million to… Jagr or Kennedy? If you are still thinking about that question by the time you read this far, something is wrong. Kennedy had what, quadruple the playing time this year and scored a whopping 5 more goals than his career high? Jagr has and can probably still score more than that during a groin-hampered season. Shero, if you need some cap space to sign Jagr, free some up! I’d like to see someone come up with a LEGITIMATE argument as to why Kunitz (who is nowhere near worth his salary) isn’t expendable for a d-man with a lower salary to open space for Jagr. Or, here’s a radical idea… dump Kunitz for little to nothing and you have two wingers (Kennedy AND Jagr) for about the same amount. Besides the hockey sense in signing Jagr, the PR for the Pens would be amazing for the upcoming season. Yeah, Jagr is old-ish. So was Billy G. Kovy didn’t work out- but if one similar player could be considered more of a diva than Jagr, it was him. 2.5 mil isn’t a horrible risk in today’s hockey world- and if Jagr doesn’t produce, some team will gladly take him in a trade. In case you can’t tell I’m not a Kunitz or Kennedy fan. Kunitz is the Penguins’ Ryan Doumit and Kennedy their Ronny Cedeno.

    By the way Ray, SIGN RUPP!!!

  13. Ross says:

    espo33, obviously they werent the best team in hockey last year with Crosby and Malkin out of the lineup. and yeah that was evident with anyone that has real hockey IQ. I thought maybe we couldve seen them gut it out of the 1st round but we know that didnt happe. we had to rely, hope, and believe on Staal, Neal, Kovalev, Kennedy as our top offensive producers against the. not enough obviously when the team your facing has Gagne, St Louis, Stamkos, Lecavalier

 
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