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Latest on JagrWatch, key to Dupuis deal, and how Caps might impact Kennedy.


Update time, dear readers; but first…

= A sincere thanks for all those following along on Twitter. The new name is @RobRossi_Trib – though it appears nobody has had much trouble figuring out the switch from @Rossi_on_Pens. Anyway, if following, you know I’m using it more this offseason than in previous ones; so please keep checking, as I’ll also post updates from fellow Trib hockey scribe Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib), who is playing a big part in coverage of this run-up to Friday’s free-agent period.

= Credit to Josh, by the way, for the latest news on Jaromir Jagr, which can be found here:

I don’t know who is a part of this meeting, only that it isn’t being conducted in person. However, I did hear strong rumblings yesterday that there would be at least one more chat between Jagr and his idol/former teammate, Penguins majority co-owner Mario Lemieux.

From what I’m hearing, there should be a pretty good feel by Wednesday from both sides if a deal between the Penguins and Jagr will get done. That doesn’t mean the public will know anything by Wednesday, but I know both sides are interested in getting the ball rolling on a resolution.

Likely scenario is the Penguins making a “this is the best we can do” offer to Jagr, and giving him a deadline to say yes or no. I don’t anticipate a lot of negotiating between the sides. Anything else would be pure speculation at this point. However, let me add this about #JagrWatch:

  • The public comments by coach Dan Bylsma have been no accident. My guess, knowing Bylsma a bit, is that he’s been using the media to speak directly to Jagr the past several days. (This actually started several weeks ago, a story I can tell after this Jagr situation resolves itself.) Point is: Everybody I’ve talked to about Jagr says something similar to, “He wants to be told he’s wanted.” Bylsma has essentially been doing this since late last week – and who is to say that this wasn’t the plan all along from the Penguins; Shero presents the pragmatic side publicly while Bylsma sends verbal bouquets from afar. At the very least this is something to consider as #JagrWatch seemingly races towards the finish line.
  • Regarding the Red Wings and Canadiens – I suppose it is folly to rule either club out, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Montreal threw a monkey wrench into everything with a multiyear offer. Still, everything I’ve heard is that Jagr is waiting for the Penguins to make their pitch. From the beginning I’ve taken that to mean the Penguins are Jagr’s No.1 choice. At some point, presuming the Penguins make an offer, the puck will be on No. 68’s stick. Ultimately, this decision will come down to him, not the Penguins.


= Regarding the signing of Pascal Dupuis for two years at $3 million total, details of which you could read first about here:

This deal came together fast starting yesterday, and it emphasizes a point:

Never discount a good working relationship between a GM and an agent. Over the past few offseasons Ray Shero and Allan Walsh have closed quickly on deals for players such as Dupuis, Mike Rupp, Ruslan Fedotenko, Miroslav Satan, Petr Sykora, Zbynek Michalek and Marc-Andre Fleury. My view on the reason Shero and Walsh work well together is simple: Both men are tireless workers and honest, but they are also family men – and they connect on that level, even if the subject maybe rarely comes up. Shero has built a family atmosphere with the Penguins, and Walsh’s clients tend to gravitate toward those situations. Why is this important? Well, keep the Shero-Walsh history in mind before dismissing the possibility that something can get done with Rupp before Friday.

= As of now, nothing appears to have changed on the Rupp front. There will be several teams interested in paying him somewhat handsomely on Friday, certainly more than the $825,000 he made each of the past two seasons with the Penguins.

= Not sure about anybody else, but $1.5 million for what Dupuis brings is a great signing by Shero by my thinking. I suspect Dupuis gave the Penguins a hometown discount because he likes the situation. That isn’t a lot to pay a guy who is going to get between 15-20 goals, play hard penalty minutes, work “up and down the lineup” as Bylsma would say, and provides stout dressing room leadership. As I wrote in the last blog update, the Penguins know what they are getting from Dupuis, and that is a big advantage for a team dealing with little cap room. That Dupuis has won over Bylsma the past two seasons speaks to Dupuis professionalism and his commitment to getting the most out of his God-given talent.

= About the cap, it is worth reminding that though it will stand at $64.4 million next season, the Penguins will try to stay about $1.5 million within that heading into the season. This is done so the team has room to make moves during the season, especially at the trade deadline. So, with the signing of Dupuis, and counting only NHL contracts, the Penguins have approximately $6 million to spend under THEIR self-imposed cap number. The obvious question: Is that enough for Jagr and Tyler Kennedy? Remember, as we reported today, this is the Penguins’ plan heading into Friday:

= Intriguing deal between the Capitals and Brooks Laich, which you can read about here:

Looking at this, it strikes me as difficult to fathom how Kennedy’s agent doesn’t convince him to test the market Friday. A few weeks about I spoke with somebody in the Penguins organization who said he expected Kennedy to command at least $2 million as a restricted free agent or in an arbitration ruling. Now that he is unrestricted, the sky might not be the limit, but there certainly is a high ceiling for what a 24-year-old right-handed shooting winger coming off a 21-goal season figures to command.

Seemingly the only way the Penguins keep Kennedy off the market is if he, like Dupuis, decides flat out he wants to stay and gives the Penguins something back to stay. Given the likely bounty he could command starting Friday, I can’t come up with many logical reasons why he wouldn’t see what is out there.







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.

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