The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/17/11 at 07:23 PM ET
Okay, so we know, via ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, that Jaromir Jagr and his agent, Petr Svoboda, are indeed interested in bringing Jagr back to the NHL to play for the Canadiens, Penguins and possibly the Red Wings, and Jagr’s agent is now completing a circuit of the Wings’ beat writers, speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about his and Jagr’s intentions...
“He knows about the chemistry on the team and within the organization,” Svoboda said Friday from the Czech Republic. “Why wouldn’t he want to play for the Red Wings? He knows the Red Wings are playing for the championship every year and with the players like (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg, and (Nicklas) Lidstrom, these are players that play with the puck and he likes that style of play. It would be a great fit.”
Svoboda said Jagr would be looking for a one-year contract, which is what the Wings also would be interested in. The agent has contacted several NHL teams but wouldn’t identify them. It’s believed the New York Rangers and Montreal are on that short list.
Svoboda has not talked to the Wings the last few days because of an illness to Svoboda’s mother. Jagr, 39, has played the last three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental League after a Hall of Fame-caliber career in the NHL. Svoboda believes Jagr could still thrive in the NHL.
“He’s a tremendous athlete, a real proud guy, and he has a lot left in the tank,” Svoboda said. “He’s feeling really good and he knows he can help a team.”
Although Jagr would like to return to the NHL, going back to Russia isn’t out of the question. Jagr earned close to $6 million playing for Avangard Omsk last season and likely won’t come close to that in the NHL.
“There are options,” Svoboda said. “We haven’t ruled anything out. We should know more in the next few days.”
The Detroit Free Press’s Jamie Samuelssen’s making a circuit of his own, offering serious-ass rhetoric about the realities of signing a larger-than-life personality at the possible expense of the Wings’ younger players…
So if Ken Holland’s phone rings, and the voice on the other end says, “What if I were to tell you that you could have one of the greatest hockey players of the last 20 years at a dirt cheap price for one year? Is that something that you might be interested in?” Well, of course he would. Anybody would.
I doubt Jagr’s agent phrased it exactly like that (especially the dirt-cheap part), but if the premise of the call is basically, “Is this something you might be interested in?” Holland would have to say yes. There’s no crime in having interest. There’s no financial burden in having interest.
Is Jagr the right move? It sure feels a lot like the Mike Modano move from last off-season. He’s an aging star looking for one last chance at the Stanley Cup. The Wings are a team without a glaring need at forward—but always looking to improve. A team has never won a title with an off-season strategy of “why not?” but there’s no crime in bringing in a player you think might help and not break the bank.
There’s actually little correlation between Jagr and Draper and Osgood, other than their ages. The Red Wings aren’t trying to just blow up the roster and rebuild with younger players. They are trying to improve the roster and get a little younger in the process. Osgood probably would be back if the Wings could count on him staying healthy. And Draper just doesn’t have the same fourth-line appeal that he did when he was younger. The Wings have determined that a younger player can do Draper’s job as well as he does, and when that’s the case, you have to go with the younger guy. Jagr presents a different scenario. He’s not competing for Draper’s job, he’s looking to be a goal scorer on the second or third line. He’s probably looking to do for the Red Wings what the Wings thought they were going to get from Jiri Hudler when he got back from Russia. The question is can Jagr still do it?
The other question, and this gets back to the Draper issue, would be whether Jagr would get in the way of a younger version of the same player. Guys like Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak are looking to get their chance in the NHL, and Jagr could take a roster spot from one of them. Last year, Jagr scored 19 goals in 49 games for his Russian team. That’s not a bad total, but it doesn’t leap off the stat sheet, either. I won’t pretend to know the caliber of play over there, but I’m guessing it’s not quite as good as the NHL.
The Wings’ biggest problem is on defense. It was this season, and it’s only exacerbated by the retirement of Brian Rafalski. Most of the Rafalski money, and whatever else is left under the cap, will go toward bolstering the blue line. So if Jagr is willing to play for a small amount, perhaps Holland will consider it. But one of his greatest strengths as a GM has been keeping the Wings in contention while moving some older players out and pushing some younger players into more important roles. Bringing in Jagr would stunt that process. Even if it’s a minor financial output and a minor risk, it simply isn’t a risk worth taking.
And perhaps most intriguingly, the Red Wings’ website posted a photo gallery and report from Bill Roose, who was allowed to take a peek at the Wings’ organizational powwow this past Tuesday and Wednesday. He at least offers some hints as to what the Wings’ brass believes is the best solution as to how they might go about replacing Brian Rafalski, and, quite possibly, Nicklas Lidstrom:
Lidstrom’s decision has a huge effect on every decision that the Wings will make this off-season. If he returns, the Wings can set their attention to other pressing elements, like making decisions on re-signing Jonathan Ericsson and/or Salei, or abandoning them to test free agency. Another issue involves Jakub Kindl and whether or not the 24-year-old is ready to log a greater workload in 2011-12? Babcock was very positive and upbeat in his praise of Kindl’s development on and off the ice last season.
Yet there was plenty of philosophical discussion about right-handed shooting defensemen likely to be available in free agency, and whether the Wings need to target any of them. With Rafalski’s retirement, the Wings no longer have a right-hander to compliment Lidstrom’s left-handed shot. When conversation in the suite shifted from philosophical directions to actually ranking players that might look good in a Wings’ uniform, there were a few tense moments as guys spoke persuasively. But in typical Ken Holland fashion, the Wings’ general manager was able to lighten the mood with his own brand of levity.
“My mom knows superstars,” he said. “I don’t need you guys to find us superstars. I’ll hire my mom who can do that at half of your guys’ cost.”
Quickly, the room erupted in laughter when Glenn Merkosky retorted, “She’s not doing it for half of my salary.”
As the laughter settled, Holland continued, “The bottom line is we need to find and develop players.”
Reading from a list, Holland rattled off the name of nearly every free agent defensemen – only stopping to add names to the large yellow board propped on an easel in front of the room when someone voiced their support. When that process ended and Holland had the names of several defensemen on the board, team officials debated the perceived worth and fit of each guy. Later in the afternoon, as Day 1 of the scouting meetings wound down, Holland told staffers that he has fielded calls already from other GMs. Before adjourning, the 12 men discussed whether or not the Wings should pursue trade options.
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