The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/21/11 at 04:00 PM ET
Updated 3x with more Jagr stuff from LeBrun and Howard joining U of Maine’s sports hall of fame: According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and a “mystery team” are in the running for the services of Jaromir Jagr, who’s no longer considering playing in the KHL for the 2011-2012 season…
Agent Petr Svoboda said Pittsburgh, Detroit “plus another team I can’t name” are the three options for his veteran client.
“We have to make a decision soon,” Svoboda said from the Czech Republic.
Svoboda said Jagr would sign a one-year deal with one of those three NHL teams. He also said a decision should be made within the next few days, perhaps as early as Tuesday. Jagr met all day with Svoboda on Monday and the two were slated to meet again later Tuesday. It appears going back to Russia’s Continental Hockey League, where Jagr has played the last three seasons, is no longer in the mix.
“He’s really decided he wants to play in the NHL and he’s excited about it. He’s ready for the challenge,” said Svoboda. “His mind is pretty much made up but he wants to make sure.”
Jagr’s agent Petr Svoboda this morning tells me it’s down to 3 teams: Pittsburgh, Detroit and one other NHL team he doesn’t want to name.
``He’s really decided he wants to play in the NHL and he’s excited about it. He’s ready for the challenge,’’ Svoboda told ESPN.com.
Svoboda plans to meet with Jagr again later today. Decision should come within next few days
@dchesnokov I wouldn’t totally close the door on the KHL, but Svoboda said Jagr’s heart set on NHL return…
One thing I’ve learned over the years: while the agent says Jagr is likely NHL-bound, that doesn’t mean it’ll happen for sure… we’ll see
For the record, only the Wings have publicly confirmed their interest in Jagr. The Penguins have not said a word.
Am told Pittsburgh is interested in Jagr only if it’s a very low price… My guess that means $1 million or less…
Wings have offered more money than Penguins at this point. That can change in one phone call from Mario. But that’s where it stands now.
MLive’s Ansar Khan suggests that Jagr’s decision isn’t necessarily imminent...
Former NHL star forward Jaromir Jagr has narrowed his choices to the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and one other club, his agent, Petr Svoboda, said on Tuesday. Jagr, 39, wants to return to the NHL after three seasons with Avangard Omsk of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
“I’m still talking to Kenny (Red Wings general manager Holland), absolutely,’’ Svoboda said. “I’ll meet with (Jagr) tomorrow morning. It’s hard to put a time frame on (his decision).’‘
Jagr, the five-time NHL scoring leader, will sign a one-year deal, likely with a low base salary and performance incentives.
Jaromir Jagr is narrowing his options. Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, told The Detroit News on Tuesday morning that Jagr, if he returns to the NHL, would like to play of the Red Wings, Pittsburgh, or “one or two” other teams.
Those teams are believed to be the New York Rangers and Montreal. Jagr, 39, has played the last three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental League.
“He’s leaning toward coming back to the NHL,” said Svoboda, who wouldn’t completely rule out a return to Russia. “There are three or four teams (that are interested in Jagr). We’ll see what happens. Jaromir is excited about returning to the NHL.”
Svoboda said he spoke to Wings general manager Ken Holland within the last few days. Holland confirmed interest in Jagr if the salary fits into the Wings’ plans. Jagr earned nearly $6 million in Russia last season. The Wings are expected to offer less than half of that as a base salary, not including incentives.
But things have gotten complicated as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Bob Rossi reports that Jagr’s “heart” might be set upon returning to Pittsburgh:
Petr Svoboda, Jagr’s new agent, said he will talk again today with Penguins general manager Ray Shero about possibly signing a one-year deal with the Penguins. Jagr’s legacy with the Penguins is a factor.
“We talked a lot about that (Monday), just Jaromir and I speaking about his days with the Penguins,” said Svoboda, speaking from the Czech Republic, who indicated the Penguins have expressed interest. “Playing again in Pittsburgh is obviously something that’s on Jaromir’s mind, but I wouldn’t say it’s the main factor. The main factor for him is having a chance to win again.”
Svoboda said it’s “obvious” Jagr’s not seeking top dollar. He would not provide a range of salary Jagr is seeking.
The agent suggested the Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are front runners, but said other teams are in the mix. He would not identify those teams or the league’s in which they play. Jagr, 39, has played the past three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Regarding the Penguins, Svoboda said the appeal to Jagr is returning to his NHL roots, playing with centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and “being part of the professional, winning organization Ray has built.”
Shero is not the only Penguins’ official on Jagr’s mind.
“I talked to Jaromir yesterday about Pittsburgh. (Jagr) loves that team, that city,” Svoboda said. “I also spoke with (former Penguin) Robert Lang and he told me Mario Lemieux is trying to reach Jagr right now to talk.”
Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski summarized the dramatics surrounding Jagr’s decision-making process quite well…
So the dance continues, as do the concerns. How much will he cost? Can his 39-year-old body hold up to the rigors of the NHL when one great Alex Ovechkin hit in the Olympics seemed to sap him of this mojo? At what point does he have to begin prepping his coif for a proper Jagr mullet?
Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette harbors (most) of those concerns and one more: That Jagr will be the same sulking, gamblin’ dressing room distraction he was during his days in Pittsburgh.
In a way, they’re all issues with maturity, whether physical or emotional. When he left the New York Rangers at age 36, Jagr still had this nagging ambition to be THE GUY for that team, both in ice time and in salary.
He’s older now, perhaps a bit humbler. He demanded $7 million from Glen Sather in 2008; had he done the same in 2011, Ken Holland and Ray Shero would have texted each other with “LOL” and then given him Dale Tallon’s FAX number in Florida.
We don’t see Jagr as a locker room cancer or anything of the like. The real issue, and perhaps the only one worth debating for Penguins and Red Wings and Devils Mystery Team fans:
Can Jaromir Jagr help my team on the ice in 2011-12, or is this just a momentary lapse in which nostalgia conquers logic? Because that highway’s crammed with broken heroes like Mike Modano(notes) in Detroit, Peter Forsberg(notes) (again and again) in Colorado and Alex Kovalev(notes) in Pittsburgh and ...
Here’s what Molinari had to say:
Oh, it’s possible that all the talk in the past few months actually has been designed to give him leverage in negotiations with SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League – a club that purportedly hired a Czech coach (Milos Riha) this spring because Jagr wanted him to get the job – but his interest in returning to North America seems genuine. What isn’t so clear is just how much, if any, actual interest the Penguins have in bringing him back, although there apparently is at least a bit.
They’ve had several opportunities to do so during the past three years, but didn’t bother. And when general manager Ray Shero was in Slovakia for the world championships this spring, he didn’t even arrange a face-to-face meeting with Jagr, even though he had an invitation to the 1991 team’s 20-year reunion this summer to deliver to him.
It’s no secret that the Penguins are short on NHL-caliber right wingers, but it’s not a stretch to question whether a 39-year-old is a realistic answer to their personnel problems.
Jagr’s strong performance at the world championships this spring showed that he still has considerable skill, but the fact is that he’s averaged a little more than 50 games-played during the past three regular seasons. That means it is valid to wonder how he’ll be able to handle the 82-game grind of playing in North America, where the ice surface is smaller and the hitting more frequent than in Europe.
Jagr picked up a lot of off-ice baggage during his time with the Penguins – his fondness for casinos and penchant for leaving behind large sums of money when he visited them hardly was a secret – and he did an awful lot of sulking during his final seasons here.
The Penguins are just a few months removed from a failed experiment with bringing back another one-time superstar, Alex Kovalev, who was a major disappointment after being acquired from Ottawa, although he never was accused of being a disruptive influence in the locker room, the way Jagr was.
If the Penguins are seriously interested in bringing him back – and again, their level of interest remains unknown at this point – perhaps Jagr will reward them with a productive season, and be a model citizen, on and off the ice. It’s possible. Whether it’s realistic to expect might be another matter.
That kind of talk scares the hell out of me. Is an NHL return really realistic for Jagr to begin with? And is the interest from the Rangers, Capitals or this “mystery team” a figment of Svoboda’s imagination, trying to drum up a better offer from Avangard Omsk or generate new interest from SKA St. Petersburg or Atlant Mytischi?
Even the Czech news agency CTK is repeating today’s reports, so who the hell knows what’s really going on…
Via MLive’s Phil Zaroo, WXYT’s Ken Kal offered an intriguing take on Jagr…
“If you compare his numbers to that of Jiri Hudler, he’s put up some good numbers,” Kal told WZAM-AM. “He is an All-Star player and somebody that could provide a lot of offense. But, it would have to be the right fit and at the right price—and that’s something that will be determined later on after free agency.”
Jagr, a five-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer, recently expressed interest in returning after a three-year absence and named the Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and an unidentified club as his front-runners, according to his agent, Petr Svoboda.
“They’re not going to overpay him to be a part of this Detroit Red Wing team,” Kal said. “But, if he can come with a hometown discount and they can get him at a good price, why not? They’ve had guys like Marian Hossa, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille towards the end of their careers. Why not? He’s a proven goal scorer.”
“If you look at all the players that have played with the Red Wings at the end of their career, some of those players have had problems elsewhere, but they seem to buy into the program,” Kal said. “I don’t think that would be a problem if the Red Wings were to take a shot at Jaromir Jagr.”
As well as the Wings’ hunt for a replacement for Brian Rafalski and the futures of two “company men”:
Listen to the entire interview as Kal discusses potential free-agent pickups, including Vancouver defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa, and the future surrounding Kris Draper and Chris Osgood.
“I know both players have said they want to come back and have a lot of gas in the tank to give, but that’s something that will have to fall in place depending on what happens in free agency,” Kal said.
Paul already posted this, but the Vancouver Province posted a variant of the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff’s take on the Wings’ search for a #2/3 defenseman which includes some trade/signing talk which wasn’t included in his Windsor Star column:
With Rafalski’s $6 million off the books and a projected salary-cap increase of similar ilk, the Wings will have more than $10 million available to spend. “We’re going to explore ways either on the trade front or through July 1 free agency,” Holland said. “We want to be active, we want to make some additions to our team, and we’re open-minded going in.”
The problem is the available UFA defenders aren’t exactly what you’d call a bumper crop. The Wings’ brass aren’t fans of Joni Pitkanen, and at the risk of starting another car-burning riot in Vancouver, don’t view Kevin Bieksa or Christian Ehrhoff as $5 million men.
“We’re looking to be active, but at the same time, we’re not looking to spend a bunch of money and have press conferences,” Holland said. “We want to find players that fit our team, fit our system and with salaries we think will help us continue to be competitive in a cap world.”
The best fit for Detroit is likely Montreal’s James Wisniewski, a righthand shot with an edge to his game who also happens to be from Canton, Michigan. With Lidstrom in the fold, the Wings can afford to be picky.
And for the moment, the other Wings-related topic of note (sorry for getting a late start today) involves the return of Nicklas Lidstrom, with MLive’s Ansar Khan paying tribute to Lidstrom’s 19 years of sustained dominance while keeping an eye upon the Wings’ future moves…
The Red Wings have four NHL defensemen under contract: Lidstrom, Kronwall, Brad Stuart and Jakub Kindl. Holland is continuing contract talks with Jonathan Ericsson, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He said a decision on whether to offer veteran Ruslan Salei a contract will come in the next 10 days.
The club is counting on top prospect Brendan Smith to make the team next season after one year with the Grand Rapids Griffins. And veteran Doug Janik, who has a one-way contract for 2011-12, could make the roster as the seventh or eighth defenseman.
The Red Wings will look to acquire a top-four defenseman through free agency.
“We got some cap money,” Holland said. “We plan to be aggressive on July 1 and sign a defenseman or two. We’re going to find players that fit our team, fit our system. But we’re not going to spend a bunch of money just to have a press conference.”
One of these years, maybe next year, Lidstrom will hold a press conference to announce he is retiring. The Red Wings won’t be the same. For now, regardless of any other moves the Red Wings make, with Lidstrom back in the fold, they are sure to extend their playoff streak to 21 seasons and contend for another Cup. They are a model of consistency. And Lidstrom is the epitome of sustained excellence. There may never be another player like him.
We’ve been programed a long time to have a first reaction to the question, “Who is the greatest defenseman of all time?” Answer: Bobby Orr. But that should be changed, in my opinion, to Nicklas Lidstrom.
That’s not meant as any disrespect to Orr. He was a breathtaking skater with stunning offensive skill. His defense was very good, despite all the risk taking, and he was rugged. It wasn’t like the big, bad Bruins were doing the fighting for him. And he did change the game with his style of play.
He also had a knee ailment that shortened his career. His career was roughly half as long as that of Lidstrom. Longevity should count for a lot. And so should the understated play of Lidstrom, whose style is more an art form than a screaming headline about his brilliance. He has also been a study in persistence. Orr was 26 the last season he won the Norris Trophy; Lidstrom 30 when he first received the honor.
Lidstrom has played, and thrived, through three very distinctly different eras of hockey - the run-and-gun early-to-mid 1990s, the grab-and-hold period from the late 1990s-to-the strike year, and in the so-called “new” NHL. He’s starred internationally, scoring the game-winning goal in the gold medal game at the Olympics for Sweden. The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cup championships with Lidstrom along the blue line, once with Lidstrom receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy.
[Wednesday], at NHL Awards, he is up for his seventh Norris Trophy. It was laughable last season he wasn’t even nominated. Nor that he has never been seriously considered for the Hart Trophy given his value to the Red Wings. He has accomplished so much it’s odd that Lidstrom is somehow still unrecognized for what he is in hockey lore. The best defenseman ever.
But, as Paul posted, the Hockey News’s Justin Bourne acts like a bit of a…
[edit: I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. Let’s say aesthete?] in suggesting that Lidstrom should have retired:
The professional hockey god that is Nicklas Lidstrom, at age 41, has decided to come back for one more year. He’ll once again cash a nice paycheck and have another run at the Cup with the perennially solid Detroit Red Wings. With his career and his legacy, he’s earned the right to come back if he wants to. I just wish he wouldn’t.
It’s not that he’s going to enter the sad ‘MJ’ or Jeter or Chelios phase - he plays a smart game and he’s hardly shown much decline at this point. After all, he’s the favorite to win the Norris Trophy in a couple days for the seventh time in his career. It’s just that at some point, everyone gets slightly worse. Not “bad”…just worse.
He had the opportunity to do something completely unheard of - win the Norris and retire. The concept of that is mind-boggling. Returning won’t sully his legacy any and may in fact add to it, but I just hate that there’s the slightest hair of a possibility he might come back and not play up to Lidstrom-like levels, or worse, get hurt. He’s accomplished it all. I wanted to see it end like that.
The game is getting faster and faster, the men bigger and bigger and he’s only going to go in the opposite direction from here on out. I don’t want to see Taylor Hall roast him wide or Jordin Tootoo plow him into the boards. Lidstrom is hockey royalty.
I understand him making the choice to return. He understands “Norris” means “had the best NHL season of any defenseman” and must know that even if he tails off a bit, he can’t fall that far very fast. He wants to help his team make another push and, of course, it’s always nice to receive another year of big money. I just don’t want him to look mortal and I fear that may happen.
With all due respect, give me a frickin’ break and grow up.
[edit: maybe it’s me who needs to grow up]
Update: Per LeBrun:
Just chatted with Jagr. He still hasn’t made a decision and doesn’t know how long it’s going to take. Said great things about Pitt and Det
Update #2: Per Alanah and SportsBusiness Journal, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg possess the 11th and 12th-best-selling jerseys in the NHL;
• Via RedWingsFeed, Jimmy Howard will join the University of Maine Sports Hall of Fame:
The University of Maine announced today that it has selected seven former student-athletes for induction into the 2011 Sports Hall of Fame. Former track and field student-athlete and coach Jim Ballinger (Maine ’66), basketball captain and benefactor Dick Collins (Maine ’59), women’s soccer great Linda Consolante-Hathorn (Maine ’06), football All-American Mark Coutts (Maine ’86), hockey standout Jimmy Howard, cross country captain William Hunnewell (Maine ’37) and Tim Tobin (Maine ’80) of the riflery team. The class will be inducted at a ceremony on the Orono campus on Friday, Sept. 30, 2011.
Howard had an outstanding career for the Black Bears. He was named an All-American in 2004 and was also named to the Hockey East First Team, Hockey East Top Goalie, the Hockey East All-Tournament Team and Hockey East Tournament Most Valuable Player in 2004. He led the Black Bears to a berth in the NCAA Title Game that year against Minnesota. He was also named All-New England and team MVP that season. Howard holds NCAA Records for goals against average in a season at 1.19 in 2003–04 and best save percentage with a .956 mark also in 2003–04. He set a school record with 63 saves in a triple overtime victory against UMass in the 2004 Hockey East title game. He holds Maine records for career shutouts with 15 and single season shutouts with six. Howard is currently the starting goalie for the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL. He was one of three finalists for the 2010 Calder Trophy for NHL Rookie of the Year.
• For the record, the
WIngs are sponsoring a yacht in the port Huron-to-Mackinac race again;
• I don’t think that this Twitter update from Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov reveals all that much…
As I know, Datsyuk is not going to Vegas. Is it mean, he will not get Selke? Your opinion, guys! #datsyuk #redwings
Sometimes he goes and sometimes he doesn’t…
• The Sporting News’s Craig Custance duly notes that the Wings may very well make a draft-day trade...
Red Wings trade talk
Detroit has money to spend and a hole to fill on defense because of Brian Rafalski’s retirement. It’s not a great free agent market for defensemen, so Red Wings GM Ken Holland is entertaining the idea of making a trade at the draft.
“There’s a lot of rumors—we’re going to explore ways (to improve) on the trade front,” Holland said. “We want to be active, we do want to make moves to our team, some additions to our team. We’re open-minded going in.” The challenge is finding a seller looking to shed salary on defense during a time in which most teams are looking to bolster their defense.
And he offers this take on Jagr:
According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Jagr has narrowed down his NHL choices to Detroit, Pittsburgh and a mystery team. Despite the failure of the Mike Modano experiment, there are more examples of veterans finishing strong in Detroit than failing to fit in. But the lure of returning to Pittsburgh and possibly playing with Sidney Crosby has to be a strong one too for Jagr.
At 39 years old, Jagr will only command a one-year deal, but those who saw him compete in the World Championships left impressed.
“He’s still one of the most dominant players in the world,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong told Sporting News shortly after returning from the tournament. “There’s no question he has the talent level.”
• And let’s just say that the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa isn’t a fan of a possible Jagr signing:
I guess what they see is that while the Wings could use some more firepower — with Jiri Hudler and Mike Modano failing to fill the gap last season, and Valterri Filppula continuing to perform more as a valuable defensive forward and playmaker — the top priority is replacing Brian Rafalski with a puck-moving defenseman on the blue line. So, maybe they figure, if they can sign Jagr — who scored 25 goals for the Rangers four seasons ago — on the cheap, it makes some sense.
I wonder how they would feel if he mopes around the locker room just after Thanksgiving, despite promises not to do so from him and his agent, because he has to share playing time, forecheck and hustle back on defense.
I wonder how they would feel when, as is inevitable, Henrik Zetterberg is busting tail down the wing in pursuit of an opposing forward who outweighs him by 25 pounds and is five inches taller, and who just knocked Zetterberg on his bad back in the corner, only to have one of the finest two-way forwards in hockey look back over his shoulder to see his new linemate, lagging. And Jagr’s 6-2, 240-pound frame is cruising along, without strides, behind Zetterberg, eyeing the retired numbers in the rafters, thinking, “I wonder if Gordie Howe ever really back-checked?”
I do not understand how anything in Jagr’s history leads the Wings’ brass to believe he is consistent with their plans, let alone important, for the 2011-12 season. A sniper would help. But a Red Wings’ sniper needs to play defense and, at the very least, mix well in the dressing room.
Meanwhile, Jagr turns 40 in February, and he has not played an 82-game season since 2007-08, and he did that for a Rangers team that did ask him to attend to defense. Jagr played 55, 51 and 49 games, respectively, in the past three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Face it folks, the KHL is a league where players like Jagr pick up some nice chunks of dough while cruising. And that is perfect, it seems, for the five-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy for scoring and a winner of a Hart Trophy, as most valuable player.
No doubt about it — especially with their tendency toward injury, in the past two years, and the desperate search for goals, at times, in the playoffs this year, despite finishing second in the NHL in goals scored during the season — the Wings could use a sniper. If Rafalski had not acquiesced to the pain in his small body and his desire for a well-rounded life, more goals at key junctures might be their top priority.
So, picking up a former five-time scoring champ late in his career seems like one of those rabbit-out-of-the-hat maneuvers the Wings pull from time to time. I just think Jagr’s downside is too vast.
Update #2.5er the AP’s Larry Lage:
Jaromir Jagr would like to play in the NHL next season.
Petr Svoboda, Jagr’s agent, said Tuesday that he has been talking to the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. He declined to say whether he is talking with other teams about a one-year contract for the 39-year-old Jagr.
The Czech star hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2007-08 season with the New York Rangers. He left the league to play for Avangard Omsk in Russia.
Jagr was the NHL MVP in 1999, a five-time scoring champion and two-time Stanley Cup winner while he was with the Penguins. He also played for Washington.
Update #3: Oh fun, from LeBrun:
“I don’t know,” Jagr told ESPN.com when asked how much longer his decision would take. “Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes it takes a week. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take,” added the five-time NHL scoring champion.
Jagr’s agent Petr Svoboda told ESPN.com earlier Tuesday that the Penguins and Red Wings were front-runners for Jagr’s services as well as a third, unidentified team. The Penguins would represent a return to his original NHL roots.
“In Pittsburgh, I played there 10 years. I still have a house there. I was too lazy to sell it,” Jagr said with his trademark laugh. “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,” added Jagr, speaking to ESPN.com via cell phone from his native Czech Republic. “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.”
Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock spoke to Jagr over the phone last weekend, a source told ESPN.com.
“Both teams are contenders to win the Cup every year and that’s the most exciting thing as a hockey player,” said Jagr, not tipping his hand.
While Svoboda said earlier Tuesday that the NHL was a stronger probability than Russia’s KHL, where Jagr has played the past three years, one cannot discount that possibility either. The Red Wings have publicly confirmed their interest in Jagr while the Penguins have not. Penguins GM Ray Shero did not return a message seeking comment from ESPN.com. Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier declined comment via email to ESPN.com Tuesday when asked about his team’s rumored interest in Jagr.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.