The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/16/11 at 03:53 PM ET
Updated 5x at 4:28 with St. James confirming Jagr interest: The scuttlebutt regarding the Red Wings’ possible interest in signing free agent-to-be Jaromir Jagr boil down to two issues—fit and finances. On the latter front, Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner reports that Jagr might not fit the Wings’ plans:
It’s being reported that Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, has contacted four clubs — Detroit, Pittsburgh, Montreal and the Rangers — about the services of his client. Jagr has played for three teams during his NHL career: the Penguins, Capitals, and Rangers.
Detroit appears to have the inside track because Jagr is salivating at the opportunity to play with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. But reports also suggest that Jagr also is seeking a major payday. If that’s the case, don’t expect Detroit to sign him. The Wings are smarting from the Mike Modano experiment. They’re apprehensive about signing aging veterans who are susceptible to injury and a diminishing skill set.
And on the former front, as Regner suggests, the Wings obviously want to spend most of their capped dollars bolstering their puck-moving blueline:
Also, Wings general manager Ken Holland has repeatedly said that he is fine with his forward corps, that his main focus is retooling his defense. (Holland has always sunk money into his blue-liners.)
At the right price, the Wings would take a chance on Jagr. They would be foolish not to. But the Wings ranked second in the NHL in goal-scoring last season, averaging 3.13 goals a game. They ranked 23rd in goals-against, giving up 2.89 goals a game. The seven teams that gave up more goals a game than Detroit didn’t make the playoffs.
As much as Jagr could add to the Wings, putting the puck into the net doesn’t appear to be their problem. It’s keeping the puck out of their net that needs to be addressed.
This is where I start scratching my bald head, because WXYT’s “roster report,” via the Sports Xchange, suggests that the Red Wings don’t need to follow their blueline blueprint and sign a free agent that will help the team play defense by carrying the puck up ice in order to play defense by grinding down the opposition 200 feet away from the Wings’ goal…
They need to upgrade their defense, even if Nicklas Lidstrom returns. They could use a top-four, stay-at-home defenseman who has the ability to shut down opponents’ top offensive players, preferably someone with size and a physical edge. They also need to shore up their backup goaltending position — someone whom they can rely on to play 20 games and spell starter Jimmy Howard.
That’s a wish list that only a perfect free agent market could fulfill. The Wings will probably target James Wisniewski, Joni Pitkanen and, barring a terrible medical report regarding his injured shoulder, Christian Ehrhoff on July 1st.
And finally, for the moment, anyway, Red Wings TV posted the final clip of out-takes from Ken Kal’s “game-day” features:
Update: Per Kukla’s Korner’s David Lee, the Hurricanes’ website’s Paul Branecky reports that the Canes may trade Pitkanen’s rights, and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun says that the Canucks will obviously try to keep Bieksa first and foremost, but do hope to re-sign Ehrhoff.
It is 100% certain that James Wisniewski will hit the market.
• I would prefer to not comment on this “top playoff moment” noted by LeBrun:
Western Conference semifinals: Games 6 and 7, Red Wings-Sharks
LeBrun: I won’t soon forget covering this series, especially the last two games when Detroit and San Jose played Stanley Cup finals-worthy hockey. Two heavyweights going the distance. The Wings’ victory in Game 6 with the Joe Louis crowd going crazy is a memory for life, Detroit coming back from down 3-0 in the series to force Game 7. But the Sharks, with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau leading the way at HP Pavilion, avoided a total meltdown with a thrilling Game 7 victory. I remember leaving the rink that night wondering, “Was this the last time we saw Nicklas Lidstrom play?”
• And Hockey’s Future’s Brad Gardner posted a Red Wings draft preview.
Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, has contacted the Red Wings — along with Pittsburgh, Montreal and the Rangers — about the possibility of Jagr signing July 1 when unrestricted free agency begins. Jagr, 39, has spent the last three seasons in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League but would like to close out his career in the NHL.
The Wings might be interested in the power forward if the price is right. Both sides would be looking for a one-year deal, but the Wings won’t want to overspend as they feel secure with their current top nine forwards.
With Avangard Omsk last season, Jagr (6-foot-3, 242 pounds) had 50 points (19 goals, 31 assists) in 49 games. Jagr has scored 1,599 points (646 goals) in 1,273 career NHL games with Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers.
Jagr is intrigued by the Wings because of the possibility of playing with talented centers Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, and the team’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup.
Update #2.5: As the Detroit News’s sports staff notes, Wings owner Mike Ilitch was named the best owner in sports by ESPN:
In ESPN The Magazine’s annual “Best of Sports” rankings, unveiled this week, Ilitch is named the No. 1 owner in all of professional sports when it comes to honesty, commitment to the community and loyalty to core players.
The Red Wings also tied for first, with the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Penguins, in terms of championships won or expected to win in the lifetime of current fans.
Ilitch’s hockey team, meanwhile, finished 17th in “The Ultimate Standings,” a 1-122 ranking of all teams.
It was the best finish by a Detroit team. The Packers, Steve Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lightning (up from 70th), New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Angels and San Antonio Spurs were top five.
The rankings take into account “Bang for the Buck,” players, fan relations, affordability, stadium experience, ownership, title track and coaching.
The other three Detroit teams came in at 52nd (Tigers), 94th (Lions) and 113th (Pistons).
Update #3: For the record, Dominik Hasek’s suggested to Denik Sport’s Miroslav Horak that Jagr would fit in very well with the Red Wings.
Update #4: Check out Scott Cullen’s off-season game plan for the Wings; we’ll talk about it later.
Update #5: The Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James also confirms the Jagr storyline:
The agent for Jaromir Jagr has reached out to the Detroit Red Wings about signing the former NHL great. It’s a prospect the Wings are considering, with reservations. Jagr is 39 and hasn’t played in the NHL since 2007-08, having spent the past three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. The last player the Wings embraced from the KHL was Jiri Hudler, who looked like he regressed during his time overseas.
But Hudler isn’t as skilled as Jagr was in his prime, and Jagr has put up good numbers with Avangard Omsk, most recently producing 19 goals and 50 points in 49 games last season. He had 42 points in 51 games in 2009-10 and 53 points (including 25 goals) in 55 games in ’08-09. He was one of the best players in the NHL in the 1990s. He won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and got the Hart Trophy as league MVP in ’99 (he was a finalist in ’95, ’98, 2000, ’01 and ’06).
The Wings are intrigued by the thought of what Jagr might be able to do but noted that there are reservations. Any deal that materializes would be for one year only, and at a sensible price (around $1 million base, with incentives).
The Wings are looking for a top-six forward, and a motivated Jagr could be lethal on the right side of center Pavel Datsyuk and help out on the power play. For the Wings, it comes down to deciding whether Jagr is the best value for their money as they seek to improve a team that has lost in the second round of the playoffs two years running.
Jagr also has approached two of his former teams, Washington and the New York Rangers, about signing with them.
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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.