The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/28/11 at 06:33 AM ET
Jaromir Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, played in over 1,000 NHL games for four NHL teams, and while he never met expectations in terms of his offensive output, he was supremely steady and…Sneakily dirty.
Svoboda certainly flashed the “sneaky” part of his game as a player agent on Monday night, choosing his words carefully enough to send journalists in Detroit and Pittsburgh in different directions and igniting a Twitter-based firestorm of sorts while discussing his client, Jaromir Jagr, and whether said client wishes to join the Detroit Red Wings or Pittsburgh Penguins.
It started with this quip to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari...
Agent Petr Svoboda, who represents free-agent right winger Jaromir Jagr, seems confident that Jagr’s short-term future will be settled in the next few days. Possibly as early as Tuesday.
He said that Jagr still hasn’t received a contract offer from the Penguins, but that “there is interest from both sides” and added that, “If you call me tomorrow, there will be much more happening.”
Penguins general manager Ray Shero could not immediately be reached for comment.
Detroit had publicly expressed interest in trying to sign Jagr, but Svoboda said there is “nothing concrete” with any NHL team.
Jagr, who broke into the NHL with the Penguins in 1990, spent the past three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, but has publicly expressed an interest in again playing in North America. Per NHL rules, he cannot sign a contract until at least July 1, but it’s possible that he’d have a deal in place somewhere before then.
“We’ll make a decision in the next couple of days,” Svoboda said.
Which contradicted Ken Holland’s assertion to the Free Press’s Helene St. James—five days ago—that the Wings had made their offer to Jagr, supposedly in the $2-2.5 million range, and were waiting for his response.
Then Svoboda offered a similar statement to the Free Press’s George Sipple...
The Detroit Red Wings could find out by Tuesday whether they’ll land free-agent forward Jaromir Jagr.
Petr Svoboda, Jagr’s agent, said today there remains “interest from both sides.”
“There’s nothing new to report today,” he said. “We’re going to know a bit more tomorrow.”
Asked whether the Wings were still in the mix, Svoboda said: “Absolutely.”
Before dekeing ever so slightly while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
Jaromir Jagr’s agent believes his client will decide on a new team before Friday’s start of unrestricted free agency. Petr Svoboda, Jagr’s agent, said teams need to know where they stand in preparation for the beginning of free agency.
“We expect a decision in the next couple of days,” said Svoboda, who flew into Montreal Monday from the Czech Republic.
Svoboda said he’ll talk with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland Monday night or Tuesday morning. The Red Wings and Pittsburgh are considered the favorites to sign Jagr, 39, who has played the last three seasons in Russia. Svoboda said no formal offers have been presented from any team. But he expects that to change in the next few days.
“We’ll know more,” Svoboda said.
And then the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi, via Twitter, tossed off this gem:
More tomorrow, but I’m hearing #Pens plan to reach agreements with Kennedy and Jagr before Friday #tribpens #jagrwatch
Then came the qualifiers:
Not tendering Kennedy gives them best chance at that objective, avoids delay that would come with arbitration. #tribpens #jagrwatch
Hearing #Pens want keep Kennedy (multiyear), handshake with Jagr (1-year), ink Dupuis and/or Rupp; seek clarity on all by Friday #tribpens
Can’t stress enough: Report is #Pens plan. That doesn’t mean it will happen. Plan last year changed between 6/27 and 7/1 #tribpens
@Allie8725 a very good point—if/when Pens make offer, only JJ can decide to end #jagrwatch
@MikeBradleyFC No, there is no handshake agreement.
He cannot sign until Friday, but #Pens can know before then if he WILL sign—what I mean by handshake #jagrwatch
#Pens plan is to keep Kennedy, win #jagrwatch: http://bit.ly/kZfkPK *new link*
#Icantstandmultipleselfpromotinghashtags, but that’s just me.
Anyway, here’s, well, quite frankly, the inevitable let-down from Rossi and Josh Yohe:
The Penguins cut Tyler Kennedy loose Monday, but general manager Ray Shero said he wants to re-sign him before NHL free agency begins Friday. Shero also hopes to reach a tentative agreement on a one-year deal with Jaromir Jagr before Friday, industry sources told the Tribune-Review last night.
Kennedy, a right winger, became an unrestricted free agent after the Penguins chose not to tender him a qualifying offer by a 5 p.m. deadline yesterday. Shero said that decision was made to avoid an arbitration hearing.
“We want clarity in this situation. By doing this we get the most clarity,” Shero said. “An arbitration hearing can go into early August. We want to know what’s going on before then.”
Shero also said he planned to speak with Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, either last night or today. The Penguins aren’t known to have made Jagr an offer as of last night, but team officials spent yesterday seriously considering the option of signing Jagr, sources said.
Shero also said he wants one or both of two unrestricted free agent forwards—Mike Rupp and Pascal Dupuis—signed before Friday, when free agency begins at noon. Of the players Shero is targeting, only Jagr can’t be signed before Friday per the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement. However, Jagr’s camp would like to have parameters of a deal worked out before Friday, sources said. Svoboda said last week the Penguins and Detroit are the top two contenders to sign Jagr, a right winger who last played in the NHL in 2008.
If Friday arrives without Kennedy, Jagr, Dupuis and/or Rupp signed, the Penguins will turn their attention to available free agents to fill out their roster.
“We have a replacement list,” Shero said.
Shero also played verbal pool with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Molinari:
Shero confirmed that, as of Monday evening, the Penguins had not offered Jagr a contract and declined to say whether they plan to do so. Nonetheless, he agreed with Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, that Jagr’s future in the NHL—assuming he has one—should be determined well before July 1, when league rules allow him to actually sign a contract.
Indeed, Shero and Svoboda believe the Jagr situation could play out before nightfall.
“If you call me [today], there will be much more happening,” Svoboda said Monday evening, adding that “we’ll make a decision in the next couple of days.”
Shero said that whatever happens with Jagr is “totally independent” of his dealings with Kennedy.
Jagr, 39, spent the past three seasons playing for Avangard Omsk in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, but has publicly expressed a desire to return to North America several times in recent months. Detroit has shown an interest in signing him, although the Red Wings’ top priority for the offseason seems to be bolstering their defense corps. Shero and his staff, meanwhile, have had extensive discussions about whether Jagr would be a good fit for their team, with which Jagr began his NHL career in 1990.
“He really respects that organization,” said Svoboda, who spoke Monday with Shero after flying to Montreal from the Czech Republic. “A few things have happened, but nothing is concrete.
Svoboda was expected to give Jagr a status report Monday night on the talks he has had with NHL clubs. It isn’t clear how much the Penguins will be willing to pay Jagr, in the event they decide to make a contract proposal. Uncertainty about what keeping Kennedy might cost is what caused them to sever ties with him, at least temporarily.
Both the Wings and Penguins will want to have worked out details of their contract offers to Jagr before Friday—and Svoboda’s probably lying about the Wings’ offer! Bet that never happened before! [/sarcasm]
Seriously, this isn’t that big a deal. The only news is that Svoboda might broadcast Jagr’s decision before he signs with whichever team he wants to sign, and as he’s clearly delayed the proceedings with Detroit to solicit an offer from the Penguins, it appears that, barring any unforeseen surprises, Jagr wants to end his NHL career in the place where it started, and that he’ll only sign with the Wings as a fall-back plan.
None of these assumptions involve the fact that Montreal is probably in the mix somewhere, too, as Svoboda admitted to the Czech press that Jagr’s first desire was to play for the Candiens and play alongside his pal, Tomas Plekanec, but that’s just between you and me.
In other words, it’s hard to say, “We’ll wait and see” at this time of year when agents and GM’s try to tickle impatient fans’ fancies with allusions to answering questions that they can’t reveal until Friday.
The same might be said for the Wings’ search for an offensive defenseman to replace Brian Rafalski—i.e. that the time for “serious talk” has begun in earnest—after Kevin Bieksa signed a 5-year contract extension at an average of $4.6 million per season with the Vancouver Canucks.
As Sipple suggests, Bieksa’s decision thins a market that might lose more of its oomph should Joni Pitkanen or Christian Ehrhoff re-sign with their respective teams by 12 PM EDT on Friday:
Bieksa’s deal comes after the Canadiens re-signed Andrei Markov to a three-year, $17.25-million deal Thursday.
The Red WIngs are looking for a top-four defenseman after the unexpected retirement of Brian Rafalski.
James Wisniewski, who grew up in Canton and played for the Plymouth Whalers, and Windsor native Ed Jovanovski could be at the top of the team’s list now. Wisniewski, 27, probably is looking for a long-term deal after bouncing around the league with the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens. He scored three goals and 18 assists in 32 games for the Islanders before being dealt to Montreal. He scored seven goals and 23 assists in 43 games for the Canadiens this season.
Jovanovski turned 35 on Sunday. He had five goals and nine assists in 50 games for the Phoenix Coyotes this past season.
The Wings’ press keeps on mentioning Joavanovski because he’s a) from Windsor and b) will probably have to take a pay cut from the staggering $6.5 million he earned with Phoenix to continue playing in the NHL. The Detroit News’s Kulfan also offers the obvious assessment of the marketplace…
So, with the list of intriguing names smaller, the Red Wings will look elsewhere to shore up their defense. Some possible targets include Canton native James Wisniewski (Canadiens), Christian Ehrhoff (Canucks), Joni Pitkanen (Panthers) or Ed Jovanovski (Coyotes).
That’s if those players hit the market Friday.
Plus, with the salary cap being raised to $64 million, teams well below the cap could be more willing to spend aggressively.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he will not spend money simply to spend.
And we are expecting the Wings to tie up at least some of their cap space re-signing one of their own:
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson , a potential unrestricted free agent, appears likely to re-sign before Friday.
General manager Ken Holland was supposed to talk to the agent for Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson on Monday. Ericsson, 27, can become an unrestricted free agent, but has said repeatedly he’d prefer to remain with the Wings. Holland did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
It’s assumed, again, that the Wings are offering Ericsson somewhere between $2-2.5 million.
They’ll probably have to offer a Wisniewski or an Ehrhoff twice that, somewhere between $4-4.5 million, to bring a top-flight UFA defenseman to Detroit, and whether paying someone more than Niklas Kronwall ($3 million, per Capgeek.com) or Brad Stuart ($3.75 million) earn involves breaking the pay scale or whether that’s acceptable, and the Wings might be having that discussion internally right now.
The Canucks? Well, we know that they’re going to offer Ehrhoff a contract, but as the Vancouver Province’s Jim Jamieson suggests, there’s a higher-earner out there, and competition, too:
With Montreal defenceman Andrei Markov recently signing a three-year deal with cap hit of $5.75 million to avoid free agency on July 1, the bar may also have been set for UFA blueliners.
Markov’s signing puts Ehrhoff in great position as arguably the top offensive D-man and one of the top defencemen overall — along with Joni Pitkanen and James Wisniewski — left on the upcoming UFA market. He may not command as much as the 32-year-old Markov — who had 12-52-64 in his last full season with the Canadiens two years ago — but supply and demand in a might get him close.
Ehrhoff has said he enjoys playing in Vancouver. What offensive D-man wouldn’t if you’re on the No. 1 power play unit with the Sedins and Ryan Kesler for a minute-plus on every man advantage? But Ehrhoff, 28, also knows this will likely be his last real chance to hit a home run in free agency. So this negotiation will be tougher than the one a motivated Bieksa just went through. If it goes sideways and there’s clearly no middle ground, the Canucks may look to trade Ehrhoff’s rights to at least get something back.
There’s no question there will be a number of teams seriously interested in Ehrhoff and his package of skills.
Detroit, which just lost Brian Rafalski to retirement, springs to mind. So does Chicago, which just dumped Brian Campbell’s ludicrous $7.1-cap hit. Or Minnesota, who could use Ehrhoff now that they’ve moved Brent Burns in the Devin Setoguchi deal. And Colorado, which just traded offensive D-man John-Michael Liles, and needs to spend big just to get to the salary cap floor.
At this point, if an unrestricted free agent defenseman wants to break the bank, neither Detroit nor Vancouver will sign him, because its usually those mid-to-smaller-market teams that overpay.
Regarding the other unrestricted free agents who might be available, that pool got a little bit bigger on Monday as many players weren’t submitted qualifying offers (which usually involves giving your player a raise in the 5-10% range, depending on their salaries) by their teams, thus rendering them unrestricted free agents on Friday—assuming that they don’t re-sign with their current employers—and Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien posted a list of said players.
The Wings might be interested in someone like Columbus defenseman Sami Lepisto or Winnipeg forward Anthony Stewart if they hit the open market, but I’m just guessing that Dan Carcillo isn’t the kind of player the Wings are targeting.
On the coaching front, Gerard Gallant’s been named as one of the Wings’ favorites to replace Brad McCrimmon and Paul MacLean of late, right up there with Pete DeBoer and Bob Boughner, but as Yahoo Sports’ Neate Sager revealed, Gallant told the CBC’s Prince Edward Island radio show, “Island Morning,” that he hasn’t received any…formal offers:
Brendan Elliott (CBC): “Winning the Memorial Cup certainly would be a pretty decent thing to have on the resume for a return to the NHL. Are you getting calls? Are you putting feelers out to return?”
Gallant: “You know what, no, neither. I’ve had a couple little feelers, but nothing serious, to be honest with you. There was some reports that I interviewed for the Ottawa Senators [head coaching] job, which never happened. I don’t know how the report got out to be the way they were. Like I said, we’ll see what happens here. I’m very happy with where I am in Saint John.
“... If something comes up, would I want to be back in the National Hockey League? Of course I would.” (Island Morning, with audio)
The other topic that’s earned its share of virtual ink over the past couple of days involves the real possibility—and that’s all it is right now, a “possibility”—that the league might realign itself into four more geographically-based divisions and/or engage in a more balanced schedule.
We know that Bettman and/or executives decided they’d discuss a “radical realignment” next season, probably at GM’s meetings and prior to December’s Board of Governors meetings, which would mark the deadline for any teams submitting an application to swap conferences (January 1st is the deadline to submit an application, I believe), but it’s not exactly set in stone, so the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg makes some solid points regarding the fact that even Detroit sports talk radio’s talking this up in late June, when the Tigers and Lions rule the airwaves:
We should hold off on any firm reactions until we see a plan. For all we know, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will put the Wings in a division with the Bruins and five teams from Sweden. (Actually, that would be outstanding.)
The Wings might move to the Eastern Conference. They might stay West. There might not even be conferences or, at least, there might not be conferences as we know them.
But whatever happens, it almost has to be better than the Wings’ current situation. With the Atlanta Thrashers becoming the Winnipeg Jets, the NHL has been forced to re-evaluate its divisional format. This gives Bettman a chance to sit back and compose a master plan, and while the words “Bettman” and “master plan” probably just sent you scurrying to the restroom, this actually could be a good plan. We’ll see. For the Wings, what matters is that:
• 1. They play everybody else in the league at least once at home and on the road. This means ticket holders get to see the best players in the world.
• 2. They get more games against teams in their time zone. The Wings have played far too many playoff games that started after 10 p.m. in Michigan, against teams with which they have no traditional rivalry.
Does this mean the Wings move East? I don’t know. Maybe. There are many ways to set up a league, and the NHL should absolutely consider formats that haven’t been tried.
Canadian media reports say Commissioner Gary Bettman is hatching a plan to take the NHL from six divisions to four, which would be dubbed East, South, Midwest and Pacific. Each conference would have an eight-team division and a seven-team division. Other plans have a 16-team East with two eight-team divisions and a 14-team West with two seven-team divisions.
Columbus and Detroit, burdened by heavy travel and late starting times back home that hurt TV ratings, would both get their wishes and get moved to the East. Western teams won’t like that because the Red Wings sell a ton of tickets.
Sabres GM Darcy Regier said Monday he’d love to have the Red Wings in Buffalo’s division. (Be careful what you wish for). There’s long been rumors the Wings have been promised a move back to the East but it will not be an easy sell to Western clubs.
Be ready for a big shift with the Sabres. You could easily see them in a division with Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Then add Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa (and how about Quebec City?) Something will have to give in any arrangement. The Sabres might lose their rivalry with Boston but gain Detroit and Pittsburgh. The Penguins might get split up division-wise from Philadelphia.
But that’s a small price to pay to avoid having to go to Winnipeg more than once a year.
No comment there.
Also of Red Wings-related note: If you’re interested, the Free Press re-posted a now-classic YouTube video of Tomas Jurco at work. He gave an interview to Pravda.sk’s Michal Maslany that’s so garbled in translation that even I won’t try to give it a try (in large part because it’s a bit repetitive), but I can at least tell you that the Wings’ brass invited all their prospects to a post-draft dinner, and that Jurco is taking college courses at the business academy in Kostice. If you want to read the garble, give it a go yourself. Here’s the aforementioned video instead…
• The Swift Current Broncos’ website offered a “By the Numbers take on new Wings prospect Richard Nedomlel…
205 Final ranking by Central Scouting for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
107 Penalty minutes for 2010-11 sesason.
66 Total regular season WHL career games
31 Drafted 31st overall by the Broncos in the 2010 CHL Import Draft
24 Sweater number.
10 The amount of assists he notched in the 2010-11 season.
7 Total number of fights. Six out of his seven fights were at the Credit Union i-Plex.
2 Longest point streak.
1 Amount of two-point games notched this past 2010-11 season.
• And I know more than a few of you have had questions about one particular player who’s going to become a restricted free agent (Ken Holland’s already stated that he won’t toss off RFA offer sheets), and the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson clarifies said player’s availability via trade in a Q and A column:
Question: If the rumours are true that the Winnipeg Jets are shopping Zach Bogosian, should [Edmonton Oilers GM] Steve Tambellini be all over this?
CK in Vancouver
Answer: Former Atlanta Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley had been taking calls on the third overall draft pick in 2008 after Steve Stamkos and Drew Doughty, but I don’t believe Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is moving the youngster. I think Cheveldayoff wants to see how his club looks in training camp and into the season before making any major moves. I believe Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was talking to Cheveldayoff about Mike Richards and wanted Evander Kane coming back plus the seventh overall pick in the NHL entry draft and the Jets didn’t bite. The Edmonton Oilers do need a young top-four defenceman, however. They are chock-a-block full of young forwards, and could sorely use a [Drew] Doughty. But 28 other clubs could say that.
The Wings are one of them, but there’s no point in trying to out-bid a team for a player whose contractual rights it can match and whose services might cost you both a bloated contract and multiple draft picks if you can wait for four days and bid on players for free.
Update: Jonathan Ericsson’s commenting without commenting to Folkbladet’s Johan Adamsson regarding any contractual news:
“I have no comment to make. I don’t even know myself; it’s my agent who’s in charge of that [stuff],” says Ericsson to Folkbladet.
The defenseman and Vita Hasten product is at home in Norrkoping for the summer and is letting his agent negotiate with the Red Wings.
“No, I don’t know and haven’t heard much for a few days now, but these are the days when it might happen. They’ll continue to talk and inform me when they know more,” he says.
Detroit currently has three top defensemen in Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart under contract, and the team is planning to sign another free agent defenseman for one of its top pairings.
“Big E” is seen as the fifth defenseman and a player for the third line.
Jonathan Ericsson has played for two full seasons in the NHL, and it’s no secret that he’d like to stay with the NHL’s Swedish team most of all.
“We’ve talked about anything from one to four years, but it’s not as close as it seems. We’ll see if it’ll be Detroit and how many years it’ll be in that case. But I want to stay there, absolutely,” he says.
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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.