At the age of 39, we know that Jaromir Jagr is still a talented hockey player. We know this because he scored at least 50 points in two of his three seasons playing for Avangard Omsk of the KHL. We also know it because when the intensity of competition is cranked up a few notches on the international stage, he scores consistently. He had two goals and three points over five games in the 2010 Olympics, and five goals and eight points for the Czech Republic during the 2011 World Championships.
These numbers reflect a veteran who may not be quite as washed up as we thought, and optimistically could still be a 25-goal player in the NHL.
Jagr has become the new Forsberg with his yearly comeback flirtation. His KHL contract expired, putting us in the middle of another bout with painful nostalgia where visions of a mulleted Jagr in a Pens jersey flutter in the mind’s eye. Rampant, loosely-sourced speculation of a Jagr comeback first surfaced in early May, and inevitably he’ll sign again in the KHL where he can make much more money tax free.
Those rumours are gaining traction now, and two teams are at the centre of the speculation.
Earlier today ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted that Pittsburgh and Detroit are the primary destinations for Jagr, with a few other teams also in the mix. What about the Habs? Well, not so much.
LeBrun also wrote that although there’s more money available in the KHL, Jagr said a return to the NHL is appealing. Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock spoke with Jagr over the weekend, and the five-time Art Ross Trophy winner was scheduled to meet with his agent Petr Svoboda sometime Monday to discuss his next move.
Jagr was shunned by the NHL at the end of the 2007-08 season when his contract with the Rangers expired. That year he scored 25 goals and 71 points, which translates to 0.87 points per game. Over his three years with Avangard Omsk his lowest point-per-game total was 0.82 in 2009-10, although he had 0.96 in 2008-09, and 1.02 last year. This adds to the facts we know–or at least think we know–about Jagr. At the very least, his skill hasn’t tailed off significantly with age, and he’s still capable of steady production.
Now it’s just a matter of seeing if those numbers can make the trip back across the pond after three years away from an NHL rink. There’s no app for that, but there’s a formula.
Somewhere our very own Rick Moldovanyi is screaming like a 15-year-old girl who wants to see a Jelena kiss, because the Jagr-to-Pittsburgh speculation is growing. Go ahead, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, take us back to a time in Pittsburgh when Jagr’s hair waved gently, and Alex Kovalev cared about trying.
Free-agent right winger Jaromir Jagr has reached out to the Penguins about a possible return to play in the NHL with his original team, sources told the Tribune-Review today.
The Penguins currently have no comment, but were considering options regarding Jagr over the weekend. Jagr’s camp reached out to the Penguins at some point over the past three days.
At the moment there are only two teams with less cap space than the Penguins, but that’s about to change quickly in 11 days when eight forwards will come off the books, all of whom are unrestricted free agents. The team has already said that Mr. Hilary Duff and Kovalev won’t be back, along with Eric Godard. Throw in restricted free agents Dustin Jeffrey and Tyler Kennedy to the other five remaining UFAs (Arron Asham, Chris Connor, Michael Rupp, Maxime Talbot, Pascal Dupuis), and Pittsburgh will have about $7 million remaining under the new cap to sign seven players, one of whom could be Jagr.
Detroit’s appeal lies in the organization’s reputation as a safe haven for brittle aging veterans, which may have taken a hit this year because of the failed Mike Modano experiment. With money speaking louder than a yearning for yesteryear, even Pittsburgh scribes are realistically forecasting a return to the KHL for Jagr.
We hope not, because maybe a few more early 90′s Penguins will be inspired to make their return. Is Mark Recchi ready for a comeback yet?