It's sounding more and more like Jaromir Jagr's return to the NHL is going to happen this offseason. Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, told the AP today that he has been talking with both the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins about signing Jagr and that he believes Jagr could sign a one-year deal "in the next week or so."
From the Detroit Free Press:
"Petr Svoboda, Jagr’s agent, said today 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.
'Quite a few teams are in the picture, but I’ve been talking to Detroit and Pittsburgh the last couple of days,' Svoboda told the AP. 'He is looking for a one-year deal, and I think he will have one in the next week or so.'"
The Penguins and Red Wings have both confirmed they have talked with Jagr's agent, and according to ESPN.com Jagr spoke with Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock over the phone at some point last weekend.
The Rangers and Montreal Canadiens have also been mentioned as dark-horse candidates to sign Jagr, but I personally have a hard time believing Jagr would come back to the Rangers. I just think there are too many obstacles in the way that would prevent it from happening. The most obvious reason is the fact that John Tortorella is the head coach now, not Tom Renney. For all the flack Renney took while he was here, he was and still is a fantastic player's coach. He knows how to manage egos and did a tremendous job keeping Jagr happy and dealing with his rumored prima donna personality. Torts is not that type of coach, and I can't imagine he'd be as patient and easy-going with Jagr. Also, let's not forget that Glen Sather was the one who ultimately decided to move on from Jagr after his contract was up with the Rangers because Sather wanted the Rangers to get younger. Renney later said after he was fired that he wished he fought Sather to bring Jagr back, so if Sather didn't want Jagr then I don't see why he'd want him now.
Jagr has been connected to the Penguins ever since the end of the 2007-2008 season when Jagr became a free agent. The connection is there, obviously, because of Mario Lemieux running the team and the sentimental factor that Jagr could go home and finish his career where it all started, giving one more run to win a Stanley Cup before he hangs it up. The Red Wings came up out of nowhere, and I have to say that adding Jagr to that team could be lethal, even if Jagr is no longer the player he once was.
My own opinion is that I would love to see Jagr brought back to the Rangers. I can't help but have nightmares of seeing Jagr in a Penguins uniform scoring big goals against the Rangers the way he did in his prime (minus the mullet) and I would really hate the thought of Jagr winning a Cup in Pittsburgh after he meant so much to the Rangers during their climb back to the playoffs. Jagr is rumored to get a one-year, $2 million deal plus incentives. Even if Jagr only matches or comes close to putting up his his 25 goal, 46 assist, 71 point performance that he put up during his last year with the Rangers, it would still be a huge upgrade for this hockey team. An offensive tandem led by Jagr, Gaborik and potentially Brad Richards could be flat out scary, especially when you also take into account the secondary scoring that will come from Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan. In fact, giving Jagr a one-year deal and overpaying for him would also make a ton of sense right now because the Rangers will likely be able to go $7 million over the salary cap if Chris Drury isn't bought out and placed on long-term injured reserve like Larry Brooks reported in the New York Post.
But I guess this is all wishful thinking on my part. I can still dream, can't I? Put it this way: for the same price next season, would you rather have Wojtek Wolski on this team or Jaromir Jagr?