Jun 21, 2011, 2:14 AM EDT
Nostalgia is in the air. First there were reports that Ryan Smyth was asking for a trade back to the team that originally drafted him. Now, there are reports that former Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Jaromir Jagr has his eyes set on the team that drafted him 21 years ago. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review sites multiple sources confirming that Jagr’s agent (Petr Svoboda) has contacted the Pittsburgh Penguins about a possible return. It’s great that Jagr is interested in a reunion– but the question of Ray Shero and the Pittsburgh’s interest remained. As Rossi explains, the interest is mutual.
“Shero and his staff were open to the idea of signing Jagr, two sources said, but the Penguins were waiting to hear from Jagr before seriously exploring the option.”
At his best, Jaromir Jagr is one of the most talented scorers in the world. But that’s the major question: will the NHL team that signs him this year be getting the best Jaromir Jagr? There’s no question the 39-year-old has lost a step or two on the ice—anyone who disputes that is either delusional or should work as his agent’s PR representative. But the man still has the hands that won him five Art Ross trophies. He was a point-per-game player in the KHL last season and during the Olympics he showed flashes that reminded people he was still capable of playing at the highest level.
Over the last week, reports have spread about Svoboda selling NHL teams on the idea of a Jagr comeback. There have been stories that the Red Wings are interested, that Montreal is the likely destination, and now mutual interest between Jagr and the Penguins. Not bad for a guy who will turn 40 next season and hasn’t been on NHL ice since 2008.
But why? Why now? After three years in Eastern Europe, why would Jagr want to come back to the best league in the world now? Mike Colligan explains that Jagr could use an infusion of cash:
“In February, the Prague Daily Monitor reported that Jagr had plans to take a majority stake in the Kladno organization of the Czech Elite League. Jagr began his hockey career with the team in 1988 and for the last 17 years his father has served as manager.
In recent years, the team has tumbled down the standings and financial support from the local government reportedly faded.
“I’m seventy, it is no fun. It is humiliating and sad for me to see how the town approaches something I’ve been building and creating for 17 years,” Jagr Sr said.
Sooner or later it always comes back to money. One has to wonder how much money a guy like Jagr would command at this point in his career. On the one hand, he has been out of the league for quite a while and there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to withstand the rigors of an 82 game NHL season. On the other hand, it sounds like Svoboda is doing his best to drum up a bidding war for the two-time Stanley Cup champion. If the Red Wings, Canadiens, and Penguins are all applying for his services, there’s a much better chance that he’ll be overpaid than if a single team was willing to take a chance on him.
Here’s a little food for thought: despite his age, would anyone in Detroit, Montreal, or Pittsburgh be upset if their team signed Jagr at this point in his career? Would you be happy if your team brought Jagr in for a season to help make a playoff run?
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