Jaromir Jagr

Jaromir Jagr’s agent courting NHL teams; Another negotiating ploy with KHL?

Ever since Jaromir Jagr left the NHL for the KHL, many fans of his have felt like they’re missing out on the end of a truly great NHL career. With Jagr playing with Avangard Omsk in Russia and still producing even at age 39, the former NHL legend is on the prowl for a new job.

While Jagr’s experience the last few seasons have all been in the KHL, his play in the Olympics and at the IIHF World Championships the last two years has kept people curious about whether or not he might try and play one more year or two in the NHL. Those hopes and dreams might have some traction now.

According to reports out of Detroit, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has been approached by Jagr’s agent Petr Svoboda and while the Wings aren’t the only team he’s reached out to (the Rangers, Canadiens, and Capitals are there too), Red Wings GM Ken Holland is the only guy saying remotely anything about Jagr.

The Red Wings didn’t call Jagr. His agent, Petr Svoboda, called them. But Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has had several conversations with Svoboda, and coach Mike Babcock has spoken to Jagr.

Svoboda reportedly contacted Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers, two of Jagr’s former teams, as well as Montreal.

But Jagr would prefer to play in Detroit for the chance to play with highly skilled players Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and, if he returns, Nicklas Lidstrom.

Holland declined comment, except to acknowledge that his club has been contacted and is exploring the possibility.

The idea that a 39 year-old, turning 40 in February, Jagr wants to take one more run at a Stanley Cup in the NHL with a team like Detroit makes the mind boggle. The Wings aren’t ones to back down from veteran interest as they took on Mike Modano last season in his efforts to latch on to a potential Cup winning team.

Jagr’s skill set isn’t what it used to be from what we remember from his years with the Penguins and Capitals. Hell, Jagr isn’t quite the same guy he was with the Rangers even four years ago, but what he’s shown in international competition is that he could still be a useful weapon on the power play and a guy who could contribute well with third line type of minutes.

Before we get ahead of ourselves drawing up the possibility of seeing a legend like Jagr giving it one more go in the NHL, you have to wonder if perhaps this is one last effort by Svoboda to get a KHL team to bite and offer him a juicier deal. Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov finds out that his old team Avangard Omsk is the only one Jagr is negotiating with in Russia. If Jagr is worried about how he might hold up over the 82 game haul in the NHL season and if he’s got the thought of the hit he took in the 2010 Olympics from Alexander Ovechkin stuck in his head for what it’s like to play at that level every night, being more open about discussing things with the NHL would be a good way to scare Avangard into giving him a juicier deal. After all, if there’s no local competition for him there, why not hold the NHL up and out there as a means to scare his team into action.

The KHL hates losing any amount of talent to the NHL, especially guys who once starred in the NHL, so Svoboda’s open hunt to land Jagr an apparent job in the NHL might just be transparent enough for all of us to see what’s going on. Of course, if we put our cynicism away for a little while and embrace this for what it looks to be, waxing nostaligic and hopeful for Jagr’s return makes for a lot of fun. He was one of the most brilliant scorers of his time and the best player in the NHL for a long stretch of time. The thought of trotting him out on the same ice with Datsyuk and Zetterberg is tantalizing, let’s just hope we’re not being toyed with one last time.

‘We love him’ — Bolts heap praise on Stamkos as uncertain future awaits

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 26, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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This may have been Steve Stamkos‘ last game in a Tampa Bay uniform.

If it was, it didn’t go according to script.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t special.

Stamkos stunned the hockey world on Friday night by making his playoff debut in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, returning from a two-month absence due to a blood clotting issue.

After undergoing vascular surgery and spending weeks on blood thinners, the captain was cleared to return for his team’s most crucial game of the season — one the Bolts lost, 2-1, the narrowest of margins.

The outcome didn’t take away from how Tampa’s players and coaches felt about Stamkos’ return

“He’s an extremely important player on our team, and we weren’t quite sure when this was going to happen, but a decision was made that he could play for Game 7,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “It was an emotional boost for all of us. The guys were really excited to have him back, and I thought he did a great job.”

By the boxscore, Stamkos’ impact on the game was minimal. He received less than 12 minutes of ice time and finished minus-1. But he did have two shots on net — one of them showing just how dangerous, even in a limited capacity, No. 91 can be:

“I thought I beat him,” Stamkos told NHL.com. “It just went through him and out the other side.”

The focus for Stamkos and the Bolts now shifts to his contract situation. Slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the former 60-goal scorer projects to be the biggest star to hit the market since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter became UFAs in 2012.

Those two, you may recall, cashed in quite nicely, signing identical 13-year, $98 million deals.

So you can see why Stamkos’ future is of great interest across the league.

Of course, nobody has officially ruled out the 26-year-old’s return to Tampa Bay, and tonight’s drama probably strengthened some pretty serious emotional ties. Remember, this is the only team he’s ever known. The Lightning made Stamkos the first overall pick in 2008 and, six years later, the 10th captain in franchise history. He won two Rocket Richard trophies with the Bolts, and played in a pair of Eastern Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final.

He’s the team’s leader and face of the franchise. That’s not small stuff.

But in the end, it might not matter. It’s important to remember the Lightning got to this point without Stamkos because they’ve got incredible depth and some really good young players. Those young players will need to be paid too, and there might not be enough money under the cap for GM Steve Yzerman to make Stamkos an offer he can’t refuse.

Which is why it was hard not to listen to comments the Bolts made tonight, and wonder if they’re aware of what the future probably holds.

“We hope we can stick together, but you just never know,” Boyle said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Thought we were destined for some pretty special things.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup Final TV schedule

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks skates on the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on November 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

The National Hockey League announced today the schedule for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which begins Monday, May 30, in Pittsburgh.

Based on their superior regular-season point total, the Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins will host Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final, as well as Games 5 and 7, if necessary.

The Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks will host Games 3 and 4, as well as Game 6, if necessary.

In the U.S., NBC will televise Game 1 and, if necessary, Games 5-7. NBCSN will broadcast Game 2. Television information for Games 3 and 4 will be announced at a later date.

Game 1 Monday, May 30 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC
Game 2 Wednesday, June 1 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBCSN
Game 3 Saturday, June 4 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose TBD
Game 4 Monday, June 6 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose TBD
Game 5* Thursday, June 9 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC
Game 6* Sunday, June 12 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose NBC
Game 7* Wednesday, June 15 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC

Media day will be on Sunday, May 29, time TBD. PHT will be on location for the entirety of the final, and a reminder that all games will also be broadcast on NBC Sports Radio.

PHT’s Mike Halford (that’s me) and Jason Brough will be providing analysis for both pre- and post-game shows.

Pens edge Bolts, advance to first Stanley Cup Final in seven years

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For one night, anyway, the Steel City loved it some Rust.

In a thrilling and drama-filled affair, the unlikeliest of heroes — Pens rookie Bryan Rust — stole the show, scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Rust’s heroics sent Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009.

Seven years ago against the Red Wings, it was depth forward Max Talbot that etched himself into Penguins lore, scoring both goals in the decisive Game 7.

Rust pretty much did the same on Friday.

The former Notre Dame standout opened the scoring in the second period, then took all of 30 seconds to wipe out Jonathan Drouin‘s equalizer. It was a performance that’ll long be remembered in Pittsburgh, as it was the organization’s first Game 7 victory since — you guessed it — 2009, when Talbot led the Pens to victory over Detroit.

As mentioned above, this contest was filled with drama. The theatrics actually began prior to puck drop, when Bolts captain Steve Stamkos was added to the lineup — his first game since being diagnosed with a blood clotting issue on Mar. 31.

Stamkos’ playoff debut was somewhat muted. He finished minus-1 with just 11:55 of ice time, though it’s tough to suggest much more could’ve been expected from a guy that hadn’t played in two months.

At times tonight, it seemed nothing, not even Stamkos’ presence, was going to slow Pittsburgh down. The Pens out-shot the Lightning 39-17 and had it not been for some terrific netminding from Andrei Vasilevskiy, the score could’ve been much worse.

That said, Tampa Bay did have its chances in the third period, and finished with a frantic flurry around Pens goalie Matt Murray (who wasn’t busy, but finished with 16 saves).

In the end, the Lightning will undoubtedly regret the missed opportunity to finish this series off in Game 6 at home.

The Penguins, meanwhile, have to be thrilled with the form shown over the final two games of this series. They’re playing some terrific hockey, getting contributions across the board and now staring at a Stanley Cup Final matchup with San Jose — which promises to be a fast, offensive and compelling series.

Game 1 gets underway at Consol on Monday. Have to imagine Pittsburgh can’t wait.

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

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Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?