Jagr’s camp contacts Penguins about a possible return to NHL

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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?

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.

Rangers lock up Zibanejad for next five years

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The New York Rangers have locked up a key piece of their future, signing center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5.35 million.

Zibanejad had an arbitration hearing scheduled for today, but that won’t be required anymore.

The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. It was his first year in New York after getting traded from Ottawa for Derick Brassard.

With Derek Stepan in Arizona now, Zibanejad is arguably the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Kevin Hayes is in that conversation as well, and perhaps Lias Andersson will be soon.

But getting Zibanejad signed long term was a top priority for GM Jeff Gorton this offseason. Hayes can become a restricted free agent next summer, but that’s a bridge to cross at a later date.

Related: Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.