Jaromir Jagr (C) of Czech Republic celeb

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?

Clutter-bucks: Isles sign energy guy to five-year, $17.5 million extension

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 03:  Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the New York Islanders scores his second goal of the game at 9:53 of the third period against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 3, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  The Islanders defeated the Stars 6-5. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders made a splash on Friday, signing veteran forward Cal Clutterbuck to a five-year, $17.5 million extension — one that carries a $3.5 million average annual cap hit through 2023.

Clutterbuck, 29, has two goals and nine points through 25 games this year, while averaging 15:26 TOI per night (his highest average since joining the Isles four years ago). As per usual, he leads the club in hits — one of the staples of his game — and serves as one of the club’s alternate captains.

This new contract represents a nice raise for the former Minnesota Wild man. His last contract, set to expire in July, was of the four-year, $11 million variety, and carried a $2.75 million cap hit.

This contract also resembles the one GM Garth Snow gave another of the club’s role forwards. This summer, Casey Cizikas signed a five-year, $16.75 million extension — one with a $3.35 million hit — despite the fact he’d never scored more than 30 points in a season, or averaged more than 14 minutes of ice time.

This style of spending — along with splashes made for free agent disappointments Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd — is sure to raise some questions. The Isles opted not to spend that money on retaining two of their key players from a season ago, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, and the club has struggled to find its form through the first quarter of this year.

Bettman: Salary cap could stay the same for next season

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman unveils the League's Centennial celebration plans for 2017 during a press conference at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 27, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Don’t expect a big jump in next season’s salary cap.

“We’re not going to give out any numbers now,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday, per Yahoo Sports. “The cap could range from where it is now to a couple or so million up, but we’re all going to have to focus on what makes the most sense moving forward.”

The salary cap only went up slightly for the current season, from $71.4 million to $73 million. The only slight increase was due to the lower Canadian dollar, which negatively impacted last season’s league revenues by “$100 or 200 million,” Bettman said earlier this year.

The loonie has been holding relatively steady for around half a year. It’s currently worth $0.76 USD and has been helped by the recent oil rally.

A flat salary cap would be bad news for big spenders like the Chicago Blackhawks, who still need to get Artemi Panarin signed to an extension. The Los Angeles Kings could also be forced to make some tough decisions, as they’ve got Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson in need of new deals. Ditto for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have key RFAs in Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Conor Sheary.

Related: Trades galore? McPhee expecting ‘a massive player redistribution before the expansion draft’

A few ‘bad decisions’ have been costing Lundqvist

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) reacts after giving up a goal to Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in New York. The Penguins won 6-1. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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Henrik Lundqvist has set such a high bar that his 12-8-1 record with a .912 save percentage is cause for great concern these days in New York.

That his backup, Antti Raanta, is 6-1-0 with a .932 save percentage only contributes to that concern, because if Raanta can manage those numbers, what’s Lundqvist’s excuse?

“I feel like I’m tracking the puck well, moving well,” Lundqvist told the Daily News. “It just comes down to some bad decisions at times that cost me.”

Indeed, December has not started well for The King. He’s allowed 10 goals in three starts for a save percentage of .894. In Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Islanders, his decision to poke check a loose puck led to the winning goal by Andrew Ladd.

But while this month has been a struggle, it should be noted that Lundqvist was mostly excellent in November. He finished with a .925 save percentage, including that 40-save victory on Black Friday in Philadelphia.

Which is to say, he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt. Since 2008-09, Lundqvist has not finished a season with a save percentage below .920, and that is a remarkable achievement.

Raanta was solid again last night in Winnipeg, where the Rangers beat the Jets, 2-1. A starting goalie for tonight’s game in Chicago has not yet been announced, but Lundqvist is a good bet.

Top 10 career save percentages among goalies with at least 300 NHL starts

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Jets send talented rookie Connor to AHL

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Kyle Connor is on his way to the minors.

On Friday, Winnipeg announced that Connor — the former Michigan Wolverines star taken 17th overall in 2015 — has been assigned to the club’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.

Connor, 19, had just one goal and four points through 19 games this year, struggling to adjust to life at the professional level.

He’d been a healthy scratch for each of the Jets’ last six games and, prior to that, missed five games with an upper-body injury after getting nailed into the boards by L.A. forward Kyle Clifford.

The Jets are getting healthy up front, which further explains why Connor is on his way to the Moose. Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault both recently returned from injury.