The hockey world was told that Jaromir Jagr would make his decision on Wednesday. As Thursday has come and gone, we still haven’t heard any official statements to shed any more light onto the dimly lit situation. However, on Thursday night we now have a strong clue as to where the five-time scoring leader will land for the 2010-11 season.
Ray Shero and the Pittsburgh Penguins: come on down, you’re the next contestant on the Price is Right! Philadelphia Flyers beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo of the DelCo Daily Times has been pounding the phones and gives us the most insight into the Jagr melodrama to date. According to SanFilippo, it’s a done deal with the Penguins and all that remains is the official announcement.
If only that were the whole story.
I was told Jagr has already told Lemieux that he’s going to sign with Pittsburgh and that the Penguins have a huge front page for their Web site ready to go live at Noon tomorrow with a big “welcome home” theme.
Why the delay then?
From what I was told Jagr’s agent Petr Svoboda may have been trying to lure another team into offering Jagr a bit more money so he can put a PR spin like “I turned down more money to come back to Pittsburgh.”
In a situation that has had more twists and turns than a Six Flags ride, SanFilippo’s report could be the beginning of the end for #JagrWatch. The interesting bit is that even though a deal could be done in principle, Jagr’s agent is still working opposition organizations to drive the price up.
Sure, that makes sense. But when it comes out that the only reason for talking is to increase bargaining power, doesn’t that defeat the purpose? There’s supposed to be an actual threat that the player may take another offer. If he’s already told the Pens that he intends to sign in Pittsburgh and they’re rolling out the digital welcome mat, why would opposing GMs even pick up the phone? Would they continue to negotiate in an attempt to drive up the price for the Penguins? Then again, is it even possible for Ray Shero and Co. to feel desperation at this point? Doubtful.
While some of the best teams in the league are championing for Jagr’s services, it’s still worth asking if Jagr is worth all of the trouble. His play started slipping in his last season with the New York Rangers in 2007-08. In the three years since, he’s been less than a point-per-game player with Avangard Omsk in the KHL. If/when he returns to the NHL next season, will we see the player who has steadily declined over the last five years or will we see the player who captured hockey fans’ imagination at the 2010 Olympics?
The Penguins, Red Wings, Canadiens, etc. are betting that he’s still an elite player who can make a difference on a contender. Judging by the attention the story has received, it sounds like hockey fans around North America agree. Only one more day and we’ll find out if he plans on making a triumphant return to Pittsburgh.
With the way this has played out, it may take more than one day.
Update: And so it begins. Petr Svoboda has already told Scott Burnside: “There’s a lot more teams now we’re talking to…” Are these legitimate offers or is he just trying to drive the price up for the Penguins?