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PHT Time Machine: Remembering Jaromir Jagr trade nobody won

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Throughout the summer we will be taking a look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back at the Pittsburgh Penguins trading Jaromir Jagr to the Washington Capitals, a trade that probably everybody regrets — but still had a stupid way of working out.

On the ice the Pittsburgh Penguins have been a remarkably successful franchise over the past 35 years. Five championships, an extensive list of Hall of Famers, probably four of the top-10 players to play in the NHL during that stretch, and a pile of individual scoring titles and MVP awards.

Off the ice, there have been some dark times, specifically when it came to the teams financial and ownership situations.

The darkest of those times was no doubt during the late 1990s and early 2000s when the team went through bankruptcy (for a second time!), was playing in a crumbling dump of a building, and at one point in 1999 it seemed possible — if not likely — that the team might even be completely dissolved.

Then, 17 years ago Wednesday, just a couple of months after a run to the Eastern Conference Final that was led by the stunning return to the ice by team owner Mario Lemieux, they traded Jaromir Jagr — at that point the second greatest player in team history and the league’s reigning scoring champion — to the Washington Capitals for a collection of prospects.

The Background

Jagr being traded was not a shock. It had become inevitable for a variety of reasons, ranging from the team’s unsettled financial situation to Jagr’s desire to, well, get the heck out of Pittsburgh.

The shock was where he ended up going and how little the team received in return for what was, at the time, the league’s most dominant player.

While everyone today knows the Penguins-Capitals rivalry as being centered around Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the history goes back much further than those two superstars. Throughout the 1990s, Penguins-Capitals was a regular matchup in the playoffs and it had its share of madness. Probably even more than the current rivalry does.

During the 1999-00 series, a scheduling conflict at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh forced the series to shift back to the Steel City for Games 2 and 3 (as opposed to Game 3 and 4 as the format usually dictates), a significant disadvantage for the Capitals at the start. Naturally, this left them pretty angry and led to then-coach Ron Wilson proclaiming before the start of the series that he wouldn’t mind playing all seven games in Pittsburgh and that his team would win anyway.

The Penguins won Game 1 in Washington a couple of days later by a 7-0 margin and won the series in five games.

A few years earlier during the 1996 series, Penguins assistant coach Bryan Trottier and Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld (he of “have another donut” fame) went nose-to-nose between the benches during a line brawl on the ice.

There was the Petr Nedved four overtime game. There was a regular season game in 1992 between the two teams that turned into such a gong show Lemieux, Jagr, and Kevin Stevens were all ejected, with Jagr earning a 10-game suspension for placing his hands on a referee.

In short, these two teams had a history, and at the time, it typically went in the Penguins’ favor with Jagr playing a central role in a lot of it. He and the Penguins were almost always the obstacle standing between the Capitals and a lengthy playoff run.

Then, after months of speculation that Jagr might be destined for New York (one of the few teams at the time that was thought to be able to afford him), he ended up going to Washington in exchange for prospects Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk.

From The Pittsburgh Side 

For Pittsburgh, the name of the game was getting younger and cheaper, and while the names Beech, Sivek, and Lupaschuk will never stand out other than being the answer to a trivia question, the Penguins’ hockey staff was absolutely ecstatic with the return at the time.

At least that is what they said.

At the press conference announcing the trade then-general manager Craig Patrick compared Beech to a Ron Francis-type player, saying “we feel he can be that type of franchise player. He’s only 20 years old so you can’t expect that from him today, but we feel that’s what he is going to give us down the road.”

Perhaps the worst thing you can do to a 20-year-old player that was just acquired in a laughably lopsided trade for your best player is to directly compare him to another Hall of Famer. Talk about setting an unreasonable bar that can never, ever be reached.

Patrick went on to explain that the other team most interested in a Jagr trade — the Rangers — was only offering veteran players, while the Penguins wanted youth. That is exactly what the trio he received provided as they were all selected within the top-40 picks of the previous year’s draft. Looking back on it now this would not be a point in their favor as the 1999 draft will probably go down, from top to bottom, as one of the worst drafts in NHL history.

Still, Patrick said at the time when he told his scouting staff about Washington’s offer they responded by “jumping up and down” and that “they loved it.”

Stunningly, they were not the only ones.

Even though Jagr was a dominant player in Pittsburgh, helping the team win two championships and at times almost single-handedly dragging the team to the playoffs and keeping its very existence alive (as he may have done during the 1999 playoffs), his exit from Pittsburgh was not a positive one. He was viewed as a malcontent, a coach-killer, and his “dying alive” remarks soured a significant portion of the Penguins’ fan base.

In the days after the trade the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was filled with letters-to-the-editor from fans absolutely crushing Jagr and celebrating his exit.

Just some of the examples:

Today, 17 years later, all of this is amazing to look back on because we know how it all ended up going for the Penguins.

Together, Beech, Sivek, and Lupaschuk played a grand total of 141 games for the Penguins, scoring 13 goals and 33 total points, while the Penguins were a laughing stock for the better part of the next four seasons, continuing to sell off every decent player they had.

It was ugly.

From the Washington Side

Meanwhile, the immediate reaction in Washington was the exact opposite because the Capitals had acquired the boogeyman that had destroyed them for years and was expected to be the missing piece and final ingredient in a Stanley Cup recipe.

He was joining a team that had Peter Bondra, Adam Oates, Sergei Gonchar, and Olaf Kolzig, all All-Star level players at the time.

The Capitals eventually signed him to a seven-year, $77 million contract, at the time the largest contract in NHL history.

The response from the high rollers in the organization was nothing short of sheer joy.

Owner Ted Leonsis at the introductory press conference: “Welcome to the sixth day of the Jaromir Jagr love-fest. I’m really pleased with how the town has reacted. We almost had a riot at Dulles (airport). We needed a police escort.”

General manager George McPhee: “For the first time in 27 years I think people think we mean business, and we do.”

And later…

“I didn’t sleep it all last Tuesday and Wednesday. I guess I must have been pretty excited. I picked up the papers (the morning after the trade) and said ‘Holy smokes, we pulled it off.”

Head coach Ron Wilson: “The reality of it hit me a few days ago. I’m at my computer making up (hypothetical) lines and I said, ‘My God, Jaromir Jagr!’ I feel like a kid in a toy store who gets told, ‘you can have whatever you want.’ I get to pick the most expensive toy in the store and I get to play with it.”

This, for the record, was the correct reaction. From all of them. They got the best player in hockey, in the prime of his career, got him signed to a contract extension, and did not have to give up anything of value — both then and after the fact — to get him.

This should have been a franchise-altering moment for the Washington Capitals.

It was.

Just not the way anybody expected it to be.

The Result

The Penguins, understandably, went in the tank. Lemieux was never able to stay healthy or recapture the magic he had in his initial return and the full-on rebuild was underway. Everybody saw that coming.

The stunning result is that nothing went according to plan for the Capitals.

Jagr ended up having some of the worst seasons of his career in Washington while the team (after winning consecutive division titles) failed to make the playoffs in his first year with the team. And as one of those hilarious letters to the editor up above correctly predicted, Wilson was, in fact, a dead man walking having been fired after the season and replaced by Bruce Cassidy. Things were only marginally better the following year as the Capitals won the Southeast Division only to lose in the first-round of the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

From there, the quest to trade Jagr and completely rebuild the organization was on. The problem the Capitals ran into is that even though Jagr’s production was still among the top players in the league, it was a fraction of what he did during his time in Pittsburgh. There was also a looming collective bargaining situation that made pretty much every team hesitant to take on the biggest contract in the NHL because nobody was fully aware of what the economic situation in the league would look like a few years later.

Finally, during the 2003-04 season, the Capitals found a taker and sent him to the New York Rangers in a one-for-one swap for Anson Carter.

Leonsis said in the aftermath of the trade he had to make it because of the “new economic reality” of the league and that it was the first step in “re-crafting the team.”

The following season was completely wiped out by the 2004-05 NHL lockout. In the years immediately after it, Jagr returned to being one of the best offensive players in the league and missed out on what would have been his sixth scoring title by just two points (his 123 points were second to only Joe Thornton‘s 125). He was also the runner-up for the MVP award. After a few highly successful years in New York he spent three years playing in Russia before returning for a nomadic end to his NHL career that saw him bounce from team-to-team on a yearly basis.

The crazy thing about this trade is that even though it was a spectacular failure for both teams it still ended up setting the stage for what both teams would eventually become.

When Patrick made the trade in Pittsburgh he gave a timeline of five years for when the team would once again be a factor. Five years later the team was back in the playoffs and just a couple of years away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final and ultimately winning it. That success had absolutely nothing to do with any of the players acquired in the Jagr trade but that trade did begin the rebuild that resulted in the team being bad enough to land the draft picks that got them Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby.

Jagr’s exit out of Washington led to a similar result for the Capitals.

The year Jagr was traded to the Rangers signaled the beginning of a full-scale rebuild in Washington and resulted with the Capitals finishing that season with the second-worst record in the league (ahead of only the Penguins). The Capitals ended up winning the draft lottery the next year and the right to select Alex Ovechkin (the Penguins, picking second, ended up with Malkin and by losing that lottery got an extra lottery ball in the 2005 lottery following the cancellation of the 2004-05 season — that extra lottery ball helped them get Crosby).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Karlsson to miss Sharks next two games, All-Star Game status in doubt

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After he was a late scratch for Saturday’s game, the San Jose Sharks have announced that defenseman Erik Karlsson will be shut down until the All-Star break, missing the team’s next two games on Monday and Tuesday due to an undisclosed lower-body injury.

While he will miss the upcoming games against the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals, coach Pete DeBoer said on Monday that it is still possible that Karlsson could play in this weekend’s All-Star game which will be held in San Jose.

“I just want to get him healthy, so if he’s healthy enough, I would hope he’ll play,” DeBoer said via NHL.com. “And I know he would play. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that he’s healthy enough to play.”

If he can’t play you would have to think that it would open up a spot for Calgary Flames defender Mark Giordano to get a much-deserved call to the game as he one of the many defenders in the Pacific Division (including Karlsson, and fellow Sharks All-Star Brent Burns) that are playing at a Norris Trophy level this season.

Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larson would also be a possibility, but Giordano would almost certainly be the favorite given how great he has been this season.

After a slow start on the scoresheet this season Karlsson has really come on over the past couple of months and is back to playing at the high level we’re used to seeing him at. He has 43 points in 47 games this season, and has recorded at least one point in 16 of his past 18 games, a stretch that has seen him total 27 points. He is also near the top of the league for the season when it comes to shot attempt and scoring chance differentials when he is on the ice.

Burns and Joe Pavelski are the Sharks’ other two representatives at this year’s All-Star Game.

The 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 25 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2019 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Oilers shuffle more deck chairs, waive Spooner and Rattie

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Following a dreadful weekend that saw them lose consecutive blowouts to Calgary and Carolina (getting scored by a 12-6 margin), the Edmonton Oilers made a few more changes to their roster on Monday by placing forwards Ryan Spooner and Ty Rattie on waivers.

The noteworthy name here, of course, is Ryan Spooner because of what he represents. What he represents is the type of roster management that has resulted in the Oilers wasting the first four years of a generational talent in Connor McDavid.

Follow along for a minute just to recall how we got here:

  • The Oilers just acquired Spooner a couple of months ago from the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Strome.
  • That trade came just one year after they acquired Strome in a one-for-one deal with the New York Islanders for Jordan Eberle.
  • That means in less than a year-and-a-half the Oilers managed to turn a consistent 20-goal, 50-point winger in Eberle into a player they are placing on waivers. The only natural winger on the Oilers roster this season that is on track to even come close to that sort of production is Alex Chiasson. That is … not good.

Let us not forget how that sequence of trades started just one year after Taylor Hall was traded to New Jersey straight up for Adam Larsson.

Spooner still carries a $4 million salary cap hit through the end of next season.

Rattie spent the 2017-18 season split between Edmonton and the AHL and has appeared in 29 games with the big club this season, scoring two goals to go with six assists. He was a preseason standout this year with five goals and three assists while mostly playing on a line with McDavid. That success never translated over to the regular season.

Whether or not the Oilers make any other moves to accompany these waiver transactions this still has the look of an organization that doesn’t really have any kind of a set plan in place and is just making it up as it goes along.

Related: Oilers add two defenders, including McDavid nemesis Manning

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Hurricanes sign Teravainen to a five-year, $27 million extension

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The Carolina Hurricanes don’t have many forwards under contract next season, but they managed to secure one more on Monday, as they signed Teuvo Teravainen to a five-year, $27 million contract extension ($5.4 million AAV).

The 24-year-old is currently second on the team in points, with 39. He also finished second on the team in scoring last year, when he amassed 64 points in 82 games.

“Teuvo has improved every year of his NHL career and has established himself as a cornerstone forward for the Hurricanes now and into the future,” president and general manager Don Waddell said in a release. “He has shown that he is capable of adapting and expanding his role with our team, becoming a key penalty killer for Rod this season. He’s still just 24 years old and we believe he will only continue to grow as a player.”

Teravainen was set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

This signing is a no-brainer for the Hurricanes, especially because Teravainen has been productive and they’re lacking it the scoring department. He’s improved his point production in each of the last three seasons and he’s on pace to surpass last year’s point total, too.

The ‘Canes now have Teravainen, Nino Niederreiter, Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele and Lucas Wallmark as forwards under contract next season.

Carolina will now turn their attention to Micheal Ferland, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Ferland is reportedly looking for a long-term deal that would pay him $6 million per season. Even though he hasn’t been as productive as Teravainen, Ferland has more leverage because he’s eligible to hit the open market.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

NHL on NBCSN: Blues look to keep rolling against lowly Kings

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between theSt. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Blues’ season appeared to be over. They weren’t scoring much, they couldn’t get a save and the losses just kept piling up. But since the start of January, they’ve managed to get their season back on the rails. Things started to change for the Blues when they inserted rookie goalie Jordan Binnington into their lineup.

Binnington has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his five decisions. He gave up two goals on 30 shots in Saturday’s victory over the Ottawa Senators. Even though the 25-year-old’s been rolling, it sounds like interim head coach Craig Berube will continue to use Binnington and veteran Jake Allen.

“I’m going to use both of them right now. I truly believe that’s the way to go,” Berube said. “Then we’ve got the break coming up and it gets really busy again, so we’ll need both of them ready.”

Since the start of the new year, the Blues have gone 6-3-1. This recent surge has allowed St. Louis to pull within five points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

David Perron, who missed Saturday’s game against Ottawa, has been red-hot of late. Before getting hurt, Perron picked up at least one point in 13 consecutive games. The 30-year-old has 17 goals and 35 points in 45 contests.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 3 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Another player that’s turned his season around, is Vladimir Tarasenko. The 27-year-old is having a down year, but he’s been relatively productive over the last nine games, as he’s picked up eight points during that stretch.

As for the Kings, they’re currently in last place in the NHL standings. Los Angeles is coming off an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

“It was just a pathetic second period,” defenseman Drew Doughty said after the loss. “I really don’t even know what to say. Yeah, they played well but we just played poor. And we left our goalies out to dry again. And we’re sick of doing that. When we win games, we leave them out to dry. When we lose games, we leave them out to dry. It’s about time we play for them.”

The Kings have picked up just 42 points in 49 games this season. Since the start of the month, the Kings have gone 1-3-1 on the road, but they’re 2-2-0 at home. Even though they’re in the basement of the West, they’re still “only” 10 points back of the final Wild Card spot. By comparison, the Detroit Red Wings, who are last in the East, are 15 points back of the final Wild Card spot in their conference.

But let’s be honest, there’s no way the Kings can overcome a 10-point deficit. On top of being 10 points out, they’d have to leap over seven teams to make the postseason. That’s not happening.

You have to think that they have a full rebuild coming in their future.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.