Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jagr Update: A Fourth Contender Takes the Lead

UPDATE 15/06/2011, 4:00 PM EST - New article with quotes from Jagr himself in stark contrast to earlier reports indicates he is still 50-50 on deciding between the NHL and the KHL, with no specific teams mentioned:


When Jaromir Jagr was initially asked about his intentions for the 2011-12 season, in considering the NHL, he mentioned Montreal, New York, and Pittsburgh as destinations he could be interested in.

Now, a report out of the Czech Republic indicates a fourth team is in the mix, the Detroit Red Wings, and would in fact even have an edge in competing for his services.

If you saw yesterday's post, I consider Jaromir Jagr to be my most desired free agent for the Canadiens this summer, so the news of the Wings entering the picture is a bad sign. But in reality, which is a better fit?

Well, in Detroit's favour, they are a perennial Stanley Cup contender so Jagr would be well placed to take one last shot at winning it all. If a strong point to playing in Montreal was Jagr's chemistry and experience playing with Tomas Plekanec, I can't see how he would be upset about instead slotting on to a line with Pavel Datsyuk, a player much in the same style as Plekanec, yet even better at everything Tomas already excels at. And there's cap room; with a number of players leaving (mostly retiring) this summer, Detroit has the ability to meet the reasonable demands Jagr may have.

On the other hand, the article suggests Jagr is a fit as a replacement for the retiring Mike Modano. If the team's goal is to keep their average age consistent, then sure, he's a replacement, but that's about it. First, the obvious, Modano is a center while Jagr plays the wing. More importantly, though, Modano was far from a key piece of last year's Red Wings, playing only 40 regular season games (scoring 15 points) and getting into only 2 of the team's postseason contests. This to say that Detroit doesn't really have a major need to replace Modano.

The bigger need for the Wings would appear to be on the back end. With Brian Rafalski catching many by surprise with his retirement announcement, Niklas Lidstrom still pondering his future (though the Wings are optimistic about a return), and the emerging Jonathan Ericsson potentially testing the UFA waters this summer, there could be some very large skates to fill. While Jimmy Howard is a reasonable goaltender, he is not the kind to carry a team should he play behind a porous D group, so one would surmise the team's focus will be on keeping pucks out of its own net with their summer transactions rather than supplementing a mostly-unchanged forward troupe.

So even if this report indicates Detroit leading the way, I wouldn't count the Habs out just yet. Jagr would be wise to talk to his good friend Alex Kovalev about what it's like to play in Montreal, as he lived the highest highs and the lowest lows here, yet left feeling like a true Canadien in his heart.

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