In one of the most bizarre merry-go-rounds of NHL free-agent rumors in recent years, the Hurricanes—long considered the front-runner for the 41-year-old Jagr—have been written out of the race by several sources.
Raleigh radio host Mike Maniscalco conveyed the news via Twitter:
For people wondering about UFA Jaromir Jagr, I have been told by team sources that the #Canes are not actively pursuing Jagr at this time.— Mike Maniscalco (@mikemaniscalco) July 10, 2013
Toronto radio host Josh Rimer backed up Maniscalco's report shortly thereafter:
Been told that the Hurricanes have had NO DISCUSSIONS with Jagr or Grabovski. Things could change as they like Grabovski.— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) July 10, 2013
Wednesday's latest news comes after a series of reports indicating that Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford was interested in Jagr.
Czech Republic newspaper Lidovky claimed on Monday that the Hurricanes were one of four teams in the running.
Then, agent Petr Svoboda did little to quell such speculation in a phone interview on Wednesday morning. Svoboda told Jonathan Stout of Canes Country:
What I can tell you is this: Carolina was on his list. There are a lot of reasons. Ron Francis is there and when he looks at the roster and everything else, he feels that it’s a very good team. He knows where he wants to go and why.
Jagr does have a number of connections to the Carolina franchise. In addition to former Penguins teammate Ron Francis, Jagr also played on the same line as Jiri Tlusty with Czech club Kladno during last fall's NHL lockout.
Since the opening of the free-agent market last Friday, Rutherford has repeatedly mentioned the Hurricanes' pursuit of a major unrestricted free agent.
He re-emphasized that point Tuesday in an interview on Raleigh station 99.9 The Fan (h/t The Fourth Period):
There's one guy that has said he will take less on a one-year contract to come to us, because he likes our team and he'd like to play here. I've been continuing to work on ways to do that.
We're going to have to move a player out before we're able to add a player, and at this point in time I haven't been able to do it, but the player is still waiting patiently.
If the Hurricanes' interested big-name unrestricted free agent isn't Jagr, many have speculated it could be a winger such as Brenden Morrow, Mason Raymond or Damien Brunner. All three would provide a significant scoring punch to the team's second line.
Rutherford may be attempting to trade out Tuomo Ruutu, who missed a large part of the 2013 campaign in surgery recovery and carries a hefty $4.75 million cap hit. Other possibilities include Drayson Bowman, coming off a disappointing rookie campaign, or Jeremy Welsh, whose contract becomes one way in 2013-14.
Expect the Ferris wheel of Jagr rumors to make at least a few more rotations in the coming days.