Pittsburgh Penguins: Jaromir Jagr Wearing a Pens Jersey More and More Likely

Russ GodekContributor IIIJune 21, 2011

For years it has been rumored. For years it has been wanted. For years it seemed impossible.

Well, this time it's different. Jaromir Jagr just may don the Penguins crest one more time before his career comes to an end.

Talks of Jagr returning to the NHL after three years in the KHL have heated up in the past week after his agent, Petr Svoboda had commented publicly on his client's availability.

Jagr, 39, is highly interested in returning to the NHL according to Svoboda who stated that there is a "really, really good chance" Jagr will play this season in the NHL, first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi.

Read more: Jagr's agent: 'Pittsburgh is in the loop' - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Svoboda has already spoken to Penguins GM Ray Shero once and planned to do so again today.

The two front-runners in talks to get Jagr are the Detroit Red Wings and the Penguins, with the Penguins seeming to be Jagr's ideal choice.

This is largely due in part to his legacy with the team and Shero's success at putting together a quality franchise who is now a perennial contender for the Stanley Cup.

One more big factor may put the Penguins as Jagr's go-to team, Mario Lemieux. Lemieux was Jagr's teammate in the early '90s and his self-admitted boyhood idol. The two all-time greats have a fantastic relationship and Jagr has done nothing but speak highly of Lemieux when asked.

The only question that lingers would be could the Penguins make this move work in the salary cap era? With around $8 million in cap-space left after the recent increase to the cap ceiling, the Penguins do have some wiggle room.

Jagr isn't the only player the Penguins are in talks with however. There is still the task of what to do with their pending free agents, including Max Talbot, Pascal Dupuis, Mike Rupp and restricted free agents Dustin Jeffrey and Tyler Kennedy.

The team cannot sign everyone and it's apparent that Talbot will not be returning this season. It is in the Penguins best interests to hang out to Dustin Jeffrey as well, with his low price tag, young age and success he had the previous season before injury.

Rupp's contract demands have been rumored to be out of the Penguins' ballpark and while he is a great role player, the Penguins would be smart to let him walk if his demands are over $1 million.

Dupuis is a versatile player and a great help on the penalty kill who shouldn't demand a high salary. Look for the Penguins to hang on to Dupuis for around $1.5 million.

Kennedy's future depends upon his contract demands and Jagr's signing. If Kennedy's demands reach over $2 million, then you must let him walk.

If you sign Jagr for $2.5 or $3 million, a reasonable number since Svoboda has stated it's "obvious" Jagr is not seeking top dollar, then the Penguins top six would be filled out.

The top six would feature Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr, James Neal and either Jordan Staal or Dupuis, depending on how the Penguins planned to balance out their squad.

With the increased cap, the desirability of the city and team, and Lemieux's involvement, the Penguins should be strong contenders to land Jagr this off season.

UPDATE (3:51 P.M.)

Per Pierre LeBrun from ESPN.com, Jagr was quoted as saying "I don't know", in regards to how imminent a decision is, continuing "Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes it takes a week. I'm not sure how long it's going to take,".

Jagr praised both the Red Wings and the Pens, not hinting at favoring one over the other. With the NHL Entry Draft and the free agency period approaching fast, I can't imagine the Penguins taking much longer to make a decision.

I would expect a decision to be made by Jagr or the Pens by Sunday.

UPDATE (8:52 P.M.)

TSN has provided another update on Jagr. In speaking with Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma, who is in Las Vegas for the NHL Awards tomorrow night, he offered up some thoughts on the possibility of adding a player like Jagr.

"Hypothetically, you're talking about a guy who in his last year in the National Hockey League had 75 points," Bylsma said Tuesday. "That's leading our team last year. That's an intriguing thing to think about -- a power-play guy, what you saw him do in the world championship against NHL-calibre players was nothing short of outstanding.

"Those are intriguing things to think about hypothetically and it's tough not to think about adding 75 points to your roster if that's something you're capable of doing."

With Bylsma previously avoiding commenting on Jagr as recently as yesterday when interviewed on a local Pittsburgh radio show, it would appear that this is becoming more and more likely.

UPDATE (June 22, 10:00 A.M.)

Per Pierre LeBrun from ESPN.com, it appears Jagr will speak with Penguins GM Ray Shero and Mario Lemieux today.

I would expect more clarity to come after those talks, especially with Lemieux. Could be a good day for Pens fans.

UPDATED (10:45 A.M.)

Per Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Jagr's agent says don't expect anything to happen in the next few days, but the weekend could become interesting. Jagr is still expected to speak with Shero and Lemieux today however.

This would make sense since this weekend in the NHL Entry Draft, where rumors have swirled that the Penguins may trade away restricted free agent Tyler Kennedy at the draft.

UPDATED (June 23, 1:45 P.M.)

Per Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Jagr spoked with Penguins Owner Mario Lemieux today.

Lemieux came away from the conversation encouraged, but he, along with the Shero are not convinced that Jagr will take less money to come to the Penguins.

It is not appearing that there is a debate within the organization on whether or not Jagr can be an effective addition to the team. It's reported that Bylsma wants Jagr on his team and Shero is still reluctant to offer him more than $2 million and is not sure he can be a top-six winger on the team.

The wild card here is still with Lemieux. Lemieux has final say, even over Ray Shero. Other times when Lemieux has expressed interest in acquiring players, notably Marion Hossa and Alexei Kovalev, Shero made it happen.

Will Lemieux have his way this time? I still believe he will, but we wont have to wait much longer to find out. Expect a deal to be in place for Jagr from either Detroit or Pittsburgh during the draft this weekend.

UPDATED (June 23, 3:55 P.M.)

It appears that Jagr is unable to sign with any team until the July 1st free agency period begins.

Previously it was thought he could sign anywhere at anytime because he had no previously played in the NHL, but there is a supposed blackout period for signings until the July 1st deadline.

This also contradicts Jagr's agent Petr Svoboda's comments that he would hope a deal would get done in the next few days.

While a contract cannot be signed until July 1st, a deal may still be agreed upon before then, so there still may be some news to come out of the Draft this weekend regarding Jagr.


If you want information as it happens stay tuned here, as I will update the story as news comes in. If you want it first, if you want it fast, keep it with me.


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