Friday, June 24, 2011

Wake Up With GTOG: Explaining the Jagr Situation; Unable to Explain the Flyers Situation

By Finesse

It's been a long week at GTOG, but it's a beautiful Friday morning and it's time to take care of some NHL business.

- The Pens' pursuit of Jaromir Jagr continues, but the seriousness of both sides' interest in still a relative unknown.  Contrary to initial reports, Jagr will have to wait until July 1st to sign with anyone, meaning the NHL Draft this weekend just got a whole lot less interesting.  The whispers that we are hearing (from other people who hear whispers and then report them), is that JJ would prefer to come to Pittsburgh so long as the money is acceptable (even if it is less than he could get elsewhere).  We're as excited as anyone about the possibility of Jagr coming back, but the cynical side of us thinks that there is a chance that all of this is just Jagr taking an emotional victory lap around the NHL, all the while driving up his price for the KHL.

If you don't still have the t-shirt Jagr is wearing, you're lying.
- The degree of the Pens' interest in Jagr is less clear.  Dan Bylsma is "intrigued" by the possibility of bringing back Jagr, and "sources" are telling Josh Yohe of the Trib that Mario is "encouraged" by the conversation he had with Jagr yesterday, whatever that means.  Ray Shero, however, does not appear to be as enthusiastic: He tells Molinari that Jagr is just one of the many "moving parts" for the Pens right now and, according to Yohe and Rossi, Shero isn't interested in going much over the $1 million mark for JJ's services.

- Here's my unofficial speculation on what's going on.  Ever since Ray Shero became the GM, he has done an incredible job of sticking to the plan -- a solid long-term approach that is flexible enough to allow for short term risk taking when the time is right (See Hossa, Marian).  Along the way, he has also been very careful to manage fans' expectations of the team and of the people he has brought in.  But Shero was burned last year by the acquisition of Kovalev, not in terms of what he gave up (nothing), but in terms of what Kovalev brought to the Pens (less than nothing).  While Kovalev is 1/10th the player Jagr is, some of the same concerns are there: a big name player arriving with lofty expectations, but who just doesn't have it any more.  Just as it was with Kovalev, that problem could be compounded by Jagr's enormous personality.  That's not to say that Jagr would be a bad "locker room guy" or would step on Sid's toes; instead, it means that because he is Jaromir Jagr, the team and coaching staff starts relying on him to do more than he actually can do -- think Kovalev getting unlimited ice time on the worst power play in the history of the NHL (unofficially) because he's Kovalev and is supposed to be good on the PP.  Essentially, Shero's lukewarm (at best) interest in Jagr is understandable based on Shero's track-record, the Pens' needs, and the team's cap situation.

This picture is moving at real speed.
- Having said all that, we still want Jagr back.  First, as we just said, he's not Alex Kovalev.  He's a top 10-15 player of all-time and a first-ballot HOF'er.  Second, and unlike Kovalev, Jagr has shown very recently that he still has game - witness the hat trick against the USA at the World Championships.  Third, Jagr's strength is on the PP and the Pens' power play is a joke, even when Sid and Geno are healthy (that the PP isn't at 20% every year is a legitimate indictment of the coaching staff and, yes, of Sid and Geno's greatness).  Fourth, Jagr seems to have an affinity for Pittsburgh and Mario, and a happy #68 is a productive #68.  Fifth, who else are you going to get?  We have no right wingers other than Kennedy, and if TK is re-signed, he is likely going to be more expensive and for a longer term than Jagr.  And it's Tyler Kennedy, for God's sake. Finally, we're talking about Jaromir Jagr.  Bring his ass back.  #jagrwatch

- The risks of bringing him back are real: Shero may have to let TK walk, Jagr may suck, he may be too big of a presence for Sid and Geno, he will intimidate Bylsma into giving him more ice-time than he deserves, he will miss at least 25 games (that's a fact, not a risk), he will be a sideshow for already the most talked-about team in the league, and he will cost more than he is worth.  Legitimate concerns, yes, but let's remember.  This is Jaromir Jagr.  Bring his ass back. #jagrwatch

- In other free agent news, the Pens offered Talbot a three-year deal but he rejected it and will likely test the free agent market.  With the higher salary cap floor, there is no doubt that he will get more money elsewhere.  We won't blame him if he takes it.  Mike Rupp and the Pens are apparently getting close to a deal.  Let's hope the price is modest because as much as we and the rest of the fan base like Rupp, he is a replaceable part and Shero has been able to find guys like him almost at will.  Pascal Dupuis and the Pens are still talking, but don't have anything signed.  Out of these three guys, I think Dupuis should be the priority.  Yes, he costs more than Talbot or Rupp, but that's because he is better.  He scores goals (18 and 17 the last two years), kills penalties, and is versatile enough to play on every line (though obviously he is better suited for 3rd/4th line duty).

- Early Thursday afternoon, the Flyers dismantled their team by trading away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards for some decent players and prospects, though not anyone who has actually done much in the NHL (yet).  Immediately after the dismantling, the Flyers re-mantled their team by signing a 31-year old goalie to a 9-year/$51 million contract.  Yes, Ilya Bryzgalov will count $5.6 million against the Flyers' cap when he is 40.

- Trading Carter is understandable - his performance declined markedly last year, he has a gazillion year-contract, and he's a one-trick pony (great shot).  But the Richards trade is much more surprising.  We don't like the guy for obvious reasons, but he's a really good player.  Not captain material, but an 80-point guy and the maybe the most dangerous penalty killer in the league.  And then a nine-year contract to a 31 year-old goalie?  What, was Garth Snow only offering eight?  The only explanation for any of this is that they are the Flyers, and they were due. sunglasses at a bar.

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