It is another season of NHL hockey, which means it is yet again time for the rumor mill to churn up momentum around the possible return of heralded forward Jaromir Jagr to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Widely seen by many of the team’s faithful as one of their worst trades, Jagr left the Pens in 2001 after a lot of internal tensions in a trade that netted the team a group of players who ultimately struggled to move beyond the AHL. Meanwhile, Jagr has continued to remain a potent scoring threat, even at age 42.
Over the past several seasons, rumors have constantly swirled that the former Pittsburgh superstar would make a grand return to the team.
After several years of playing in Europe, Jagr made a return to the NHL and received a contract offer from the Pens. It was ultimately less money than he received from several other suitors, including his eventual landing place in Philadelphia, but the team had extended the olive branch.
It would seem that the winds are blowing in the proper direction for the return of the formidable Czech winger. Due to a laundry list of injuries and illness, the Penguins need as much offensive output as they can muster.
With a team-leading 25 points on 9 goals and 16 assists, Jagr has been a solid performer this season for a team that has consistently struggled to get the puck into the net. Thanks to his veteran sensibilities, he could almost certainly find chemistry within the top lines of the Pens and improve those numbers almost immediately.
Jagr’s frustration with his situation in New Jersey has also found its way into the media, making it all the more likely that offers for his services could arise.. “It’s up to [Devils general manager] Lou [Lamoriello],” said Jagr. “He knows me. I know him. I’ve got no problem with [being traded]. If he wants to move me, he will. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. He knows I like it here, but it’s all about whatever is best for the team.”
To make matters even more caustic, Jagr has almost never been on a team as bad as the current Devils squad in his entire career. “In the last 25 years, I’ve never been in this situation,” Jagr said. “I’ve never been on a team that was almost the worst in the NHL. It’s new to me.”Oct 3, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr (68) on the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, thanks to his one-year contract, Jagr would make for a terrific temporary boost to the team while not placing them on the hook for a ridiculous amount of money or years for a player of his age.
This is all without mentioning the wonderful storyline that would be given to both Jagr and the Penguins organization by bringing back one of their former premier players. It would seem that everyone would win.
At the end of the day, one large obstacle obstructs this possibility from coming to fruition: Lou Lamoriello. In his 28th season as the Devils’ general manager and president, Lamoriello is notoriously stingy in his negotiations with the Pens.
Throughout his entire tenure with the Devils, Lamoriello has only made one deal with Pittsburgh. He brought himself to agree to a draft day deal in 1996 that gave the Pens pick #28 in the second round in exchange for two late-second round picks.
The one chance for a possible change in behavior from Lamoriello is that his head may be placed firmly on the chopping block. “The Devils haven’t performed up to anybody’s expectations,” wrote Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun. “But the reality is the roster isn’t that good. Even the 72-year-old Lamoriello is taking it on the chin from the New Jersey media who believe the time has come for a change in the command.”
With the team floundering, the need to move veteran Jagr for more youthful pieces becoming more apparent, and his job potentially at risk, perhaps Lamoriello can bring himself to deal with his Keystone State rivals.
While the odds of Jagr arriving in the Steel City are firmly up in the air, one thing can be certain: Jaromir Jagr playing alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin under the watchful eye of Mario Lemieux would make for one hell of a sight.