Jagr rumors heat up…

By Richard A. Plisco

With the NHL 2001 entry draft slated to begin within weeks, the Jagr rumors have begun to intensify. The Pittsburgh franchise and specifically GM Craig Patrick will be the spotlight for what may prove to be one of the biggest trades in NHL history.

Critics liken the situation to that of Gretzky going to Los Angeles or Lindros going to Philadelphia. No doubt, Penguins fans will expect nothing less than fair market value. However, several key factors come into play. The Pens are looking to unload Jagr’s salary to free up budget room to re-sign all-star scorers Kovalev and Straka. So trading for a current legitimate NHLer is more than not likely in the cards.

The Penguins will most likely be looking to add inexpensive depth players to round out the roster and any combination of picks, prospects, and/or cash. Commissioner Gary Bettman will also be expected to monitor the move to insure that cash value does not violate league restrictions.

Sources for the team indicate that now would be the best time to make such a deal for many reasons, the most obvious is to solidify a core group of performers to afford Mario one more decent shot at a Cup before re-entering retirement. Mario has only committed to one more season and the Olympics, so the window of opportunity may be minute.

The teams rumored to be interested currently include the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, and the San Jose Sharks. Teams that struggled this season and have the payroll also cannot be discounted which would bring the New York Rangers into the picture. Tampa Bay and the Islanders have an over abundance of young cheap talent on thier rosters and could use the box office draw Jagr would immediately produce. The whispers out of San Jose indicated that the team was shopping to dump recently acquired Teemu Selanne to free up room for Jaromir’s salary. The rumor has thus far been denied by team spokespeople.

This is just the start of what will be a whirlwind of speculation eminating from the steel city over the next couple of weeks.