Even if he did return, does Jagr fit in the Habs plans?
Now that the World Hockey Championships are out of the way, Jaromir Jagr stole some of the spotlight from Gold Medal winners Team Finland today.
In a story from the Edmonton Journal's Dan Barnes, the 39-year-old winger confirmed what had been reported earlier in the tournament, listing the Montreal Canadiens amongst three teams he might be interested in playing for next season. The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers were the other two teams that he notes as possible North American returns.
Jagr never shows any clear intention of playing in the NHL in his remarks, merely that he wants to play at least one more season before finishing his career in the Czech Republic with Kladno HC.
It could just be a game of cat and mouse being played just to give the media and fans something to stir up over the summer. It wouldn't be the first time that Jagr done that since jumping to the KHL. This time last year he had the Edmonton Oilers as a possibility.
After a season with Omsk in 2009, he stated that he merely needed a break from the 82-game NHL season. But after finishing his two-year deal, and he signed on for another season in Russia. How long of a break was he talking about then?
Even if Jagr's comments of a possible NHL return are sincere, do the Habs want him and would he fit in under Jacques Martin's system?
It seems unlikely that Jagr will be seen in a Habs uniform this fall, especially if reports that Pierre Gauthier turned down a $2-million salary request to come Montreal in 2010. Jagr even acknowledged today the environment that is playing in Montreal, so you can't imagine him asking for anything less this time around.
To fit him in, and already financially focused on the blueline this summer, Gauthier would probably have to make some changes with his other forwards to get No. 68 on the roster. Benoit Pouliot's future in Montreal seems all but over, so that could open up the cap room to squeeze him in. There's also the contract of Andrei Kostitsyn to fit into next year. Gauthier would need to weigh the pros and cons of sacrificing younger talent long term for a one-year shot.
Jagr's NHL resume speaks for itself with a Hart Trophy in 1999, and a finalist five other times (his latest coming in 2006). We are all aware of his scoring ability (Five Art Ross Trophies) and despite a dip in goal production this season, he maintained a point-per-game pace with Omsk.
But at 39 years of age, and after a three season removal from the NHL, do the offensively challenged Canadiens want to pay for a player who's goal production is possibly on the wane? His ability to keep up the pace with the other Habs forwards could also be questioned. As good as he appeared with Tomas Plekanec in the WHC, could he run with the faster players on the Habs roster for 70 to 80 games?
If he can play a full season, the gamble (no pun intended on Jagr's alleged financial problems) could pay off as his post season experience could be beneficial. For all we know, the big winner could be Scott Gomez who could finally have the winger he and Brian Gionta need in Montreal night after night. If it works, Gomez gets his production numbers back up to a better dollar value. If it doesn't, it at least gives him someone else for the critics to temporarily point the finger at.
There's also the defensive minded and puck possession coaching style of Jacques Martin to work around. Personality conflicts between Jagr and his coaches in the past are nothing new. Given what appears to be a content Habs dressing room, that new addition could cause some serious imbalance. Financials aside, It's pretty much the same reason that Alex Kovalev is no longer playing for the Canadiens.
Optimistically, it could happen. Realistically, emphasized by Jagr's track record, not a chance.
More opinion on Jagr and the Habs from the Cornwall Free News and Hey My Name is Will
HabsWorld with the stats on the five Habs players/prospects at the WHC
Alexei Yemelin was injured (leg) in today's WHC semi final. No report on the extent of the injury as of yet.