Three years later, will the Pittsburgh Penguins end up beating out the Detroit Red Wings for a star right winger?
That remains to be seen but within the past 24 hours, the Penguins have suddenly emerged as a front runner with the Red Wings for the services of 39 year old winger Jaromir Jagr.
When Red Wing officials felt they were closing in on Jagr over the weekend, the future Hall of Famer and former Penguin didn’t want to move forward without at least exploring Pittsburgh’s level of interest, sources confirm.
A reach out to the Penguins on late Friday afternoon from his agent Peter Svoboda, has now led to discussions between Jagr and key members of the Penguins brass.
The Penguins have come out of those discussions with the belief that Jagr’s interest in the team is serious and legitimate.
Penguins GM Ray Shero spent the weekend in discussions with members of his staff, including head coach Dan Bylsma regarding Jagr being a fit with the team on and off the ice.
They got back to Jagr’s camp on Monday morning in a what was described as a “positive manner”, a source with knowledge of the situation indicated.
One reason for some “optimism” surrounding a possible reunion is that Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma is said to be on-board with Jagr.
A decision from Jagr is expected by Wednesday or Thursday with Pittsburgh and Detroit widely considered the favorites to sign him. As of late Monday night, it is believed Jagr had not decided to push forward in talks with either team or the “sleeper” third team in the mix that Jagr’s camp is trying to keep quiet.
The Montreal Canadiens who were previously a team at the top of Jagr’s wishlist, are believed to be out of the mix, based off the team not seeing Jagr a fit with their structure.
A big myth going around among the fan base is that if the Penguins sign Jagr, it closes the door on Tyler Kennedy.
Word in league circles is that if Jagr signs with Detroit or Pittsburgh, it will be for under $3 million per season.
In fact, there’s been talk that parameters in place with Detroit over the weekend were in the $1.5 – $2 million range.
Jagr is free to sign before July 1.
The Penguins have $55.541 million committed to 17 players on one-way contracts. They have 8 forwards signed for next season and have a need to fill five forward spots.
The team currently has around $8.4 million in cap space, based on expectations of the cap being $64 million. Under GM Ray Shero, the Penguins always like to keep at least $500,000 – $700,000 in cap space to start the season.
Sources indicate that the Penguins are attacking free agency with around $4.75 – $5.25 million allocated to addressng their group of top-6 wingers.
The Penguins Plan A is said to be resigning Tyler Kennedy and adding another impact forward within that allocated price range through free agency or a trade.
However, resigning Kennedy is going to be easier said than done.
The team does not expect to have a deal in place with Kennedy before the start of Friday’s draft. The two sides have yet to find common ground on talks centering around a term of 2 years or more and one source believes the only two realistic options are a one year deal around $2 million per season or a trade.
At this point, Kennedy’s camp is showing no interest in a one year deal.
No contract discussions took place on Monday, between the two sides.
The Penguins prefer a one year deal based off (lower risk) the team not being sure where Kennedy fits when their core stars are healthy but the big issue remains Kennedy’s demands in talks of 2 years or more.
Qualifying offers are due to restricted free agents by June 27th.
If the Penguins are able to resign Kennedy and sign Jagr before July 1, it would close the door on a return for Pascal Dupuis who the team has had discussions with but are not close to a new deal.
The future of Mike Rupp is also murky.
Rupp who has a strong interest in returning, has not come down on his demands of a 2 year deal worth $1.25 million per season.