Debating Jagr - 06-23-11

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

As you may have heard, the Penguins are kicking around the idea of bring back a former Czech star with flashy skills and a history of atrocious hairstyles.

No not Robert Lang. Jaromir Jagr.

Such a move is fraught with the potential for large reward as well as equally sizeable risk.

Here are the biggest pros and cons of bringing Jaromir Jagr back to the Penguins.

Pro - Power Play

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The Penguins' power play has been ... problematic ... to put it mildly. And it's been that way for a few seasons. Despite having the talents of all-stars such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang available, the Penguins just can't find any consistency with the man advantage. Enter the man with 110 career power-play goals for the Penguins, second most in franchise history. Assuming the coaching staff allowed it to flow through him, the power play would be bound to improve.

Con - Money

By all accounts he wants nothing more than one-year deal from his next suitor regardless if it's the Penguins, Red Wings or some murky mystery team. So length doesn't appear to be an issue. But money does. Anything north of $3 million would seem out of range for the Penguins considering the have approximately $8 million of salary cap room to work with. But players with less ability command in excess of $3 million. Montreal pays Andre Kostitsyn, an above average top-six winger $3.25 million. We have to imagine Jagr is at least on par in terms of skill with Kotsitsyn. And would signing Jagr close the door on a return of restricted free agent Tyler Kennedy (above), a younger player who broke through with 21 goals last season?

Pro - Washington

If for nothing else, it would be entertaining to see if Jagr could top Crosby in terms of being booed in Washington. The infamous 2001 offseason trade which sent Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to the Capitals in exchange for Kris Beech, Ross Lupuschuk, Michal Sivek and cash was pretty much a two-way street of failure. The Penguins franchise essentially fell apart as a result of the deal while the Capitals built a hopeful Stanley Cup contender around Jagr but never moved past the first round of the playoffs. Two and a half seasons later, Capitals management blew up the team and were in lottery-draft pick land like the Penguins. Jagr was the face of that failure and Capitals fans have treated him like John Wilkes Booth ever since.

Con - Age

Jagr will turn 40 midway through next season. How many 40-year-olds are there in the NHL routinely playing productive hockey in a top-six forward role? Teemu Selanne and Mark Recchi are proof that it can be done. On the flip side, the Penguins saw a 39-year-old Bill Guerin wear down as the 2009-10 season wore on. And last season, a 38-year-old Alex Kovalev (above) looked like he didn't even belong on an NHL rink at times.

By all accounts, Jagr is in good shape. He's never suffered a debilitating ailment such as the knee injury Kovalev suffered with the Senators in 2009-10. And he has been spared some wear and tear the past three years by playing a much shorter KHL schedule. Additionally, Jagr was never a true speedster on skates. He was more of a bull. Speed, or a lack thereof, won't be an issue for Jagr presumably. But can he still barrel through opposing defenders while stringing the puck along with one hand?

Pro - Skill

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Despite his age, Jagr still has the skill set of a legit top six forward in the NHL. He put a lot of that on display this past season in the World Championships by scoring nine points in nine games, tied for fifth-most in the tournament. He was eighth in the KHL regular season scoring race this past season with 51 points in 49 games. With the Rangers in 2007-08, his last full season in the NHL, he had 71 points in 82  games. That would have put him in the top 25 of the league's scoring race this past season, ahead of all-stars such as Joe Thornton, Daniel Briere and Rick Nash.

Jagr won't be setting any sort of personal bests if he returns to the NHL in terms of scoring. But he can still be a dangerous offensive threat at this level.

Con - Lockeroom

By many accounts, the Penguins have one of the best locker rooms in all of the NHL. It's something management places a high priority on. This is Sidney Crosby's team. This is Evgeni Malkin's team. This is Brooks Orpik's team. This is Jordan Staal's team. This is Marc-Andre Fleury's team. A decade ago, this was Jaromir Jagr's team. Is he willing to join a "different" team? (If that makes sense.)

Also, Jagr is prone to saying or doing some... uh... curious things. "Dying Alive" is still a popular piece of vernacular in the lexicon of Penguins fans. Even during his last NHL season with the Rangers, there was a report of Jagr meeting with KHL officials about returning to that league before the playoffs started. In short, Jagr is one stray, casual, stream-of-conscious thought from being a silly distraction for his team and for his teammates. Are the Penguins, or any team, willing to take on that baggage?

Pro - Motivation

There are plenty of reasons Jagr could be motivated by a return. Presumably, he'd want to make all those Penguins fans who booed him during his final visits at Mellon Arena cheer him in the Consol Energy Center. Jagr has always expressed admiration for this city and its fan base. There appears to be a desire to repair burnt bridges on his end.

And it's not a coincidence the two teams he has been connected with - the Penguins and Red Wings - are bona fide Stanley Cup contenders. There's a reason he isn't talking to the Blue Jackets or Oilers. He wants to win.

Finally, Mario Lemieux has talked with Jagr. Jagr looks up to Lemieux. He once said of Lemieux, "I would play for the minimum salary. I would play for $350,000 just for him because I owe him my hockey life. I want to pay him back because he has made me what I am…besides my parents.”

Having Lemieux in your corner is a heck of a motivating factor, especially if you put him on par with your parents.

(Photo: Jagr first-Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press; Jamie Sabau/Getty Images; Jagr second-Kenneth Lambert/Associated Press; Kovalev-Jamie Sabau/Getty Images; Crosby and Lemieux-Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

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