Former Penguins captain Jaromir Jagr has spent the past three seasons in Russia's KHL.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins spent more than a week deciding whether to offer Jaromir Jagr a contract.
They figure it will take less than a day to learn whether he is willing to accept it.
General manager Ray Shero offered Jagr a one-year deal Tuesday and said he believes he will find out today whether Jagr agrees to it.
"[Today] is decision day," Shero said. "We'll see what he does. ... He's got all the information he needs from us [to make up his mind]."
Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, could not be reached for comment last evening, but suggested earlier in the day that he also believed Jagr's status for the 2011-12 season could be resolved today.
Svoboda was expected to consult with Jagr Tuesday night, laying out the options that have emerged since Jagr went public with his desire to return to the NHL. It is not known whether any other team has made a proposal, although the Detroit Red Wings publicly have expressed interest in Jagr and at least one other team, believed to be Montreal, is purported to have contemplated pursuing him.
Shero declined to specify how much money the Penguins are offering, although he characterized it as "fair" and "respectful." He added that the proposal would not sabotage his attempts to re-sign players such as wingers Tyler Kennedy and Mike Rupp before they hit the open market as unrestricted free agents Friday.
"I don't know what the [salary] expectations are, but here's what we can offer and still be able to re-sign the players we want to re-sign," Shero said. "I've always said to our players that if they want to stay in Pittsburgh and win, they might have to take a little less [money]."
One guy who did that Tuesday is winger Pascal Dupuis, as he accepted a two-year contract with an annual salary of $1.5 million. That's a $100,000 increase in pay, but likely less than Dupuis could have received elsewhere if he had explored unrestricted free agency later this week.
Dupuis, who had 17 goals and 20 assists in 81 games in 2010-11, has filled a variety of roles since being acquired from Atlanta, along with Marian Hossa, in 2008. He has been effective on checking lines and solid, if not spectacular, as a top-six winger. He also is an integral part of a penalty-killing unit that was the highest-ranked in the NHL last season.
"He's a real underrated player, I think," Shero said. "He's been a real good addition for us the last couple of years. He's got 35 even-strength goals in the last couple of years. That's hard to do. His speed is something we like in our lineup, and his versatility is a big factor. His teammates trust his game, and his coaches trust his game."
With Dupuis in the fold, the Penguins' top three targets to re-sign are Rupp and Kennedy, along with forward Dustin Jeffrey. Jeffrey has received a qualifying offer that allows the Penguins to match any deal another team might offer him, and he might well end up accepting it.
Shero said he continues to have discussions with the agents of all three players and did not rule out getting something done with Kennedy and/or Rupp before Friday. The focus today, though, will be on Jagr.
He broke into the NHL with the Penguins in 1990, won two Stanley Cups, five scoring championships and one league MVP award here before being traded to Washington a decade ago.
Jagr has spent the past three winters with Avangard Omsk in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. It's a less grueling game and schedule -- teams there play 54 games instead of 82 -- and how Jagr, who will turn 40 in February, would hold up under the NHL grind is impossible to predict.
Shero, though, watched him at the world championships this spring and came away impressed.
"We feel, from the information we have and after seeing him at the world championships, that he's a guy who might be able to help us this coming season," Shero said.
He declined to say precisely where Jagr would fit into the Penguins' personnel mix, although his game is tailored to being a top-six forward., and he surely would play a significant role on their power play.
Jagr had 19 goals and 31 assists in 49 games with Omsk last season. Whether he is still capable of a point-per-game pace against NHL competition is conjecture, but returning to the team where he enjoyed his greatest success clearly would bring his career full circle.
"We feel he's a guy who can help us this year," Shero said. "And then retire as a Penguin."