Q: Given Jaromir Jagr's sluggish start with the New York Rangers, and the fact that he is not so comfortable as the headliner, can you foresee any potential trade for his return to Pittsburgh this season? Jagr never said he disliked Pittsburgh and he wouldn't have the world on his shoulders like he does now. He and the Penguins might flourish down the stretch, and think of the added stress on opposing penalty-killers.
Kip Richeal, West Mayfield, Mass.
MOLINARI: Sure would be fun to see how all those Mellon Arena fans who boo Jagr mercilessly every time he touches the puck would react to having him back in a Penguins sweater, wouldn't it? It's not going to happen, though.
While it's conceivable that the Rangers might be willing at some point to seriously entertain trade offers for Jagr, whose contract will expire after this season unless he's able to hit offensive benchmarks that would trigger an automatic extension, it's pretty much unthinkable that the Penguins would be interested in bringing him back.
Not only because he alienated so many people, inside and outside the organization, as his 11-season stint here wound down, but because even a pro-rated portion of his $8,360,000 salary would figure to be a budget-breaker for the Penguins. Even though they could take on Jagr's contract without coming particularly close to the league's salary-cap ceiling, the money they would spend on him would be better set aside to either a) bring in more than one player to address some of the team's short-term weaknesses, or b) be put toward future contracts for the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Jagr is high on the list of ridiculously gifted players who have worn a Penguins sweater during the past quarter-century, but it's best if his time here is discussed strictly in the past tense.
Q: Why do the teams with the worst records get first dibs on players that have been put on waivers? Shouldn't the team that is willing to pay the most money be awarded that particular player? Or better yet, shouldn't that player get to choose who he wants to play for (among the interested teams), seeing how his current team no longer has interest in him?
Mike, Grand Rapids, Mich.
MOLINARI: The idea behind waiver claims, at least from the league's perspective, is to give struggling teams an opportunity to upgrade their personnel, which is why the club that has earned the lowest percentage of possible points when a player is waived can get him if it is interested.
Waiver fees are negotiated as part of the league's collective bargaining agreement, which precludes teams getting into a bidding war for a waived player, and because NHL contracts are guaranteed, even if a player is waived, he still is entitled to his salary, regardless of whether he is claimed. That means he is not a free agent and thus is not entitled to select the team for which he would like to play.