No offer for Jagr, but talks continue with Penguins
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Ray Shero still has not offered free-agent right winger Jaromir Jagr a contract.
Still hasn't decided whether he will, actually.
And while he would like to have Jagr's status clarified before the start of free agency July 1, Shero, the Penguins general manager, has not set an unofficial deadline for knowing whether Jagr will have a place in his team's plans for the 2011-12 season.
Shero said Thursday evening that "there are some ongoing discussions, internally" about the plusses and minuses of pursuing Jagr, who has publicly expressed an interest in playing for the Penguins, but who also has said the idea of playing for Detroit appeals to him.
Shero and Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, have spoken two or three times during the past week and have tentative plans to talk today, although a family matter in the Czech Republic could prevent Svoboda from traveling here for the NHL draft, which begins this evening at the Xcel Energy Center.
Shero was emphatic that Jagr is not an individual issue, that he is just one of many "moving parts" the Penguins are dealing with as they work on their roster for the coming season.
In other matters pertaining to free agency, Shero said:
• Center Max Talbot was offered a three-year contract, but did not accept it and is expected to test the market as an unrestricted free agent July 1.
• He's "still in talks" to re-sign forward Pascal Dupuis, who can be unrestricted July 1,"but we're just not there at this point."
• There is a similar situation with left winger Mike Rupp, in that, "it's close enough to get a deal, but it's not there yet."
• He has made the qualifying offer needed to retain forward Dustin Jeffrey's rights, and that he expects to do likewise with right winger Tyler Kennedy this weekend. Both are scheduled to become restricted free agents July 1.
As for negotiations with Steve Bartlett, Kennedy's agent, Shero said "they're still ongoing, but there's not much to report there."
Shero spoke with Jagr for the first time a few days ago -- "We had a nice conversation," he said -- and Jagr spoke with Mario Lemieux, his longtime teammate and the Penguins current co-owner not long after that.
Lemieux, like Shero, was looking to get a feel for, among other things, Jagr's motivation in returning to North America after spending the past three seasons in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
Team officials declined an interview request for Lemieux, but Shero said he thought "it was a good conversation [for Lemieux and Jagr] to have."
That does not mean Lemieux will play a significant role in determining whether the Penguins pursue Jagr or how much money they might ultimately be willing to offer him.
Shero said Lemieux "asked me if I thought it would be a good idea to call" before doing so, and added that Lemieux never has gotten involved in personnel decisions, even though his input is solicited occasionally.
"He's never, ever told me to go sign a guy, or 'Do this, or 'Do that,' " Shero said. "We bounce stuff off of him, but, at the end, he's always left it up to us. He's a great owner."
The idea of Jagr returning to the team with which he began his NHL career is intriguing to so many people because of his achievements during his first stint with the Penguins. He won two Stanley Cups, five scoring championships and a league MVP award.
Then again, he will turn 40 in February, and how he would hold up under the 82-game grind of an NHL schedule is hard to predict. He proved as recently as the world championships, though, that he still can elevate his game, at least over a relatively short period.
"The pace [in the NHL] would be different," Shero said. "The intensity would be different than he has experienced the last three years. But he's still a pretty good player."
Although the Penguins did not watch Jagr play, even by accident, in the KHL during the past season, Shero got to see him at the world championships, and was understandably impressed after Jagr turned in a stellar performance against Team USA.
"He's a really big, strong player," Shero said. "Hard to handle. Has that long reach. He's hard to defend."
And, it would seem, not all that easy to make a decision on.