Slim pickings as Jagr leaves NHL
Russia's Continental Hockey League appears to have landed its first superstar. And all it cost them was $17.5 million a season.
The website of Avangard Omsk reported Friday morning that the team had signed former Ranger
Said to be entertaining offers from the Russian league for the past several weeks, Jagr had his hand forced when the Rangers tired of his dallying and signed former Canucks captain
Jagr departs as the ninth-leading scorer in NHL history (1,599 points), and someone who had a legitimate chance to move into the top five before he was done, even with his skills in decline. But he's also a player who failed to find consistency or real chemistry with his Rangers linemates last season, and his desire to compete was in question far too often for someone looking for something in the neighborhood of $7 million to stay in New York. The team's decision to spend that money on Naslund and
Less than 96 hours into the process, the free agency pool nearly was drained of its marquee talent. Here's a quick look at who's left to fill in the gaps as of July 8:
If the Canucks strike out in the Sundin sweepstakes, look for Gillis to take another swipe at adding to his roster through a restricted free agent offer sheet.
It certainly wouldn't be a popular move -- Gillis was lambasted after going that route with St. Louis forward
Until Sunday, Gillis' best bet was Detroit winger
A reminder to the NHL's schedule makers: Enjoy your long holiday weekend, but please be sure to report back to the office on Monday. Despite what you may be hearing, plans are still in place to play the 2008-09 season.
There certainly are some hands being thrown in the air in the wake of Detroit's surprising signing of premier free agent forward
But it's premature to start planning the parade route. Too soon to start clearing space in the trophy cabinet. And far too hasty to start measuring ring sizes.
The Red Wings, to the amazement of some and frustration of others, look even more like someone's fantasy hockey roster than when last we saw them crushing the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. But they haven't won the 2009 Cup yet. In fact, the odds -- and history -- suggest they won't.
It's not just that hockey hasn't had a successful title defense since the Wings turned the trick a decade ago. It's that the game is littered with the flaming remains of preseason locks who crashed along the way.
Consider the 1970-71 Bruins. Boasting a lineup that included
Or how about the 1985-86 Oilers, whose chance at a three-peat and five-year Cup run was undone by, among other things, a
Fortunately for some of us, It doesn't take that long a memory to recall a similar scene of free agency-induced white flag waving by fans. It was the summer of 2003, on the heels of a 105-point season, that the Colorado Avalanche managed to wrangle both
Both Kariya and Selanne took one-year contracts structured significantly under market value -- and this was pre-cap, remember -- with an eye on postseason success. "This organization has a history of winning the Stanley Cup," Selanne said at the time.
Of course, things didn't work out so well.
Both Forsberg and Kariya spent extended stretches on the shelf, and Selanne disappointed with a 16-goal, 32-point season. Their struggles weren't the only problem. That Avalanche team also had issues in net, where the retirement of
Those stacked Avs fell in the second round of the playoffs.
A more recent, albeit non-hockey, parallel might be drawn to the 2007 New England Patriots, a perennial championship contender that added
While that should provide some heart to fans ready to write this season off, it's not to take anything away from Red Wings GM
It was a dazzling bid by Holland, one that certainly left more ardent suitors like Edmonton (rumored to have offered nine years at $81 million) and Montreal wondering what they had to do to be taken seriously. Despite having scads of cap room, Holland was hamstrung when it came to making a similar long-term deal by the need to lock in core players
It also was bold move by Hossa, who left a lifetime of security on the table to take what he saw as his best shot at the dream. It's surprising that he's being painted by some as a mercenary -- or more inappropriately, a bad teammate in Pittsburgh -- for chasing a Cup with the Wings when most anyone else would have leapt at the biggest pile of money.
Hossa's willingness to put team success over financial self-interest provides an emotional focus for a team that already is one of the most disciplined in hockey. And that may be just as key to Detroit's fate as the 35 goals he's averaged over the past eight seasons.
Sure, with Hossa in the lineup, it'd be crazy to bet against the Wings. But as those Boston, Edmonton and New England teams prove, there's a reason they actually play the games instead of simply awarding the hardware to the most impressive paper lineup.