Sources: Mario encouraged by talk with Jagr
Jaromir Jagr spoke with Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux on Thursday, and sources said Lemieux came away encouraged by the conversation.
However, the Penguins have not made an offer and are not convinced the wing would be willing to return to the Penguins for less money than he could make elsewhere. Detroit also is interested and likely could offer the NHL's ninth all-time leading scorer more money.
If their intent is to sign the second-leading scorer in franchise history, the Penguins wouldn't be able to officially add Jagr until July 1. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed yesterday that Jagr is ineligible to sign with an NHL team until July 1 because of a "blackout period" stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. Earlier this week, Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, indicated that he expects Jagr to sign with the Penguins or Red Wings before July 1.
On Wednesday, coach Dan Bylsma expressed interest in Jagr's return, but there is debate within the organization about whether the 39-year-old still can be a top-six forward.
Sources said general manager Ray Shero is not interested in paying much more than $1 million for Jagr's services. The Penguins are committed to roughly $55 million toward the salary cap for next season, leaving them about $9 million to work with. Whether unrestricted free agents such as Pascal Dupuis, Max Talbot and Mike Rupp and restricted free agent Tyler Kennedy return could hinge on the decision on Jagr, who has spent the past three seasons in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
"Long before I was in Pittsburgh, Jagr was an icon there," Shero said Thursday. "So, I can understand people being interested in what's going on."
The unknown factor is Lemieux, Jagr's former teammate and hockey idol. Jagr has been complimentary of the Penguins in recent years and in 2009 said he "owes my hockey life" to Lemieux.