Both the “News”:http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/hockey/rangers/2007/11/23/2007-11-23_jaromir_jagr_still_struggling_to_score.html and “the Post”:http://www.nypost.com/seven/11232007/sports/rangers/rangers_shouldnt_open_in_prague_206116.htm take a look today at the giant elephant in the room, namely Jaromir Jagr’s slow start (four goals, 17 points) and how it relates to his curious contract situation.
The short of it is that Jagr needs to attain certain benchmarks — 40 goals or 84 points and win a playoff round — to trigger his option for next season, otherwise he becomes an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Larry Brooks “takes it a step further”:http://www.nypost.com/seven/11232007/sports/rangers/rangers_shouldnt_open_in_prague_206116.htm and says the Rangers shouldn’t make the decision to open in Prague next season because it might compromise their thinking about what to do with Jagr.
Bear in mind that the Rangers are better served having Jagr’s option year kick in than they are re-signing him because the Capitals — who yesterday canned former Ranger goalie Glen Hanlon as their coach — are currently on the hook for part of his salary, sparing the Rangers the cap charge.
It’s a dicey area all around, and even with the Rangers winning, it’s going to become even more complicated unless Jagr starts scoring. While he has been outwardly a happy soldier — and only talking about his own lack of production when asked about it — there’s no questioning that it has been weighing on him. At season’s start I predicted big things for Jagr given that he’s back healthy — mostly healthy, at least — and I still think he’s going to pick it up.
The good news is running mate Marty Straka is likely back tonight against the Panthers, and will almost certainly be playing by his countryman’s side, either at center or at wing.