Updates on Jaromir Jagr, Mikhail Grabovski, Tim Thomas and Ron Hainsey.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Tom Gulitti weighed in on the recent rumors claiming Jaromir Jagr may be close to signing with the New Jersey Devils. Despite recent reports out of the Czech Republic (where the rumors linking Jagr to the Devils have originated), Gulitti hasn’t been able to get confirmation from either Jagr’s agent or Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, though the latter never reveals his free agent intentions. While Gulitti believes Jagr still has the skills to help an NHL team, he cites the winger’s lack of speed as a detriment, especially for a Devils team which already signed Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I would think a younger, faster forward would be more beneficial (Grabovski, Brunner, Raymond) than Jagr for the Devils at this stage. We’ll hopefully find out soon what Lamoriello has in mind.
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the most likely stops for former Leaf Mikhail Grabovski are “Washington, Winnipeg, Florida or Calgary”…Simmons also noted the seeming lack of interest in UFA goalie Tim Thomas…He also wondered if Ron Hainsey’s involvement in NHL CBA negotiations has anything to do with why he hasn’t been signed yet as an unrestricted free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I like Simmons’ choices for Grabovski, but the Capitals reportedly aren’t interested in what’s available on the UFA market and intend to look to within to fill their second line center role (Brooks Laich?). The Jets probably won’t pursue “Grabo” since their focus is currently upon the trio of key players (Zach Bogosian, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little) slated for arbitration hearings. Panthers GM Dale Tallon recently claimed he’s not adding veteran depth via trades or free agency. That leaves the Flames, who definitely need depth at center, but does Grabovski want to sign with a rebuilding team?
As for Thomas, I don’t see a market for him right now. Ditto Ilya Bryzgalov. I think the earliest both goalies could get signed is in September, when teams have time to evaluate their goalie tandems.
Following the lockout there was speculation Hainsey, who was heavily involved in CBA negotations for the NHLPA, might get “blackballed”. I believe the real reasons he hasn’t been signed is his offensive production has noticeably declined since his career-best 39-point season in 2008-09, plus he’s coming off a five-year, $22.5 million contract, so he has to lower expectations of what he could get on this summer’s market when the salary cap has declined. Hainsey is still a valuable defensive blueliner, and was linked recently to the Carolina Hurricanes, so I expect at some point this summer he’ll be signed by a club seeking experience blueline depth, though it’ll likely be on a short-term (1-2 years), less expensive deal, perhaps $2.5 million per.