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Saturday, March 29, 2008


Euro Curve appears Saturdays on Illegalcurve.com, and chronicles the latest international hockey news.

So Czech superstar -and New York Rangers veteran- Jaromir Jagr is rumoured to be the most recent hockey player considering a move from the National Hockey League to Russia. Ho-hum.

According to an article in yesterday's National Post, and citing references from the Bergen Record, Jagr has already began preliminary discussions with representatives from Avangard Omsk of the Russian Super League. The eccentric mega-millionaire will become an unrestricted free agent this summer and it has been said that the Rangers aren't necessarily prepared to offer Jagr another multi-year deal.

Based on Jagr's career numbers and improved defensive play, you have to think that he would command an average yearly salary of somewhere in the neighbourhood of $7-$9 million dollars. After averaging 110 points over the past two seasons, Jagr has struggled offensively in 2007'08 (77 games played, 20 goals, 43 assists). Because of Jagr's performance-dependant contract, he must score 84 points this season (impossible) or lead the Rangers past the first round of the playoffs (more likely) for his status as an unrestricted free agent to be changed.

There are a few factors which will determine whether or not Jagr boards a plane for the Evil Empire. Firstly, how the Rangers perform in the playoffs will have a massive impact on whether Jagr stays in the NHL or decides to finish off his career in Europe. The Rangers have an excellent team this year, a equal mix of speed, skill and grit. As is the case with the fortunes of many other playoff-contending teams, New York will sink or swim with starting goaltender Henrink Lundqvist. Jagr, Shanahan, Straka,Drury and Gomez et al. form one of the most dangerous forward units in the entire NHL and unless they all come to the first round of the playoffs with hangovers, will get their fair share of goals. Obviously, who the Rangers draw in the first round will be huge (The Devils love playing the Rangers in the playoffs, please see four game sweep in 2005'06 playoffs).

The second factor which will affect Jagr's decision is the type of contract that Avangard Omsk offers him. Remember, Jagr played for Avangard Omsk during the 2004'05 lockout season and was paid handsomely for his efforts. It is quite possible that Jagr would rather collect a one-year, $6 million tax free cheque in Russia than accept a reduced multi-year offer from an NHL club. Regardless, Jagr is not going to have to worry about missing his Lamborghini or Ferrari payments anytime soon.

So if Jammy moves to Russia, what kind of precedent will this set in North America? Will thirty-something NHLers follow suit and finish their careers in Europe because of the more desirable contract offers? Will we see Daniel Alfredsson, Mats Sundin, Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov, Martin Straka, Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev in the same situation at this time next year? Probably not. These players are paid well and want to win the Stanley Cup. The elite leagues of Russia, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland may attract a few NHLers looking to prolong a fleeting career but for the most part, this will not create a negative spin-off.

As the Russian Super League continues to pursue talented players like Andrei Kostitsyn and Nikita Filitov, North American hockey pundits can take solace in the fact that hockey players still consider the National Hockey League the greatest stage for hockey in the world, which will keep most players coming back.

For Illegal Curve, I'm Ezra Ginsburg.

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