EDMONTON - In the end, it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea anyway.
Not with the way the bottom fell out of the season, the playoff aspirations went awry, and the Edmonton Oilers ended up in the National Hockey League basement.
Jaromir Jagr won’t be coming to town anytime soon, having signed a one-year deal to stay in Russia with Avangard Omsk for a reported $7-million price range.
There was talk the Oilers may have still been interested in the right winger’s services, after they tried to pry him out of the Kontinental Hockey League two seasons ago.
Yet, that was when the team figured themselves to be a player or two away from playoff contention, and were in the market for a big-name free agent forward who could help them offensively.
Since then, the entire outlook has changed, as per general manager’s Steve Tambellini’s season’s end address.
With the top pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft and another high profile player in Sheldon Souray wanting the first ticket out of town, the Oilers are looking to build from within and are starting from the ground up. Plans now are to develop their talent as opposed to going after someone else’s.
On the surface, bringing Jagr in next season to play on a team in a rebuilding mode may appear to have had some merit. The guy can still put up some offence, registering 95 points in his two seasons with the Siberian side. His presence would appease Ales Hemsky who conceded he would be able to switch wings and play with Jagr. And he’s a recognizable name that may attract fans to the rink if the team is unable to due to their play.
Yet on a club looking to rid themselves of bad influences and in desperate need of some character to help guide the way for their future, Jagr, 38, doesn’t really seem to fit the bill.
This is a guy, who according to a former teammate, would hold up the team charter by arriving late, miss portions of practice checking out stock quotes in the dressing room, and once convinced his coach that the club needed to be bag skated, only to sit out half of it while taping his stick on the bench.
To get him here, the Oilers would have to offer up a similar salary to the one Avangard is paying, which would be steep for a team already up against the salary cap.
In his press conference announcing the new deal, Jagr said he had not negotiated with anyone other than Avangard Omsk for his services.
“I prefer when there is only one offer, sometimes it’s better,” Jagr is quoted as saying. “I got used to both the city and the team and this is the most important thing.”
Prior to leaving for Russia, Jagr had spent 17 seasons in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. He has 1,599 career NHL points.
The Oilers had vied for his services two seasons ago, and according to Jagr, had a deal to come to Edmonton during the playoff drive had Avangard’s season come to an end earlier then it did.
He has ties with Oilers assistant coach Tom Renney, who coached him with the Rangers and Wayne Fleming, who spent last season with Omsk.
Jagr suited up for the Czech Republic at the Olympics and will do so again at the upcoming world championships. However, his NHL days seem to be over.
“Next year I will be 39,” he said. “I don’t believe many clubs would like to have me. One has to be realistic.”
Oil drops ...
The Oilers came to terms with left winger Philippe Cornet on a three-year entry-level contract Tuesday. The team’s fifth-round choice, 133 overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft had 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points in 65 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL this past season.