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11-26-2003, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Pearl Necklace
Capitals might finally unload hefty salary
By Jim Wilkie
NHL Insider
Send an Email to Jim Wilkie Wednesday, November 26
Updated: November 26
8:59 AM ET

Just in time for Turkey Day, the Washington Capitals might be close to unloading their albatross, right winger Jaromir Jagr and most of his huge contract.

The Capitals are talking with the Rangers about a deal that would send Jagr to New York with Washington picking up as much as $20 million of the $44 million remaining on his contract after this season, according to the New York Post. No players were mentioned going to the Capitals and the Post reported that the Rangers haven't yet discussed which players they would trade for Jagr.

Jaromir Jagr continues to be very unhappy in Washington.
Jagr has been on the block for about a year after failing to live up to expectations since the Capitals acquired him from Pittsburgh in the summer of 2001. In the offseason, reports of a Jagr-for-Eric Lindros deal circulated but the deal failed to be completed mainly because the Rangers wanted the Capitals to eat more of Jagr's contract, which expires after the 2007-08 season.

Money will be the biggest obstacle to see the deal through, as the Post reported the Rangers' concern over the impact Jagr's deal will have under a new collective bargaining agreement. One solution would be to redo Jagr's contract so he gets more money this season so his average over the final four years comes in less than the $11 million per year he's due now.

The Post also reported that Detroit is showing recent interest in Jagr. As more fuel for the rumors, Capitals general manager George McPhee attended Sunday's Rangers game against the Senators at Madison Square Garden and Capitals pro scout Brian MacLellan was in Tampa, Fla., for the Rangers' game against the Lightning on Tuesday night, according to the Post.

Although the Rangers have the second-highest payroll in the league at about $77 million, less than $1 million behind the Red Wings, they do have a little more money available through some unfortunate, but serendipitous, events. Right winger Pavel Bure will make $10 million, but if his knee injury, which is said to be career-threatening, keeps him out all season or he retires insurance will cover $8 million of the cost.

The Rangers also won't have to pay a $6 million bonus for games played to Lindros because he has already missed 11 games with chest and eye injuries. Lindros will make a base salary of $3.3 million, but the Rangers would have owed him $9.3 million if he was available to play at least 75 games. The most games he can reach is 71 as of Wednesday.

Lindros' deal is still a lot for the money-losing Capitals to take on, but it's a lot more appealing than it looked in the summer. Lindros, 30, achieved the bonus last season by playing in 81 of 82 games, but he also had the worst year of his career, scoring just 19 goals and 53 points and finishing a plus-5. In 10 games this season Lindros has two goals, seven points is a plus-1.

A more likely candidate to be headed to Washington is Jamie Lundmark, who will make $1.025 million this season. The 22-year-old center has been a healthy scratch for the past two games since Lindros returned from a scratched cornea and a resulting condition called hyphema, or bleeding into the front of the eye. Lundmark is one of the Rangers' brightest prospects but he has fallen out of favor with New York president, GM and head coach Glen Sather and was only averaging around 10 minutes of ice time in games he had played recently.

Of course, trading youth for big-name talent has been the Rangers' way of operating for years even though it hasn't helped in the standings as they haven't made the playoffs for the past six years. Sather has been running the team since 2000-01 and it's safe to say he has to end that skid to save his job.

Though still inconsistent, the Rangers have improved this season. Their 2-0 victory over Tampa Bay and 6-2 win over Ottawa were arguably the Broadway Blueshirts' best performances of the season and were more impressive considering the opposition are top Eastern Conference clubs. Heading into Wednesday's action, the Rangers are third in the Atlantic Division and tied with Ottawa for eighth in the East with 22 points, seven behind East-leading Philadelphia.

Jagr badly needs a change of scenery as he has rarely shown flashes of the player the Capitals thought they were getting and has been a big reason the Capitals are tied with Pittsburgh for last in the league standings. Jagr's eight goals, 20 points and minus-1 in 21 games are decent, but not the type of results expected from a 31-year-old who was considered the best hockey player in the world before being traded to the Capitals. In 11 seasons with the Penguins, Jagr averaged 1.34 points per game. He's averaged 1.07 per game with Washington.

Eric Lindros's injury woes will make him a big risk.
Jagr has 15 points in the past 10 games and is riding an eight-game point streak. Perhaps it's coincidental, but the Post's report on active talks between the Rangers and Capitals is based on information from two "longtime confidantes that he trusts." The Post's sources said Jagr's production has increased as a result of his excitement at being traded to New York, which missed out on landing him a little more than two years ago.

While shedding salary is the highest priority for the Capitals franchise, which lost $21 million last year according to the Dec. 8 issue of Forbes Magazine, Washington's immediate on-ice needs are on defense. The Capitals lost Ken Klee (free agent to Toronto) and Calle Johansson (retirement) after last season, leaving a woefully inexperienced blue line behind veterans Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt. The Capitals are 27th in the NHL in defense with a 2.90 goals-against average.

Rangers defenseman Dale Purinton annoyed Sather recently by refusing a conditioning assignment to AHL Hartford, so he's a prime candidate with his $575,000 contract. Tom Poti ($2.8 million) had been mentioned in trade rumors before the Rangers' recent surge, but prospects seem more likely financially. Fedor Tjutin had an impressive training camp and the 20-year-old, 6-2, 217-pound blue-liner has three goals and nine points in 17 games with Hartford. Forward Anson Carter ($2.8 million) has also been mentioned in trade rumors earlier this season but has since picked up his play.

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