Jaromir Jagr trade rumors have been as plentiful and reliable as Elvis sightings. This time, though, it could be true, once Anson Carter has left the building.
If the Rangers finally pull this deal off, after innumerable aborted tries, Jagr will become yet another in a long line of bright shiny objects that Glen Sather just had to get his hands on, common sense be damned.
Here are the Rangers, whose foundations have crumbled, out shopping for new drapes. Sather is the magician who wants you to watch his pretty assistant while he stuffs the flowers into the trick bottom of his hat while he pulls out a rabbit. Only in Sather's hands, the bunny never materializes and all he is left holding is a bunch of weeds.
With half of the Rangers' defense corps disabled and starting goalie Mike Dunham suffering from a concussion, Sather has chosen to concentrate on acquiring a moody, mercurial, frequently injured, former star forward. This is in sharp contrast to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers' opponents last night. Their GM, Bob Clarke, also suffers from Sather's selective blindness in that he continually fails to see the gaping black hole in his team's net. He did, however, beat the Rangers to two defensemen in the past few days, picking up Danny Markov from Carolina and Mattias Timander from the Islanders to fill the Flyers' own injury-depleted blue line.
It doesn't matter that Jagr comes cheap, if you can call a minimum $44 million in salary over the next four years a bargain. For those of you Ranger fans with short attention spans, remember that Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, Mike Dunham, and Alexdi Kovalev also were trades that were too good to pass up.
Think of each of those moves as a butterfly effect. Consider these four Sather deals:
Filip Novak and a handful of draft picks to Florida for Bure.
Mike York and a draft pick to Edmonton for Tom Poti.
Jan Hlavac, Pavel Brendl, Kim Johnsson and a draft pick to Philadelphia for Lindros.
Rem Murray, Tomas Kloucek and Marek Zidlicky for Dunham.
In each case, the Rangers are considered to have obtained the better player. But have they become a better team? What product would be on the ice if defensive prospects like Kloucek, Novak and Zidlicky had stayed? What if the draft picks had been used to stock the farm system with homegrown Rangers instead of dangled like Steve Irwin's kid in front of hungry GMs?
The notion that Sather hasn't had enough time to evaluate trades while he is burdened with the head coaching job (a decision of his own making) is absurd. He had all the time in the world the previous three years, and he still didn't get the Rangers what they need. Because he doesn't know what they need.
Jagr will be more lipstick on the pig. Once he gets here, which could be as soon as today, he probably will play on a line with Kovalev and Petr Nedved. They are capable of scoring five goals a night. They are equally capable of allowing six by the other team.
The Rangers will sell more jerseys and generate a few more headlines and everyone will be talking about them for a few days once they trade for Jagr, and apparently that is enough to keep the suits happy.
Yesterday in this space I advocated that Sather should stay on, in defiance of the fans' "Fire Sather" chants. He should be fired, but not for the wrong reasons. He should go not to appease the paying customers' desire for his head, but because of what is going on inside his head.
And if what is going on in that dark, cold abyss results in Jagr becoming a Ranger, I change my mind. Go ahead and fire him.