Are the Caps too far behind to catch up…..again?

The Washington Capitals have a problem. In fact, they seem to have had this problem since their improbable (shall we say fluke?) run to the Cup finals in 1998. They can’t play hockey until after Christmas, and that is why they won’t be dancing in the post-season again unless major changes are made. Starting with overpaid whiner Jaromir Jagr.When owner Ted Leonsis decided to open up the wallet and sign Jagr to an outlandish seven year deal worth $77 million, he sent shockwaves throughout the NHL. Leonsis acquired Jagr for barely anything I’ll grant you. But, was it worth it for an oft-injured prima donna who actually thinks the Caps are close to another Cup run? Not in my opinion, but my opinion doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

The only way La Capital have a chance at Lord Stanley’s precious mug is if they improve an underachieving roster. The best way to do it is to deal Jagr, and his league-leading salary, to any team not as dumb as the Pens were when they dealt him along with Frantisek Kucera for unknows then and now Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk. The Caps could get more out of a deal for Jags then the team receiving him, thereby improving their team vastly in the process.

Of course, not too many teams could viably acquire Jagr and his laughable contract. Only a handful of clubs could, theoretically, afford Jagr. The teams that come to my mind would be Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, the Rangers, Philadelphia, maybe St. louis, and of course, Toronto. Just think; could any of those teams use Jagr? And what could the Caps get for him? Would it help Washington this year, as well as down the road? Let’s take a look.

Could any of the aforementioned teams use Jagr?

Colorado — Record: 9-8-8-3, 10th in the West.

The Avs seem to have really struggled out of the gate the past two or three years. This year though, the stuggles have lasted into mid-December. They probably could have the cash available to obtain Jagr, but it’s more likely Colorado will go after Patrik Elias, a cheaper yet efficient scorer who has struggled at times this year.

Dallas — Record: 16-7-6-1, T-1st in the West

Similar to the Avs, the Stars theoretically could have the money, but why mess with success? The Stars have exploded out of the gate, winning 10 of 14 games at home and are currently tied with Minnesota (WOW!) atop the Western Conference. There is no need for a shake-up in Big D, so don’t look at Dallas as a potential suitor for a Jagr-type player any time soon.

Detroit — Record: 16-8-4-1, 3rd in the West

After a so-so start, the Red Wings are back to form and looking like the bunch that won the West, and the Cup, last year. Though the thought of Jagr and Fedorov together would be appealing the Wings would probably pass on the chance. Washington should be looking towards more youthful superstars anyway, and shopping at “The Old Folks Home” probably isn’t the way to go.

Los Angeles — Record: 12-9-4-3, T-8th in the West

The Kings seem like they are always mentioned when a superstar is rumoured to be on the block. Although playing decent hockey at three games above .500, we all know that playing decent in the West doesn’t count for much. The Caps would almost certainly demand that Alexander Frolov or Mike Cammalleri be part of any swap, plus an established pivot like Adam Deadmarsh and/or Ziggy Palffy. Would the Kings part with so much for Jagr? Interesting question.

New York Rangers — Record: 12-15-4-1, 9th in the East

If Jagr was to be made available, of course the first team most people would think of is the Rangers. It would just make sense that a team with Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, and Bobby Holik should have Jagr, right? The big question is: Do the Rangers have enough quality depth to make such a big deal? Probably not, but the rumours flying out of D.C. and New York would at least be entertaining.

Philadelphia — Record: 14-7-6-1, 5th in the East

Flyers GM Bobby Clarke hasn’t made a splash since summer’s deal involving Brian Boucher. So he’s due, right? The Flyers could possibly have the depth needed to make the deal, and trade winds have been swirling as of late due to the fact they have only scored 25 goals in their last 18 games. reports “The Philadelphia Inquirer hinted Dec. 9 that another deal is coming and it could be a major one to rejuvenate team chemistry.” Is Jagr a major enough deal, and is it a good fit for the Caps? Stay tuned on this one.

St. Louis — Record: 15-8-4-2, 5th in the West.

The Blues have been better in 2002-03 at being consistent. Would Jagr mesh well with that consistency? The Blues could afford Jagr, but it’s unlikely the owners would loosen the strings on GM Larry Pleau enough so he could make a barnburner like this. Makes for interesting days at the rumour mill though.

Toronto — Record: 14-13-2-0, T-7th in the East

Last but not least is the hockey hotbed known as Toronto. The Leafs have struggled mightly at staying above .500. Lucky for them, though, they play in the East. Toronto has depth, but do they have enough immediate help to acquire Jagr? Of course, the usual suspects would be mentioned, a la Tomas Kaberle, Nik Antropov (these two haven’t been dealt yet?), and maybe Shayne Corson. Wahington needs players that can contribute offensively now, and while Antropov may one day be a threat, and Kaberle is a good player, the Leafs aren’t really in a position to land Jagr.

The Washington Capitals have been the posterboys of underachieving hockey for the last four years now. Can it be changed? I think the more important question is, will it be changed, and will Leonsis approve of dumping his investment only a year removed from making it? Interesting thoughts leading up to the roster freeze on Decemebr 19, eh?