- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2004

The long-rumored trade of Jaromir Jagr from Washington to the New York Rangers appeared to be close last night, Capitals sources confirmed.

The Caps, in last place in the Southeast Division and struggling mightily at the gate, were seeking to unload Jagr’s league-high $11million salary, while the Rangers were looking to bolster their faltering team after back-to-back losses to Boston dropped them into 10th place in the Eastern Conference. New York has missed the playoffs for six straight years after reaching the conference finals in 1997.

Jagr, who traveled to Florida yesterday with the Caps for tonight’s game at Florida, couldn’t be reached for comment last night. Earlier in the day, he had been in a particularly downcast mood after practice and said he didn’t deserve to make the All-Star team after he was selected last night.

“Jags was fine on the plane,” said All-Star center Robert Lang, who answered the phone in Jagr’s room at the team’s hotel. “He doesn’t know when something is going to happen or if it will. We’re all just waiting to see.”

Although one Caps veteran asked a reporter in practice about the imminence of the trade, Lang said Jagr didn’t make any special preparations or speculate about the practice being his last in a Washington uniform.

Caps general manager George McPhee, reached at the team’s scouting meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., declined to comment, as had his Rangers counterpart, Glen Sather, to the New York media before the team’s home game against Philadelphia last night.

However, sources told The Washington Times that with virtually no shot at the playoffs and a financial loss of perhaps as much as $30million looming, Caps owner Ted Leonsis was in favor of moving Jagr if the right deal could be had. Those same sources also cautioned the Rangers had backed away from a trade several times since the Caps’ 2003 season ended with a disappointing first-round loss to Tampa Bay.

It is believed the Rangers were attempting to convince Jagr’s representatives to agree to front-load a sizable portion of the final four years of his contract despite their league-high $75million payroll because of concerns about being able to afford him and other well-heeled players if the NHL implements a salary cap. Sources said the Rangers also want the Caps to pay some of Jagr’s contract.

The Caps apparently would receive right wing Anson Carter, who began his career in Washington in 1996, in exchange for Jagr. The 29-year-old Carter, who averaged 22 goals in his six previous full seasons, has 10 in 43 games. A defenseman, such as Dale Purinton, who has played only 11 games this year, also could be involved. However, a Caps source said the deal is about money and not hockey from Washington’s perspective.

Jagr, who turns 32 next month, was named to his 12th All-Star team yesterday and is tied for 11th among league scorers with 45 points, including 16 goals. But Jagr’s 201 points in 189 games during 21/2 seasons with the Caps hasn’t quite matched his 1.34 points a game during his 11 seasons in Pittsburgh, a figure topped only by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

A native of Kladno, Czech Republic, Jagr burst onto the NHL scene with the Penguins with 27 goals at age 18 in 1990. Jagr played second banana to Lemieux the next two seasons and scored 193 points as Pittsburgh won its only Stanley Cups. Jagr won his first scoring title in the lockout-shortened 1995 season with Lemieux sidelined by illness and began a four-year run at the top in 1998 during Lemieux’s first retirement. Jagr has 1,280 points in his career, the most by any player since he debuted in 1990, and his 522 goals put him second to Detroit’s Brett Hull in that time frame.

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