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Penguins Jagr trade talk turns into near silence

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

After a frenzy of Jaromir Jagr trade speculation last week, the buzz around the NHL has died down considerably in the past few days. But that shouldn't be taken to mean that nothing is happening, only that a deal probably isn't imminent.

"The Pittsburgh Penguins have always been a franchise that operates in a pretty secretive fashion," Mike Barnett, Jagr's agent, said yesterday. "But there is a lot that could be going on right now in their offices, and we just don't know about it."

Barnett has not spoken with Penguins General Manager Craig Patrick since Thursday, a fairly strong indicator that no serious Jagr trade talks are occurring. Patrick has told Barnett he would be given permission to negotiate a contract extension with any team seeking Jagr. And given that Jagr is two years away from unrestricted free agency, an extension figures to be a requirement of any new employer.

The only team Barnett has acknowledged dealing with is the New York Rangers. He reiterated yesterday that no other teams have entered the picture officially, although he said he believes three or four more are interested.

Despite the apparent lull in Jagr trade talks, Barnett repeated that he feels a deal will be struck before the end of this month.

Patrick was not available for comment yesterday.

NOTES -- Barnett said the Penguins have yet to contact him about another prominent client, right winger Brett Hull, an unrestricted free agent. Mario Lemieux last week talked to Hull about coming to Pittsburgh. ... The Penguins' qualifying contract offer to goaltender Johan Hedberg was $583,000 at the NHL level, not $500,000 as reported in the Post-Gazette yesterday. A league source explained that the unusual figure is the result of a seldom-used NHL clause established in 1997 which allowed teams to keep the rights of restricted free agents 26 or older by offering either a 10 percent raise or $400,000. The latter number has since grown in proportion to the league's average salary and is now $583,000. Curiously, a 10 percent raise for Hedberg, 28, would have brought his salary to $412,500, meaning the Penguins chose the more expensive option. ... The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that the Florida Panthers are interested in acquiring Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis. The New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings also could be in the mix.

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