Deadline Decisions: Devils face Jagr quandary

Jaromir Jagr. (Julio Cortez/AP)

We know two things about Lou Lamoriello.

He’s going to do things the way he wants to do them.

And no one else will know ahead of time.

So to speculate about whether the Devils, a team that vows it is “transitioning” but not “rebuilding,” will part with the ageless Jaromir Jagr before next week’s trade deadline is probably a fool’s game.

Only Lou knows, and he’s not saying. Yet.

He met with Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, in Montreal about two weeks ago, but even Jagr said he wasn’t exactly sure what that was all about. What we do know is that the Devils have – against all odds, many would say – done better since Lamoriello took over as head coach from Peter DeBoer, and with four straight wins are improbably still within theoretical striking range of an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

After starting the season 12-17-7 under DeBoer, the Devils have gone 13-9-2 with Lamoriello at the helm for the third time in his career. Overall, Lamoriello now owns a .592 winning percentage as an NHL bench boss.

He’d be the first to tell you, however, that Adam Oates and Scott Stevens are doing the lion’s share of the day-to-day coaching these days, and he hasn’t tipped his hand as to which of them has the lead on the race to be the next full-time head coach of the Devils.

Or whether it’ll be someone else entirely.

Jagr, meanwhile, is third among the club’s forwards in scoring with 11 goals and 18 assists. At 43, he’s still capable of being a force, averaging more than 17 minutes a game this season and driving possession with reasonable efficiency. At the same time, Lamoriello has been reducing the Czech’s ice time of late, including just 12:49 against Phoenix on Monday night, so it may be his effectiveness is waning over the grind of the season.

He’s unrestricted in July along with fellow forwards Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, Scott Gomez, Jordin Tootoo and Steve Bernier. On the back end, Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador are also free agents.

Jersey has gone to more youth on the blueline this season, but doesn’t exactly have a horde of young forwards coming, so it’s not clear what they’ll do with all those unsigned bodies.

But at this point, Jagr on his own wouldn’t demand a high price before the deadline. Maybe a third rounder. If Montreal ever really was interested, they may have gone in another direction today with acquiring Devante Smith-Pelley from Anaheim.

So while the inscrutable Lamoriello is always difficult to read on these matters, his assertion that the Devils aren’t going to a total rebuild and still want to make the playoffs this season suggest Jagr will be staying put.

But then, as always, only Lou knows.

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