July 4, 2008

More free agency mania!

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball, Ice Hockey

North America, say goodbye to Jaromir Jagr. One of (if not) the most successful European players to ever lace up his skates and play in the NHL is headed to Russia. Jagr has reportedly agreed to a deal with Avangard Omsk, the team he played for during the 2004-05 lockout but there’s something even bigger behind his longing to be closer to home (the Czech Republic). Jagr will be making the equivalent of $7 million US for each of the next three seasons, which on paper sounds like how much he would be offered by an NHL team. The key factor though, is that the Russian team’s offer is tax-free. To put that in terms of comparison, Jagr would need an $11-million offer to rake in a total of $7 million after Uncle Sam took his share. After seeing this happen to a guy who is on the downslope of his career, imagine how much Evgeni Malkin or Alex Ovechkin could possibly be offered by a Russian Superleague team. The numbers would be even more staggering and even more attractive than the $124-million deal that AO signed. Plus, there’s always the plus that a European player would be closer to home.

The other huge free agency news came from the NBA’s Washington Wizards. It looks like Gilbert Arenas is a team player and not just looking out for himself. Arenas actually rejected a max money offer from the team and signed for less. His logic that taking less money would help the team in financial areas is a great philosophy and a stance I never thought Agent Zero would take.

The odd part about Gil’s acceptance of an $111-million deal over a $127-million deal is that this still makes the six-year pact one of the highest in NBA history. Just instead of being the second largest ever (behind Kobe), it weighs in at sixth, $11 million behind Tim Duncan. And all of this money for a guy who missed a large chunk of last season because of a serious knee injury.

Finally, what’s up with the NBA’s moratorium on trades and free agency movement after guys have already entered the market? Is there really a point to waiting around for a week while the NHL steals headlines with their free agency period? Players in both leagues have contracts that all expire on July 1 of the given year, yet NHL teams can sign players at the strike of midnight while NBA GMs have to sit around, twiddle their thumbs and hope that players don’t have a change of heart a la Carlos Boozer and Cleveland/Utah? It seems a little backwards to me.

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