A Trio of Terrors
Word out of Colorado today is that Sneaky Pete Turgeon is set to announce his retirement. It was 20 years ago that Turgeon was the first overall pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, so he’s had a nice long run. Turgeon, who turns 38 in August, played 1,294 regular season games for six NHL teams, totaling 515 goals and 1,327 points. That’s a résumé that may get him some Hall of Fame consideration (but not from me, even though I have no say in the matter).
In these parts, he’ll mainly be remembered for being on the receiving end of the notorious Dale Hunter hit in the 1993 NHL playoffs, but there is one other episode that tangentially links Turgeon to Washington. In the summer of 2001, the Caps offered Turgeon a multi-year contract to play in the District. He turned the deal down in favor of less money from the Dallas Stars. Jeremy Roenick also turned down the Caps’ overtures to take less money from the Philadelphia Flyers that summer. Spurned by their top two free agent targets, the Caps turned their attention to the trade market and obtained Jaromir Jagr from Pittsburgh for so much flotsam and jetsam. And a whole lotta money.
If either Turgeon or Roenick had taken the Caps’ money, Jagr most likely never would have worn the blue, black and bronze. And the last five seasons may have been much different.
But not necessarily better.
With the benefit of hindsight, one can usually determine clearly which path would have been the best and most efficient. In this case though, every option wound up going sour. These were three roads that diverged in a wood, to paraphrase the famous Frost poem, but all three led straight to a deep hole. You can probably even say that given the alternatives, the Caps are fortunate it worked out the way it did.
At the time, Turgeon was coming off a 30-goal, 82-point season in St. Louis. It was his best season in five years and he followed up with a strong playoff performance. But in the five seasons since, he never cracked 20 goals or 50 points. He played in as many as 70 games just once. The Stars gave him $32.5 million for five seasons, then bit the buyout bullet and ate the remaining two years after the lockout ended. He spent the last two seasons in Colorado where he did absolutely nothing to distinguish himself.
Roenick, who was the eighth player chosen overall in the 1988 draft, was coming off a 30-goal, 76-point season in Phoenix. It would be the last 70-point season of his career. His production went to 67 points in 2001-02, then to 59, 47, 22 and 28 points. The Flyers gave Roenick $37.5 million for five years. He is now looking like a strong candidate to follow Turgeon into retirement.
Jagr was coming off a 52-goal, 121-point season and a fourth straight scoring title. It looked like a no-brainer of a deal then, and it still does now. The three seasons (two and a half, actually) Jagr spent in Washington were the worst three of his career. He never reached the 80-point plateau with the Caps. The only other times he failed to do was was in his first two seasons when he was a teenager. Jagr “earned” $33.5 million for the three seasons in which he wore a Washington sweater. He basically mailed in the effort and picked up a paycheck during his days in Washington, admitting as much once he was happily ensconced in New York. Of course, he has rebounded to have two splendid seasons with the Rangers since the lockout.
It wasn’t the deal that brought Jagr to the Caps that crippled the club, it was the contract extension given to him before he had played so much as a game in DC. Live and learn, and the Caps have done that. I’d argue that the team is on a better path now than it was the day Jagr was obtained.
Such is the benefit of hindsight.