Jagr makes almost a quarter of the team's $47 million payroll, and in being held to that budget, McPhee has been handcuffed in trying to fix a subpar defense. (The payroll is roughly the same as last year's, and owner Ted Leonsis says the Capitals have been losing an average of $18 million per season since he bought them in 1999.) Last month, for instance, McPhee recalled unseasoned minor league goalie Rastislav Stana to back up No. 1 netminder Olaf Kolzig (regular No. 2 goalie S�bastian Charpentier had suffered a hip injury) instead of promising prospect Maxime Ouellet because Stana's NHL contract pays him $800,000 less than Ouellet's. Says Leon-sis, "In hindsight, no hockey player is worth $11 million."
Jagr has his own economic issues. According to documents obtained by SI, an IRS tax lien against Jagr for $3.2 million remained open as of Nov. 25; he has a $219,000 judgment against him stemming from a lawsuit in Pennsylvania; and he has borrowed money against an insurance policy with Standard Security Life Insurance. Jagr told SI the lien is being resolved and his finances are "fine."
The struggling Capitals, with the second-worst point total (18) in the NHL at week's end, are going nowhere, but Jagr is ready for anything. "There are a lot of rumors about trades," he said after his two-point night on Long Island last week. "I don't worry about it."
If indeed this is his Capitals swan song, the tune will be Hail to the Red Chief.