Kovacevic: If Mario were writing to Jagr
Thanks to the terrific techies here at the Trib, I was able to intercept this email very early this morning from Mario Lemieux to Jaromir Jagr.
OK, not really, but just go with it ...
Thought we had an understanding, my friend, but maybe I didn't hear you right.
You told me you wanted to come back to the Penguins, and you even told The Hockey News a couple years ago that you'd play for my team for the NHL's minimum wage. Well, we went above and beyond that: We came up with $2 million to offer you, and now we might lose Mike Rupp when free agency opens at noon Friday. We did everything short of bringing back Kip Miller.
I even called you myself, and I never call anybody .
You heard our offer on Tuesday, and your agent, Petr Svoboda, said you'd decide the next day.
Then, you missed your connecting flight out of the Czech Republic. (Did you really stop at Wimbledon, as they're saying?) Then there were those stray turtles delaying landings on the runway at JFK. (Turtles!) Then Svoboda couldn't find you all night. Guy called himself "clueless." (Not inclined to disagree.)
All of that was OK, though. Nobody on our side complained. But I've got to tell you, it rubbed a lot of us the wrong way to hear and read that Svoboda was still talking to the Red Wings, the Canadiens and maybe even the Flyers, of all teams.
Unless you're genuinely eager to go to Detroit and join a roster where everyone will call you "Kid," the only reason you could have for keeping these options open is that you might make another million or two, maybe even just another grand or two.
Really, how much is enough?
You've made more over your playing career than I did, about $100 million, and you didn't have to buy a franchise out of bankruptcy to collect. You even spent three years in Siberia because they paid you a few extra rubles. Me, I came out of retirement and played for $1 million, but I was happy. I was where I belonged.
Give us a call today, and make this right. You've got until 11:59 a.m., and not a minute later. Starting at noon, Ray Shero needs to devote all of his attention — and dollars — to free agency. And if you think Ray is like Craig Patrick and will coddle you, you're in for a rude surprise. Between us, I don't think Ray was all that wild about this to begin with, and I can't keep him interested much longer. He's got to move on.
Is that what you really want, Jaromir, to move on one last time?
Do you really want to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer who doesn't know what jersey to wear to the induction?
You've achieved so much in your NHL career, but imagine what it will mean to your legacy if you clear the air with the city where you won your only MVP title and all five scoring championships. Sure, maybe someone in Prague or Omsk will retire your No. 68. But the Capitals or Rangers won't even invite you to their alumni golf outings. And, to be blunt here, you can forget about the Penguins, too, if you don't come back now.
Our fans can be tough, and nobody this side of Alex Ovechkin knows that better than you. They've booed you like the devil — or even the Devils — for years now. But trust me, they're ready to welcome you back. You should have seen the dozens of people at our airport Wednesday night waiting on every plane arriving from JFK. You should hear the talk shows. You should check Twitter, where the #JagrWatch hashtag is the top trend in Pittsburgh.
Think about this: Someday, it will be my number, your number and the No. 21 of the late Michel Briere up there in the Consol Energy Center rafters. Just the three of us, forever. Or at least until a couple of your new teammates can join us.
You might have read Ray's quote in the paper today where he said he hopes you "do right by Mario." Honestly, I'm not looking at it that way. Do right by yourself .
Grow up, man up, and come home.
See you soon,