Flyers veteran star Jagr doesn't 'control' Penguins legacy
VOORHEES, N.J. — Jaromir Jagr has never said he is watching for smoke signals from Pittsburgh, but he also has never dismissed the possibility of an eventual group hug between him, the city and its NHL team.
Most intriguing is that Jagr on Tuesday continued to dump the puck into the Penguins' end while addressing the topic of a future reconciliation.
"It's not in my control," Jagr said after the Flyers' last practice before a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Penguins.
Game 1 is Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center — and the personal idol to whom Jagr has not spoken in months will be watching from a luxury suite.
Make that the owners' suite, where Penguins all-time scoring leader, majority co-owner and longtime Jagr teammate Mario Lemieux will take in the action.
Lemieux went to the rare length of calling Jagr this past June to discuss a possible deal that would reunite Jagr with the Penguins, for whom he mostly dominated from 1990-2001. Jagr won five scoring titles, an MVP and the Cup twice in those 11 seasons.
However, only hours after his agent, Petr Svoboda, said Jagr's "heart is in Pittsburgh," Jagr instructed Svoboda to open last-minute talks with the Flyers on the eve of free agency.
Lemieux talked general manager Ray Shero out of pulling the Penguins' one-year, $2 million offer that night; but Shero received permission to yank it an hour before free agency opened at noon July 1.
Jagr signed with the Flyers for one year at $3.3 million that day.
He remains unapologetic for any hard feelings by the Penguins • though, noteworthy is that nobody within the organization has publicly ripped Jagr for the decision to sign with Philadelphia.
Lemieux, close friends say, does not think about it at all. Nor has he ruled out a Kumbaya-like moment with Jagr, the second-leading scorer in franchise history.
Not that plans for a retirement ceremony are among the thoughts of either Lemieux, who declined comment, or Jagr — at least, not at the moment.
"It's not in my mind right now," Jagr said.
Jagr, 40, scored 19 goals and recorded 54 points in 73 games with the Flyers after spending three previous seasons in Russia's KHL.
He lauded the organization, insisting he has never played for a "more friendly team than this Philadelphia Flyers team."
Still, neither the Flyers nor Jagr have publicly discussed a possible contract for next season. That leaves open the possibility of at least one more public dalliance between Jagr and the Pennsylvania NHL team he cannot shake.
"What I'm saying," he said, "is that those are things I don't control."