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Agent: Jagr 'loves that team, city... Mario'

| Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A longing to reconnect with the Penguins could be part of what brings back legendary forward Jaromir Jagr.

"He loves that team, that city," agent Petr Svoboda said Tuesday from the Czech Republic. "And he loves Mario (Lemieux), so that is all on his mind."

The opportunity to win the Stanley Cup — and return to the NHL after three years of playing professionally in Russia — has positioned the perennial contender Penguins and Detroit Red Wings as frontrunners to land Jagr, Svoboda said.

Svoboda said he was expecting a second conversation with Penguins general manager Ray Shero regarding Jagr on Tuesday.

"My (first) talk with Ray was wonderful," Svoboda said. "Jaromir obviously is fond of Pittsburgh, but he likes the current situation there, too."

Neither Jagr nor Shero could be reached for comment, but Jagr told :

"In Pittsburgh, I played there 10 years," he said. "I still have a house there. I was too lazy to sell it.

"Obviously (Lemieux) is the owner. The team they got — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, plus other great players — if I went there, it would be a lot easier.

"But on the other side, Detroit has great players and plays closer to my style, a Euro style. That's a plus. And (Nicklas) Lidstrom is there, plus (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg - great, great players."

Jagr owns a house in Upper St. Clair, where his five miniature Art Ross trophies for winning NHL scoring titles are stored, according to former Penguin Petr Sykora.

The Penguins believe Jagr is asking for at least $2 million on a one-year deal. They are committed to $55.5 million against the salary cap for 17 players on guaranteed NHL contracts. The cap will be $64 million next season, according to Canada's TSN.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, speaking hypothetically about Jagr at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, described him as "intriguing" and cited his 75 points with the Rangers in his last NHL season.

"That's leading our team last year," Bylsma said. "That's an intriguing thing to think about -- a power-play guy; what you saw him do in the world championship against NHL-caliber players was nothing short of outstanding.

"Those are intriguing things to think about hypothetically, and it's tough not to think about adding 75 points to your roster if that's something you're capable of doing."

Svoboda did not identify a timetable for a deal with Jagr, who can sign with an NHL team at any time because his last contract was with Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

Svoboda said Jagr's former Penguins teammate Robert Lang was trying to establish communication via phone between Jagr and Lemieux.

Jagr has often cited Lemieux as "the best player ever" and his "idol." They were teammates from 1990-97 and in 2000-01.

"We talked a lot about that (Monday), just Jaromir and I speaking about his days with the Penguins," Svoboda said. "Playing again in Pittsburgh is obviously something that's on Jaromir's mind, but I wouldn't say it's the main factor. The main factor for him is having a chance to win again."

Notes: Crosby and Malkin ranked first and fifth respectively in NHL jersey sales for last season, according to Sports Business Daily. Marc-Andre Fleury (10th) and Kris Letang (17th) also rated among the top 20. ... The Penguins are not close on a new deal with restricted free agent Tyler Kennedy.

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