Jagr signs with Flyers after Pens pull offer
The so-called "Jagr Watch" finished with a most shocking turn.
Just before NHL free agency opened at noon today the Penguins issued a release stating the club had pulled its one-year, $2 million offer for Jaromir Jagr to return to the league with his original team.
About two hours later, Jagr signed a one-year deal worth $3.3 million with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jagr, who spent 11 season with the Penguins from 1990-2001 and won the Stanley Cup twice to go with five scoring titles, was called last week by team majority co-owner Mario Lemieux. In that call, Lemieux said he was hopeful of bringing Jagr back to the Penguins and cementing Jagr's legacy as an iconic figure in Pittsburgh sporting history.
"His heart is in Pittsburgh," Jagr's agent Petr Svoboda said Thursday morning.
Roughly 24 hour later, Jagr broke the hearts of Penguins fans eager for a harmonious reunion after a 10-year break following his trade to Washington in July 2001.
Jagr, 39, will now don the colors of the Penguins' bitter Commonwealth Cold War rival – the Flyers, a late entrance Thursday night into the so-called "Jagr Watch."
Adding insult to injury, the Flyers also signed forward Max Talbot to a five-year contract worth $9 million.
Talbot, who had declined a three year deal with the Penguins, famously told Flyers fans to shush by holding a finger to his lips during Game 6 of a Round 1 Stanley Cup playoff series in 2009. Later that postseason, he scored the Penguins' only goals in a 2-1 victory at Detroit to win the Stanley Cup.
Penguins fans likely will forgive Talbot, who even Shero suggested probably wasn't going to return.
The arrival of the Flyers in the "Jagr Watch," which the Penguins perceived as an attempt by Jagr to start a bidding war for his services, rubbed Penguins management the wrong way.
When Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, called Shero this morning, Shero informed him the Penguins would not negotiate terms of an offer they made Tuesday.
Shero then pulled his offer.
"We made what we thought was a very fair contract offer to Jaromir on Tuesday, based on his stated interest of returning to the Penguins," Shero said in a statement. "We made our best offer from the start, given our salary cap structure, in an attempt to facilitate a deal. But now, after several days, with an extended time frame for making a decision, and additional teams getting involved, we have decided to move in a different direction. It was never our intention to get involved in a free agent bidding war, and we have to focus on our team."
The Penguins re-signed their own free agent, right wing Tyler Kennedy, for two years at $4 million total not long after pulling out of the Jagr sweepstakes. The Penguins also signed veteran winger Steve Sullivan to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million, but lost forward Mike Rupp to the New York Rangers on a three-year deal worth $4.5 million total.
Shero had expected an answer from Jagr on Wednesday based off information provided by Svoboda. Wednesday passed without contact from Svoboda.
Shero didn't hear from Svoboda until Thursday afternoon.
"He doesn't want to force him into a decision," Shero said.
Late Thursday night, an ESPN.com report surfaced that quoted Svoboda saying many more teams were in the mix.
The Penguins, Detroit and Montreal, had been led to believe this was a three-team chase for Jagr. Each club had made a similar offer.
Also late on Thursday night reports out of Philadelphia said the Flyers had discussed possibly adding Jagr.
Apparently the Penguins weren't the only team annoyed by Jagr's pursuit of other suitors. Before he signed with the Flyers, the Red Wings also pulled their offer.
Shero had called Jagr "an icon in Pittsburgh."
"We want him to retire as a Penguin," he said Tuesday.
Chances of that seem slim now, even if Jagr is second all-time in most offensive categories to Lemieux.
Team officials, though not shocked by Jagr's handling of the situation given his often erratic behavior in the past, were stunned that he signed with the Flyers.
Coach Dan Bylsma, who had publicly courted Jagr last week, struggled to find the words to express his opinion on the wild change of events.
On Wednesday, longtime friends of Lemieux and NHL agents said Jagr had agreed in principle to join the Penguins, whose fans turned #JagrWatch into a trending hash tag on Twitter.
Those fans quickly turned on Jagr this afternoon, just as they had after he requested trade in 2001.
His decision today should make Dec. 29 one of the most anticipated hockey nights in Pittsburgh. That is when the Flyers – with Jagr and Talbot – first play the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
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