On Friday morning, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they withdrew a one-year, $2 million contract offer for team legend Jaromir Jagr. Jagr was looking to return to the NHL after spending the last three seasons playing in the KHL in Russia.
In a statement on the team's website, general manager Ray Shero said he felt he made Jagr "a very fair contract offer."
"Jagr Watch" has been ongoing since early this week, when Penguins beat reporter Rob Rossi stated on his Twitter account that Jagr was flying into the United States and a decision about his 2011-12 season would be made on Wednesday afternoon. Unfortunately, Jagr's plane was delayed after a turtle invasion at JFK Airport in New York, and he and agent Petr Svoboda were not able to speak.
Then, as late as last night, Scott Burnside of ESPN reported that other teams were interested in Jagr's services. The Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings were also interested, and rumors were even going around that the Philadelphia Flyers were in play. Svoboda then said that Jagr would make a decision "in the next few days," while also telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Jagr's heart was in Pittsburgh.
Also last night, a screenshot of the Penguins' website leaked that had pictures of Jagr and a headline saying he had signed with the Pittsburgh.
To make things even more complicated, Anthony SanFilippo, a reporter who covers the Flyers, wrote this on his blog last night:
"Just got off the phone with someone I trust.
"I was told Jagr has already told Lemieux that he's going to sign with Pittsburgh and that the Penguins have a huge front page for their Web site ready to go live at Noon tomorrow with a big 'welcome home' theme."
SanFilippo went on to say that Svoboda wanted to lure another team into offering more money so he could put on a publicity stunt where Jagr would say he turned down higher offers to return to the Penguins.
There have been no screenshots of the Welcome Home theme that I am aware of, so we'll never know who SanFilippo's source is or whether the person was right or wrong.
Although I understand why so many of my fellow Penguins fans wanted Jagr back, I am happy the circus is over. The Penguins do not need a publicity stunt while they are preparing for the 2011-12 season. Shero was smart to not get involved in a bidding war and to sign players for what they can do now; not what they did several years ago.
While Jagr will always be one of the greatest players in team history as far as his statistics go, this hoopla will not be forgotten anytime soon. However, I did agree with Shero that the deal on the table was reasonable. If there's one thing the Penguins have learned, it's that Shero will not pay a ton of money for players who are past their prime, regardless of what kind of numbers they can post.
Jagr is second on the Penguins' career games played list with 806, career goals with 439 and points with 1,079. He won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992.