was rarely quiet or unassuming, either on or off the ice during his NHL career. He always had something to say and, when he did, people listened or marveled at the artistry.
Jagr was taken by the Pittsburgh Penguins
with the fifth-overall pick in the 1990 Entry Draft and played a supporting role to Mario Lemieux
with a Pittsburgh team that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. At 19, he was the youngest NHL player to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final and had two additional goals and 10 assists as a rookie during that 1990-91 Stanley Cup Playoff run.
He played for the Penguins, Capitals and the Rangers and in 1,273 regular-season games scored 646 goals and 953 assists.
Jagr exhibited a charisma and flare that few NHL players could copy and fans enjoyed. He established many records and won championships on every level. So, while the news of Jagr signing with Avangard Omsk in Russia comes as a bit surprising, hockey fans across North America will tip their cap to the suave right wing for the passion and excitement he brought to the NHL game.
"I'm disappointed that I'm not going to be in New York, but I've always believed in my life that things happen for a reason, and that's how I look at this," Jagr said, announcing his decision to play in Russia. "Don't forget I'm from Europe, so Russia is nothing new for me. It's close to the Czech Republic. It would be different for American or Canadian players, but for me, I enjoy it. The people love hockey and I had a great time out there."
Rangers General Manager Glen Sather
announced on July 3 that the club would be moving on without Jagr, noting the two sides never engaged in detailed negotiations for a new contract. The Rangers' signing of free agent Markus Naslund
perhaps signaled the end to Jagr's tenure in Manhattan. At the time, Jagr had been mulling over his future. After the Rangers moved on, Jagr opted to finish his career in Russia and a day later signed a two-year deal. Incidentally, Alexei Cherepanov
, the young Russian drafted by the Rangers 17th overall in 2007, also is playing for Avangard Omsk.
"I'm thankful for the three years I had in New York," Jagr said. "They were great years. I understand that I'm older and the team decided to go in a different direction because they couldn't get the deal done.
"I will never say one bad word against the Rangers organization or Glen (Sather). They were great to me. And I'm not lying when I say that, it's really how I feel. They were always great to me."
During the NHL work stoppage in 2004-05, Jagr played for HC Kladno in the Czech Republic and for Avangard Omsk. He scored 38 points (16 goals) in 32 games with Omsk. In his fourth season with the Rangers in 2007-08, Jagr posted 71 points (25 goals) in 82 games and had 15 points (five goals) in 10 playoff contests. His playoff total, in fact, was the most since 1999-2000 when he scored eight goals and 16 points in 11 games with the Penguins.
At 36, is would appear unlikely that Jagr will return to the NHL, but he's a surefire candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.
Consider some numbers:
Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP (1999)
Stanley Cups won (1991, 1992)
Lester B. Pearson Award winner as Players' MVP (1999, 2000, '06)
Most assists by a rookie in the Stanley Cup Finals (1991)
5: Art Ross
Trophy winner as NHL's leading point scorer (1995, '98, '99, 2000, '01)
NHL First Team All-Star
Most consecutive 30-goal seasons (1991-2007)
Points in 21 playoff games in 1991-92 to help the Pens to a second straight Stanley Cup
Scored goals in 53 NHL arenas
Most regular-season goals by a New York Rangers
Most regular-season assists by a right wing (1995-96)
Most regular-season points by a New York Rangers
Most regular-season points by a right wing (1995-96)
Most all-time regular-season points by a European-born player