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Jagr 'didn't expect it would be so hard to get job in NHL'

Second-leading scorer in League history remains free agent

by Michael Langr / Correspondent

BRNO, Czech Republic -- Jaromir Jagr said Wednesday he wasn't expecting it to be so difficult to sign with an NHL team this offseason.

"The most serious negotiations I have are with Kladno. Because Kladno has a smart owner who knows what he wants," joked Jagr, who owns the team in the Czech Republic's second-tier professional league. "No, really, I don't have a clue. I leave it all on my agent [Petr Svoboda]. There is a couple of [NHL] teams that showed interest, but nothing specific yet."

The 45-year-old right wing had 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) in 82 games for the Florida Panthers last season, his 23rd in the NHL. The Panthers said July 1 that they would not re-sign him.

Jagr's 1,914 points are second in League history behind Wayne Gretzky (2,857), and at 1,711 NHL games, he trails Gordie Howe by 56 for most all-time.

"I'm not thinking about the total number of NHL games," Jagr said after an exhibition game to commemorate fellow Czech forward Martin Havlat's retirement. "It's true that when I got back to the NHL (in 2011), I told myself I would very much want to get to 2,000 [NHL] points. But it's still far away. I didn't expect it would be so hard to get a job in the NHL this year."

At 765 NHL goals, Jagr trails Howe by 36 for second behind Gretzky (894). 

"I guess I would need at least two more seasons (to catch Howe)," he said.

Six weeks after becoming an unrestricted free agent, Jagr doesn't know whether his next game will be for Kladno, in the Kontinental Hockey League or in the NHL.

Video: NHL Tonight debates where Jaromir Jagr will land

Jagr said if he stays in the Czech Republic, he would play for Kladno, not in Extraliga, the top league, because he would like to keep open as an option signing with an NHL team during the season.

"That would be the advantage of playing for Kladno. One thing is I would be at home and the other is I would have a chance to leave for the NHL anytime there is an opportunity," he said. "Let's say some team deals with injuries and needs help, then I could pack my stuff in the next day and go. If I played in Extraliga, I wouldn't have such an option unless the Czech league season would be over."

Jagr remains hopeful he'll sign with an NHL team, but only if the situation is right.

"Most important for me is to see some serious interest from the team. Because the more serious it is, the bigger the chance to get a better role on the team," he said. "And then it's on me how I would use that chance. Right now, I need to be ready when the opportunity comes. That's all I need to take care of now; taking care of anything else doesn't make sense."

Though he would want a meaningful role to return for a 24th season in the NHL, Jagr, who has been a first-line player for most of his career, said it doesn't matter where a team would put him in the lineup.

"I know very well I'm not the same player like 10 or 15 years ago when I was able to win games by myself," he said. "It's up to the coach what position he wants to use me. Maybe it would be even better for me if I played on a second or third line because I would play against worse players and worse defensemen. I didn't have as much luck in my entire career, I always had to face the top defensemen. Even in Florida, I always played against the best, which was always very tough."

When Jagr was getting ready to play in the KHL from 2008-2011, his offseason training regimen was different from the one he used to prepare for the NHL. He lost weight and tried to focus on skating and speed more than strength. After he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent July 1, 2011, he went back to workouts geared more to the physical North American style.

With his future uncertain, Jagr said it's been difficult to prepare for the coming season.

"It's not that I would change a lot of things during my practices. There are certain changes, but it's a little unpleasant mostly because you don't know where you're going to end up," he said. "The most important is desire and drive. But this situation is a little uncomfortable when I don't know what's going to happen, and also when is the season going to start for me, because the season in Europe starts one month earlier (than the NHL season)."

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