If Philadelphia fans were looking for Jaromir Jagr
to give them a guarantee that he would score 20-plus goals, be a major factor on the Flyers' power play and essentially be worth every penny of his one-year, $3.3 million contract, then they are going to be sorely disappointed.
Jagr doesn't have a clue how his return to the NHL will work out and he's not setting any personal goals for himself. But, at 39 years of age, he still believes in his ability to be a difference-maker in the NHL and seems eager to give it another try after spending the past three seasons playing in Russia.
"There are no guarantees," Jagr said on a conference call with reporters Saturday afternoon. "If I didn't believe, why come here? I could easily stay in Russia, make a lot more money and play 50 games. I wanted to try it. I wanted to have the feeling. I believe it's for my good, and hopefully the team too.
"I've got only one goal and that's to make people happy, those people who believed I can be good. If I make them happy, I'll be happy."
Jagr signed with the Flyers on Friday after turning down less money from both the Pittsburgh Penguins
and Detroit Red Wings
. He said Saturday that there were other offers that were for more money than the $3.3 million Philadelphia is going to pay him, but he felt most comfortable with the Flyers.
He said he spoke with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren
, coach Peter Laviolette
and defenseman Chris Pronger
"I wasn't in the NHL for three years but I followed it, and I know Philadelphia's defense is very good," said Jagr, who returns as the NHL's active scoring leader with 1,599 points over 17 seasons from 1990-2008. "There are some guys that I played against and it was always tough to play against them. (They're) not only good defensively, but they are also good offensively -- that's very important in the new NHL."
Jagr also felt he would have a greater opportunity to play more minutes, including on the power play, with Philadelphia. He likes the fact that the Flyers' top two centers, Danny Briere
and Claude Giroux
, are both right-handed and like to play on the left side in power play situations.
Jagr is a left-handed winger who prefers to play on his off wing so he can play with his back to the wall. He has 646 career goals, including 181 on the power play.
"For me it's an advantage to have centermen like Briere and Giroux (who) have a right-handed shot," Jagr said. "If I were playing in Pittsburgh, where it's (Sidney) Crosby or (Evgeni) Malkin, (both) left-handed, I don't think I would be able to play there. If go to Detroit, (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg are left-handed. I don't think I would have a chance to play at all."
Jagr, of course, may already be public enemy No. 1 in Pittsburgh because many believe he spurned his old team to sign with the interstate rival. The Penguins reportedly had a longer courtship with Jagr than other teams and were believed to be the front-runners for his services when he decided he wanted to come back to the NHL.
The only problem is that Penguins GM Ray Shero
never intended to get into a bidding war for Jagr and did not want to move off his initial offer of a one year contract worth $2 million. He eventually pulled the Penguins out of the running Friday morning and soon after Detroit did the same.
Jagr basically said anyone in Pittsburgh that harbors any ill will toward him for picking the Flyers is misguided. He added that he spoke to Mario Lemieux
, but only briefly.
His move to Philadelphia, along with free-agent Max Talbot, has added another layer on intrigue to what is already one of the NHL's most intense rivalries. The Flyers' first of three visits to CONSOL Energy Center is Dec. 29.
"I didn't promise anybody anything that I'm going to go back," Jagr said. "If the Pittsburgh Penguins
feel I did something wrong, or something bad -- I don't think i did something bad. If they feel like that, I cannot change their minds. I was a free agent and I had a chance to pick whatever is best for me. I had the option to pick. If somebody wants you or they're telling you that they would like you to be on their team, (it) doesn't mean I have to go there. I still had a choice to make a decision where I wanted to go.
"If I were playing in Pittsburgh, where it's (Sidney) Crosby or (Evgeni) Malkin, (both) left-handed, I don't think I would be able to play there. If go to Detroit, (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg are left-handed. I don't think I would have a chance to play at all." -- Jaromir Jagr
"If I hurt somebody that way I truly apologize for it. I didn't mean it. But, this is my life and I want to make the choice.
Jagr then admitted it would have been easier for him to give that explanation in his native Czech or even Russian.
"I haven't spoken English for three years," he said. "I have to learn better English now. I forget everything."
He hasn't forgotten his stature in the NHL.
Jagr understands there will be pressure on him to perform based on his past history, which includes being a back-to-back Stanley Cup champion, one-time Hart Trophy winner and five-time Art Ross
He said his return to the NHL would have been softened had the Flyers not traded away Mike Richards
and Jeff Carter
"There is always going to be pressure. That's not the problem," Jagr said. "The only thing I worry about is there are a lot of people who counted on me to help them. If I fail or I play bad, people are going to criticize me and that's fine. But, if I play bad, people are going to criticize those people who brought me to Philadelphia and that would be tough for me. That would be tough for me because I let somebody down who believed in me. In my age, that's the toughest thing."
The unknown is why Jagr wanted only a one-year deal.
"I think it's better for me and I think it's better for the team because you don't know how it's going to go," he said. "You might think it's going to be good or hope it's going to be good, but there are no guarantees."
Except for the fact that no matter how he plays, the hockey world will be watching.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl