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Jaromir Jagr signs with Dallas

by John Kreiser

After a busy three days of revamping the Dallas Stars, general manager Joe Nieuwendyk is ready for some time off.

"I think I'm going to the lake next week and turn my phone off. I'm pretty much done," Nieuwendyk said with a laugh Tuesday after signing 40-year-old Jaromir Jagr to a one-year, $4.55 million contract -- the GM's third major move in as many days to remodel a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2008.

Nieuwendyk signed another 40-year-old, All-Star left wing Ray Whitney, to a two-year, $9 million deal on Sunday, then landed speedy center Derek Roy from Buffalo on Monday in a deal that sent forward Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy to the Sabres. Roy is expected to fill the hole left when Nieuwendyk dealt center Mike Ribeiro to Washington on June 22.


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But those moves were just a warm-up for the stunning addition of Jagr, the eighth-highest scorer in NHL history, who returned to the League this past season after three years in Russia to play for the Philadelphia Flyers and put up 19 goals and 35 assists in 73 games.

It's quite a transformation for a team that has gone four years without a sniff of postseason play.

"The moves we've been able to make the last few days are an indication that we are back as a real, relevant franchise, and we're very pleased at what has transpired," Nieuwendyk said.

Jagr's play in Philadelphia belied his age, and Nieuwendyk said he has no doubt the 6-foot-3, 240-pound forward still has plenty left.

"I don't think there's any question he has game in the tank. He had a terrific season with Philadelphia," Nieuwendyk said during a media conference call not long after the signing was announced. "He's still a world-class player. For us to be able to bring a guy like that to our franchise is a big deal.

"Even at 40, he's still a difficult guy to contain. He's still as good as anyone in the League at using that big body down low. He keeps himself in tremendous shape. He knows how much he needs to play in order to be successful and how much is too much. I think he's going to be a really good fit with our group."

While not presuming to speak for coach Glen Gulutzan, Nieuwendyk said he envisioned Jagr playing the right side on a first line with left wing Loui Eriksson and center Jamie Benn, both of whom have been All-Stars.

"It looks pretty good to me in July here," he said.

Jagr's 1,653 points make him the NHL's all-time points leader among European-born players, and his 665 career goals are tops among active NHL players. He has played in 1,346 career games with the Penguins, Flyers, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.

Originally selected by Pittsburgh with the fifth pick in the 1990 NHL Draft, Jagr is a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins, He also won the 1999 Hart Trophy and has won five Art Ross Trophies, three Lester B. Pearson Awards and was named a First Team All-Star seven times.

But he did all that while playing for four Eastern Conference teams. Nieuwendyk said the attraction of a new challenge was a selling point in the Stars' efforts to bring Jagr to Dallas.

"He's still a world-class player. For us to be able to bring a guy like that to our franchise is a big deal." -- Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk

"He made mention of the fact that he's never played in the Western Conference, so we talked a little bit about the style of play in the West versus the East," Nieuwendyk said. "I think it was intriguing to him. He's a guy that's up for challenges. He's done so much in his career that I think he'll be equal to the challenge.

"He's such a knowledgeable guy about players around the League that he was really intrigued by the players we have here. I think he really enjoyed his experience last year playing with the young superstar Claude Giroux in Philadelphia. I expect he views [this] as the same type of situation, where he can really help move along young kids' careers in Benn and Eriksson."

Jagr is eager to get started.

"I want to thank Dallas Stars for giving me the opportunity," he said via his Twitter account. "Say hallo to my new teammates and fans. Hopefully we can make together big things."

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