Candid Jagr up for challenge

Jaromir Jagr believes he would be a nice complement to Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

JAROMIR JAGR wanted to make one thing clear.

Despite the appearance of an overinflated price tag - when he signed with the Flyers yesterday for $3.3 million after Pittsburgh withdrew a $2 million offer - Jagr didn’t come to Philadelphia for the money.

“There were a lot more teams with a higher offer than Philadelphia,” Jagr said in a candid conference call with reporters on Saturday.

His plan, instead, seems to be a well-calculated one.

Jagr liked that the Flyers made a “great move with the goalies.” He knew that their defense was solid from talking on the phone with Chris Pronger. He liked that they are “good offensively.” 

Most of all, though, Jagr examined the Flyers’ roster enough to know that he could play alongside centers Danny Briere and Claude Giroux, who are both right-handed.

Jagr wants to be the Flyers’ solution to their anemic power play, which finished 19th out of 30 teams last season. Jagr has 181 power play goals and 345 power play assists in his storied career, which last left him 9th all-time on the NHL points list. He is within striking distance this season of Joe Sakic for the 8th spot.

“I like to play power play on the right side, and I think because they’re right-handed, they like to play on the other side,” Jagr said. “I think it would be a problem if I would play in Pittsburgh with [Sidney] Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin, left handed, and have to play on the other side, when I’ve played all my life on the right side. I don’t think I would be able to play there.  Or if I go to Detroit, with [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg, they’re left-handed and they play on the boards where I used to play at.”

For that, Jagr didn’t seem worried about damaging the relationship he had with Penguins owner and former teammate Mario Lemieux, despite reports that he had promised Lemieux to play in Pittsburgh.

Jagr’s agent, former Flyers defenseman Petr Svoboda, even went as far as saying early on Friday morning that his client’s “heart belonged in Pittsburgh.”

Both Detroit and Pittsburgh dropped their offers early on Friday when they sensed there was another team in the mix.

“I didn’t promise anybody anything, that I was going back.  The Penguins seemed like I did something wrong or something bad, and 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 my chance to pick wherever I think is best for me.  I have the option to pick.

“If I hurt somebody, I apologize, I didn’t mean it, but this is my life and I want to make the choice.”

Loyalty doesn’t seem to be an issue. Jagr said his reason for not returning to the NHL during the past three years was to honor his three-year contract with Avangard Omsk of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He said NHL teams tried to lure him back every summer.

He even apologized in advance, saying he could answer questions better in his native Czech tongue or even Russian, having seldom used English in the last three years.

“I just made the decision and stayed with it,” Jagr said. “That’s what I promised them.  Three years ago with the free agency, we couldn’t make any deals with [Rangers GM] Glen Sather.  So like I promised, I signed with Avangard Omsk.  But right after I signed, there were very good offers from the NHL.  But I told myself I’m not going to look back, because I already did what I did.  It was kind of tough to leave, because then I saw there was more interest from the NHL, but I had already made the promise. 

“I know for some people it might be just words, but for me, I’m very religious, I know it would bite me a little later.  I know that.  That’s the way the word works.”

Jagr, 39, answered simply when asked about his goal for next season, in which he specifically asked for a one-year deal in case he wasn’t thrilled with his destination. He isn’t concerned about the pressure to perform in Philadelphia. He isn’t worried about damaging his own reputation as a star player who played too long.

Jagr said he still playing thanks to the hard working guys like Rick Tocchet, Paul Coffey and Kevin Stevens whom he watched as a 20-something in Pittsburgh.

“If I play bad and people criticize me, that’s fine,” Jagr said. “If the things were only about myself, I’m not worried about it.”

Instead, Jagr said he didn’t want fans to “criticize the people who brought me to Philadelphia.” Jagr doesn’t want to “let somebody down” who believed in him.

“I have only one goal, and that’s making people happy,” Jagr said. “To make them happy, to those people who believe I can be good.  That’s my goal.  If I make them happy, I’ll be happy.”

Suffice to say, if Jagr can perform anywhere close to the point-per-game player we saw as recently as last year in Russia, all sides will be happy. Except Pittsburgh.

"There's no guarantees," Jagr said. "I could easily stay in Russia, make a lot more money and play 60 games. I wanted to try it. I have the feeling."

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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