Was Jaromir Jagr Wrong to Choose Flyers over Penguins?

Jaromir Jagr has returned to the NHL after playing three years in Russia’s KHL. There was speculation swirling for weeks regarding the team for whom he’d choose to play, and the Penguins, Red Wings, Canadiens and Rangers were all prominently mentioned.

In the end, Jagr chose to sign with the Flyers on a one-year $3.3 million deal — a move that shocked most folks.

Jagr’s deal with Philly was announced a few hours after the Penguins reportedly pulled their $2 million offer because they did not want to enter a bidding war. Jagr picked Philly, leaving the fans in Pittsburgh stunned.

I ask you the question: was it wrong of Jagr to pick one of Pittsburgh’s biggest rivals as his new team?

Jagr played 11 of his 17 NHL seasons with the Penguins. That’s the team that drafted him and paired him with Mario Lemieux when he was wee little mullet wearing lad from Czechoslovakia. That’s the same team that helped develop him into a star player in the league. And Jagr is the same guy who told The Hockey News in 2009 “I would play for the minimum salary. I would play for $350,000 just for [Mario Lemieux] because I owe him my hockey life.”

Something must have changed since then because Jagr left for more money elsewhere. I don’t know what happened and I never like to say that someone made the wrong move without knowing what we on behind the scenes, but it’s awfully strange that Jagr’s viewpoint changed so much in only two years. I’m inclined to say that signing with the Penguins was the wrong move, but we don’t know the whole story. What do you say?

Around The Web

  • Anonymous

    I believe signing with the Flyers may have been a dangerous move physically, as the hatred between these two teams could up the ante on his likelihood of getting injured; but then, playing in the NHL is risky business no matter who you play for.

    I’m glad to finally see someone ask the question without opining on a situation that, really, none of us truly understands outside of Mario and Jaromir themselves.  But, since you asked, if we must opine, I’m going to break ranks with the vast majority of hockey fans and say that Jaromir probably had good reason to balk on the chance to play for Mario once again; and, honestly, it probably wasn’t about money.

    The reason I doubt money was the ultimate factor is that, indeed, Jaromir has made over $100 million in his hockey career and an extra $1.3 million probably wasn’t going to make or break the bank (with or without withstanding IRS or gambling debts).  In fact, going to the Penguins may have been the more lucrative move in the end as it could have resulted in easier endorsement deals (the Penguins are a much more-televised and hyped team than the Flyers, not to mention local endorsement deals pandering to the nostalgia of Pittsburgh fans that would be absent in Philadelphia) and possibly even a position among the team’s staff post-retirement.  Further, Jaromir is said to still own a home in the Pittsburgh area that I’d like to believe is probably also worth a pretty penny.  Further, if it were truly about the money, why have fans conveniently forgotten that his KHL team was putting up the biggest bid?  But, I digress…

    Let’s consider some reasons he may have had for changing his mind.

    The Flyers have lost Mike Richards and are in need of some good forwards right now, possibly even a first-liner.  Prior to Jaromir even showing up in the US, the Penguins had just signed right winger Pascal Dupuis, who typically plays first line to Sidney Crosby.  For all Pittsburgh fans know, Jaromir’s agent was trying to procure a position for his client that would have resulted in the most playing time at this stage of his career.  Has it occurred to most hockey fans that perhaps the man simply wants to be on the ice as much as he can in the closing chapters of his career?  Consider how you’d feel if the one thing you did in life that you knew and loved was coming to a professional end and once it ended, there’d be no more on the stage as you knew it.  You’d cling to it like grim death.  You’d cherish every last second you could get your hands on.

    Further, perhaps it’s time Pittsburgh fans took a pause, looked in the mirror, and considered the possibility that Jaromir Jagr just might be a monster of their own creation.  They forget how crucial he was during Lemieux’s retirement in carrying the team to four playoff berths.  They forget how beloved the man was up until Lemieux’s 2000-2001 return.  Even as late as that season, Lemieux referred to him as “a great team player” who was simply “frustrated with his game.”  Indeed, he had a $10 million salary and was constantly under ungodly pressure to live up to it.  And, if one looks at the numbers, prior that season, one could easily argue during the non-cap days, that he had.  But, then, Mario returned.  There are allegations that he coveted the “C” on Jagr’s jersey and the city supported him because he was so iconic.  Jagr had earned this position, no doubt.  Imagine, though, having your idol return, act as though he owns you (because he did) and suddenly you’re not listened to as the captain you know you’ve been for quite some time.  You’re the captain, but your teammate OWNS YOU???  And the city supports this idea and tells you to let go of your hard-earned position…just because?  And now, everyone’s telling you that the small-market team can’t afford your super-high salary anymore and, after all, they have Super Mario again.  Suddenly, you’re not the star captain leading to victory anymore.  You’re an overpaid curmudgeon who is the reason why the team is sinking financially.  It was all fine before.  It isn’t now.  And it’s all your fault.

    And then came the series with the NJ Devils, which saw the two of them held to only 2 goals between them.  Game 4 in Pittsburgh saw them suffer a 5-0 smoking at the hands of Martin Brodeur – the 2nd of two straight shut-outs.  And, oh, how the Pittsburgh fans wanted an answer.  And, Super Mario gave them one.  In a press conference earlier in the series, I recall watching Mario stand before cameras (WHY?  JAGR was captain!) and tell the world that Jagr wasn’t playing up to par and that he needed to step up his game.  I was floored that he could be so blunt and so willing to throw the man who was clearly the team’s stalwart for four seasons under the proverbial bus for his own vanity.  And, so, during Game 4, when Jagr was limping on and off the ice (due to a groin injury he was right to keep mum about during the series), the fans he earned, loved, and gave his efforts and heart to for 10 years BOOED HIM.  In an act of sheer Pittsburgh fan stupidity, they booed Jaromir Jagr.  I was stunned.  And Jagr probably was, too.  It was one of those moments where you know Pittsburgh fans are showing their haste and foolishness.

    Up until this point, he had said, he wasn’t thinking about trades, he was just “trying to play.”  But, the Pittsburgh media had all they needed.  And the Jagr-bashing began.  Imagine being him and suffering this at the hands of a team and city you thought loved you.  All of this, at 28.  I’m willing to bet some of you would fly off the loop.  Yeah, he left, and who could blame him?  Who could blame him for not wanting to be “owned” by Super Mario again?  Who could blame him for not caring how “disappointed the poor fans of Pittsburgh are” right now?

    Is this what he was mulling over in Wimbledon on Wednesday?  Is this why he changed his mind and forgot about the “good times?”  I don’t know.  But, I’ll bet nobody outside these two really does, either.

  • http://twitter.com/IntheOT Chad Margulius

    Wow great lengthy answer and great questions by LB. Its obviously not about money because if it was he would have stayed in the KHL where he was making 10 mil tax free in Russia living like a king. I dont understand why Jagr believes Philly has a better chance to win then Pittsburgh. Or maybe its the specific role within the team that impacted his decision. Who knows what went on behind closed doors, just because someone made a specific comment to the media in public doesnt mean that its true. 

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Great points Chad. Even though he would have made much more in the KHL compared to the NHL, maybe it was about the money in the sense that Philly’s offer was 50% more than Pittsburgh’s so it became about disrespect. 

    I think you may be onto something about the roles. With Malkin and Crosby coming back, maybe he feels like Pittsburgh already has too much. Who knows. 

    You’re also on point with what you said about his public comments to The Hockey News. What someone says to the press can be different from his true feelings. Right on Chad.

  • Anonymous

    He wants to win a cup and didn’t take the Red Wings offer? Oooook

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Chad!  Glad you liked it and glad you and LB are pointing out the lesser-known aspects of this affair.  My post came prior to Jagr’s interview yesterday and it’s nice to get some re-assurance from the man himself as well.  It seems apparent to me from what he had to say yesterday that this man is far more intelligent and mature than most give him credit for (and English isn’t even his first language – or 2nd for that matter)!  Yes, as you and I surmised, his role on the team seems to have been a big factor.  As for why Philly over Detroit, SpinMax’s question is one I can’t answer.  Perhaps he thought BOTH teams had a good chance at winning (even a better one with Detroit), but as LB said, the disrespect factor may have been enough to give Philly the edge in his mind.  But, then, one could argue that Detroit would have been pretty disrespectful to Pens fans, too.  Jaromir did mention, though, his role on the PP and how the left-handed centers at Pittsburgh and Detroit would have thrown a wrench into his typical playing style. 

    I think, in the end, this is a far more complex issue than a simple $1.3 million to someone as wealthy as Jaromir Jagr, especially when we both know he had bigger offers in the KHL.  My biggest issue right now is actually with the irresponsible actions of the Pittsburgh sports media who didn’t bother to fact-check what the real circumstances were of his return and couldn’t wait to sell an entire city on the sensationalist story that Jagr’s return was a done-deal.  And, now, as the dust settles, rather than admit they made a mistake and got everyone’s hopes up only to have them dashed in the most painful way possible, they’re pinning HIM with the blame and throwing accusations of greed galore at him – 2001 all over again.  Some things never change, indeed.  But, this time, it isn’t Jaromir who is back to his “same old antics.”

    Anyways, whacha gonna do about it? :)