When “Jagr watch” was at its peak on Wednesday, it seemed like the top teams in the Jaromir Jagr sweepstakes were his former team the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Detroit Red Wings and perhaps the Montreal Canadiens. Yet it was the typically out-of-left-field Philadelphia Flyers who made yet another out-of-left-field transaction, signing the future Hall of Famer to a one-year, $3.3 million deal.
Many people asked a natural question: “Why?” (For some melodramatic Penguins fans, it probably looked more like one of those scenes in a movie in which a character drops to his or her knees, screams “Whyyyyy?!?!” and looks to the heavens as rain pours on that sad character’s head.)
While many Penguins fans wonder if Jagr merely made the most hurtful decision possible, the instinctive reaction is to say that he simply followed the dollars. After all, $3.3 million is a lot more than the $2 million Pittsburgh reportedly offered.
Deep down, that might be the case, but Jagr put his own spin on the situation this afternoon. Jagr said the decision wasn’t about money and kind-of, sort-of apologized to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“If the Penguins feel like I did something wrong, or something bad, I cannot change their minds,” Jagr said. “If I hurt somebody, I apologize I didn’t mean it, but what people have to understand is that it’s my life and I want to make the choice.”
“I could easily stay in Russia, make a lot more money and play 50 games,” Jagr said. “But I wanted to try this.”
Some readers might have a little trouble buying into what Jagr was selling during this press conference, but it was interesting nonetheless.
There were two other highlights (or low points) of the press conference. The first came when explained that playing with Philly’s two right-handed centers (Claude Giroux and Danny Briere) would work out better than skating alongside Pittsburgh’s two lefty pivots (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin).
“If I were playing in Pittsburgh, Crosby and Malkin are both left handed,” Jagr said. “I don’t think I could play there. I don’t think I would have a chance to play there.”
If that didn’t stretch the boundaries of believability enough for you, check out the second most surprising comment from the press conference.
“I’ve got only one goal, that’s to make people happy,” Jagr said. “To make them happy — those who believed that I could be good. If those people are happy, I’m happy.”
His successes probably won’t make Penguins fans very happy, though. The anger toward Jagr will probably be overblown whenever the former Penguins star plays in the Consol Energy Center, but it’s wrong to take it too personally. Jagr can make some all the obscure excuses he wants, but it’s pretty clear that Philly made a substantial offer to him. Maybe there were some weak teams that also came his way, but it’s likely that the only higher bidders were non-contenders. It might not have just been about money, but it was probably mostly about the cash.
Either way, expect Penguins fans to do what they’ve done to Jagr for many year since he departed: boo him heartily.