With the Flyers in town to face the Oilers on Thursday, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal caught up with Jaromir Jagr to discuss how No. 68 once toyed with the idea of playing in Oil Country.
Shortly after Jagr left the New York Rangers in 2008, Edmonton came calling with the opportunity to play alongside good friend and Czech Republic teammate Ales Hemsky. But according to Jagr, he couldn’t break his word.
“When I got the offer from Edmonton I had already promised to go to [Avangard] Omsk,” said Jagr,who went on to play three years for the Siberian-based KHL team. “You know how it is, you don’t want to break a promise. Sometimes once you break something, it can hurt you later. It was only a matter of days, one or two, before I was going to be going to Russia.”
Jagr said he took Edmonton’s offer seriously and was intrigued by joining a team that featured youngsters like Hemsky (25 at the time), Andrew Cogliano (21), Ladislav Smid (22), Kyle Brodziak (24), Tom Gilbert (26) and Dustin Penner (26).
“I was interested. I talked to [GM] Kevin Lowe,” Jagr said. “They had a new owner. They had a young, good team. It just didn’t happen.
“I thought I was too old to change [NHL] teams after playing for the Rangers and I told the Omsk organization if I didn’t go back to New York, I would sign in Russia.”
As for Hemsky — who has been bandied about in plenty of trade talk recently — Jagr was highly complimentary of his good buddy.
“He’s got talent, if he goes to a different team, it would be like a new start,” he explained. “Maybe he could get 100 points. He’s that skilled.
“Sometimes staying in one place won’t help players. Maybe that’s what he needs.”