The Flyers and Penguins have never been known to play peaceable hockey against each other. The teams dislike each other, they have a host of Pennsylvania state pride on the line when they face off, and the kind of burning hate that’s carried these two teams through the last 30 + years in the NHL.
With free agency day providing drama of its own all over the NHL, the arms race the Philadelphia Flyers got in when they unloaded Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and acquired Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and Ilya Bryzgalov was already well under way. What they did today proved to be a direct shot at their cross-state rivals in Pittsburgh in the most painful of ways.
For the last few weeks, the Penguins were engaged in talks with their own future unrestricted free agent-to-be in Maxime Talbot as well as former Penguins legend Jaromir Jagr. The talks with Jagr were especially fascinating in that there were reports even as late as last night that a deal could be imminent. When word broke today that the Penguins were pulling their offer for Jagr, many Pens fans were heartbroken to see that their former star wouldn’t be coming back to Pittsburgh. What they didn’t expect was what happened next.
Word came down this afternoon that Jagr did reach an agreement on a one year, $3.3 million deal with a team and that team was none other than the rival Flyers. With that news tearing open a wound with Pens fans that made them instantly go back to hating Jagr, word broke shortly after that that Talbot too had signed with the Flyers, this time on a five-year, $9 million deal.
To say that Penguins fans are unhappy about this would be a wild understatement. From the guys at Pensblog, they’re short and sweet to the point.
They wanted the money and they got it. Ray Shero is too smart to overpay a 39-year old and a fourth liner, even if those players are two of the most legendary and well-known names in franchise history.
No one will ever forget Jagr in the 90s and Talbot in the 2009 playoffs. But they wear orange now so they’re dead to us. On to the next one.
The Penguins did their part to fill the day with their own news in signing forward Steve Sullivan away from Nashville on a one year deal, but the missed opportunity in getting Jagr and then losing Talbot both to the Flyers is something that strikes a nerve. It instantly makes the first matchup between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on December 8 in Philadelphia must-see TV. Even more remarkable yet, their first game in Pittsburgh takes place on December 29 when HBO’s 24/7 cameras will be following the Flyers around leading up to the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia on January 2.
Picture that scene: The former Penguins legend Jagr makes his first return to Pittsburgh since 2008 when he was with the New York Rangers after an offseason that saw him cozy up to and then deny his former team. With Talbot in tow and, we’d hope, both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin back on the ice for the Penguins in what will be a wild atmosphere in CONSOL Energy Center… Let’s just say we’d like to get tickets to that game as well as a complimentary riot shield.
For a rivalry that was already a boisterous one in the NHL, today’s signings by Philadelphia help turn it into a powder keg of emotion. About the one way the Penguins could try to get one back on the Flyers would be to sign Simon Gagne, but even that doesn’t compare to having two of the guys that were instrumental in different ways in winning the Penguins’ three Stanley Cups trade in their black and gold for orange and black. All we know for now is that things just got a lot more fascinating in Pennsylvania and we’re counting down the days until December to see these two go after each other.