There are some NHL stories that seemingly never go away: The Phoenix Coyotes saga in Glendale, inconsistent officiating and discipline, how the Washington Capitals can take the next step and, finally, whether or not Jaromir Jagr will return to the NHL.
Ever since he left the NHL at the conclusion of the 2008 season, people have been wondering when he was going to come back. Of course, Jagr himself has done quite a lot to fuel those rumours.
In 2009 the Hockey News blog posted that Jagr would consider going back to play with the Penguins if Mario Lemieux made the call:
“I was thinking about it and if Mario would call me and say, ‘I’d like you to play for our team,’ I would think about it a lot,” Jagr said in a telephone interview from Moscow where the Kontinental League will hold its inaugural All-Star Game outdoors at Red Square Saturday. “I would play for the minimum salary. I would play for $350,000 just for him because I owe him my hockey life. I want to pay him back because he has made me what I am… besides my parents.”
Of course, Jagr’s NHL return didn’t come at that point. In fact, once his two year contract with Avangard Omsk of the KHL expired, Jagr re-signed for another year. The Edmonton Oilers reportedly offered Jagr a contract, but they were rejected and Jagr remained in Russia. However, that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t flattered by the Oilers’ offer:
“I was pretty excited when I heard that Edmonton pushed pretty hard for me to get (there),” Jagr said yesterday at the world hockey championship. “I really appreciate it… If I ever go to (the NHL), they would be my No. 1 pick because they showed the interest first. I never forget that and I respect that. They would be my first pick.”
Then, last week, the rumours started to swirl once again. It was reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins had reached out to Jagr. While that started the NHL return hype once again, the situation was downplayed by Pittsburgh. It was said to be more of a “symbolic homecoming” and revealed that the Penguins simply wanted Jagr to play in the team’s alumni golf tournament.
Jagr, of course, was questioned about a return and he predictably tried to create some buzz.
“You never know. Maybe it will be still fun to go back to NHL,” Jagr said mere minutes after collecting a bronze medal at the IIHF world hockey championship when the Czechs beat Russia 7-4 on Sunday. “Maybe Pittsburgh. I don’t know. Maybe Montreal. Maybe New York. Pittsburgh, I played there for a long time. Mario is the owner. It’s better to play with great centres like (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin, (then) this game is a little bit easier and I’m not young anymore. I would like to score some goals, empty-netters with those guys and it’s a lot easier.”
In regards to Montreal, Jagr elaborated:
“And Montreal and Canada, it’s totally different hockey,” he said. “The fans are crazy about hockey and I’ve never played in Canada in my life. You never know.”
Whether Jagr actually wants to return or if he just enjoys toying with the media is unknown at this point.
Jaromir Jagr famously demanded a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2001. He was unhappy with the team and had criticized the team’s coaches on a number of occasions. However, in 2008 Jagr said that he didn’t actually think the Penguins would trade him:
“It was kind of impossible to sign all of them, and if we wouldn’t sign them, we wouldn’t have a chance to do anything,” Jagr said. “I thought it was going to be a lot easier for the team to trade one guy than let go three guys. That’s when I made the decision to go to [then-general manager] Craig Patrick and told him it’s going to be a lot easier for the organization if they trade me.”
“I didn’t necessarily think they were going to trade me right away. I thought they might try to do it the other way, try to find more money to sign all the guys and keep me here.”
“I just wanted to make it easier for the team,” Jagr said. “Plus, there was no reason to keep me when Mario came back. I thought it was going to be good for the team. But I loved it here. Why would I want to be traded? Especially when I didn’t know where I was going to go.”
It seems that Jagr doesn’t always say what he means and he doesn’t always mean what he says. He likes to talk about NHL returns while simultaneously re-signing in Russia and he demanded to be traded when he didn’t really want to be traded. If you take Jagr on is word, he would play for the Penguins for the league minimum… or the Oilers since they contacted him first… or the Canadiens… or the Rangers… or managing a team in Kladno.
Is Jagr simply playing around? Is he negotiating through the media? Is he trying to see if there is interest out there? Or does he really not know what he’s going to do?