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Jarda Days: A new prospect again

July 29, 2011

Jagr training in Kladno earlier this week.

It’s been a month since #JagrWatch took hold of Twitter, since many Penguins blogs anxiously looked on as Jagr travelled from Europe to the US, as many across the interwebs watched and wondered “where would he go?”

That was answer as free agency opened, and we all know where he’ll be now, and that’s in Philadelphia, on a Carter-less, Richards-less club aiming to redefine itself after a game six finals defeat in 2010. For $3.3 million for the next year, he’ll find himself there.

Czech tabloid Blesk had an exclusive interview with Jagr from Kladno, where he is training at the moment. He just returned from a jaunt to Mexico. The interview was interesting for a number of reasons, not in the least because it shifts Jagr out of “free agency madness” territory, and into the territory of discussing the upcoming season, of Jagr as a Flyer. But there were some questions about how he feels for Pittsburgh and its fans, and his remarks were notable.

Most pointed was his analogy at the conclusion of the piece: he compared the Penguins to a girl that has been broken up with and won’t let go. He said the “boy is who is done” and Pittsburgh is the “girl who wants more.” Not exactly indicative of the bafflement he indicates earlier in the article, when he says he “does not understand the angry responses” from Pens fans. Hm. Which is it?

As heartless as it seems, it indicates he has some heart, still. Some nostalgia. He won’t admit that he simply wanted the right deal with the right price. Pittsburgh’s odds of entering a Cup final next year are perhaps as good as Philly’s. So, it’s not as if this was a choice between Pittsburgh and Winnipeg. It wasn’t about winning, necessarily. Does he feel for the fans of Pittsburgh enough to keep mum when it comes to his motives? Maybe. He also says in the interview that the “stress of negotiations was more taxing than that of physical training.” That’s something. He’s about hockey, not nostalgia.

Does it matter now? No. He’s property of the Flyers. But the history of this off-season will haunt him later, not in the least the first time he plays at the Consol Energy Center. Or when his deal expires next year. He’s been tainted in some ways, by this. Decisions of teams and trades are always muddled, complicated. But he’s a Flyer now.

Most have agreed that the best scenario for Jagr will involve one with lots of power-play time. His sniping skills won’t have diminished. His speed and agility are questionable in his more advanced age, so 5-on-5 play won’t be what we remembered. That said, I think Jagr is a prideful enough person that he won’t let himself slip anymore than necessary. He scored a hat-trick during the IIHF Championships this spring against the Americans. A hat-trick! That’s something. He can will himself to success, on some level.

But, how will he relate to Peter Laviolette? That’s an important question. How about his ice-time? How about Pronger? How will he fit in the locker room? That troubles me.

He won’t be the Jagr of the 90s. Really, we have no idea what he’ll be. Right now he’s once again an unknown commodity, coming out of three years in the KHL. Maybe that’ll be the magic of watching Jagr this year: it’s like watching a new prospect all over again.

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