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Jaromir Jagr: preferred to sign in East, only wanted to play in NHL

Sean Leahy
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After spending the first 17 years of his NHL career with three teams, Jaromir Jagr is now joining his fourth in the past three seasons after signing a one-year deal with the New Jersey Devils on Monday.

Asked about being a "hockey nomad" now at age 41, Jagr said during a Tuesday conference call, "[Y]ou meet a lot of players, you meet a lot of people, you get to know a lot of other people. The way I take it is, I always take the positives."

Jagr's base salary will be $2 million for next season. According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, he'll earn a $250,000 bonus "for every five games played from 10 to 45"; so 45 games played next season will earn him another $2 million. Between playing for Kladno during the lockout, the Dallas Stars and then the Boston Bruins during the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs, Jagr played 101 total games last season.

The Devils and Jagr were in contact before Ilya Kovalchuk announced his surprise "retirement" earlier this month. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello called Jagr's agent, former NHLer Petr Svoboda, to gauge his interest in joining the team. Jagr, who preferred to play in the East, said there were three-to-four teams who inquired about his services before he chose New Jersey.

“I’ve never seen him work so hard and make people around him better," said Lamoriello. "I just felt with his experience and what he can bring to the power play, he still has the size and strength.”

Jagr said he wanted to go somewhere where he would have an opportunity to contribute. Even if Kovalchuk was still a Devil, there would have been room in their top six for Jagr. He may not be adding a sixth Art Ross Trophy to his mantle again, but what he brings as a veteran of the league and his ability to control the puck will be a benefit next season.

And if things don't work out in the standings, Lamoriello could always dump Jagr to a contender at the trade deadline and acquire a draft pick.

The decreasing salary cap ceiling plus Jagr's age didn't allow for a big bidding war. He said if a contract didn't pan out this summer, he might have attempted to latch on with an NHL team via a training camp tryout, or, if that failed, go back and play in his native Kladno of the Czech Republic.

But that wasn't his goal once free agency began.

"There was only one thing on my mind this year: I wanted to stay in the NHL."

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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