(UPDATE: Jagr surprises everyone by signing a one-year, $3.3 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers).
During this week's increased flirtation between Jaromir Jagr and the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was evident that GM Ray Shero wasn't going to sit around and wait for the 39-year old forward to finally make his decision.
With Shero dealing with trying to re-sign Tyler Kennedy, as well as adding other free agents to the Penguins' lineup, if Jagr wasn't going to make a decision by Friday, he was moving on. Shero even tried to move things a bit on Thursday by pulling the Mario Card saying he hoped Jagr would want "to do right by Mario [Lemieux]".
Well, Shero's deadline passed and Friday morning the Penguins pulled their 1-year, $2 million offer from the table.
From the Penguins:
"We made what we thought was a very fair contract offer to Jaromir on Tuesday, based on his stated interest of returning to the Penguins," said Ray Shero, the team's executive vice president and general manager. "We made our best offer from the start, given our salary cap structure, in an attempt to facilitate a deal. But now, after several days, with an extended time frame for making a decision, and additional teams getting involved, we have decided to move in a different direction. It was never our intention to get involved in a free agent bidding war, and we have to focus on our team.
"Jaromir is one of the greatest players in Penguins history, and we wish him all the best."
The Detroit Red Wings (out go the Wings) and Montreal Canadiens have been mentioned as being the other two teams interested in Jagr, but where do he and his agent go is anyone's guess. Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, was quoted this week saying his client's "heart was in Pittsburgh" given his relationship with Lemieux, but the Czech forward has been known to be flakey throughout his career.
But as we've written before, we were never believers that a Jagr-to-the-NHL return was certain despite his quotes at the end of the World Championships in May. We've seen Jagr use the NHL as leverage to get more money from the KHL and it's worked before; why not one last time before he rides off into the sunset and retires to the Czech Republic?
If his words are to be believed, the horse-and-pony show of Svoboda and Jagr just lost their most important bidder and now the odds of a KHL return seem very likely.