The Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly want to re-connect with Jaromir Jagr – regardless of whether that means he wears black and gold next season.
The Penguins reportedly plan to invite Jagr to their annual summer alumni golf outing, which will serve as a reunion for members of the 1991 Stanley Cup championship team. Jagr, the Penguins' first pick in the 1990 Entry Draft, played for the 1990-91 team as an 18-year-old rookie and scored 27 regular-season goals before adding 13 points in the playoffs.
Jagr, now 39, spent his first 11 seasons with the Penguins before being dealt to Washington and then to the New York Rangers. He has spent the last three years playing in the KHL in Russia, but is without a contract for next season.
But during a media scrum Tuesday at the World Championships in Slovakia, where he's playing for the Czech Republic, the five-time NHL scoring champion sounded like an ex-Penguin who would be happy to get back in touch with his old team.
Though he was booed after being traded, Jagr also had kind words for Pittsburgh fans.
"The fans in Pittsburgh, they all wanted to help me and they all liked me when I was younger," Jagr told the assembled media. "Plus the biggest thing is I had a chance to watch and play with the best player ever and that's probably the best thing that happened to me in my life."
One thing Jagr wouldn’t say us whether he plans to play anywhere next season.
"It's too early for me, I don't really know what I want to do next year," Jagr said. "I don't know where I want to play. Right now I just want to concentrate for this tournament, it's not going to be more than one week. Then I have to make a decision."
Jagr may be long gone from Pittsburgh, but he's far from forgotten. His name is listed on banners honoring past scoring champions and MVPs, and he is one of six former Penguins whose pictures are part of a wall outside the club's dressing room. The others – Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen and Larry Murphy -- are all members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Jagr, whose 1,599 NHL points are the most by a European-born NHL player and ninth overall, is expected to join them in the Hall after his retirement.
The Penguins reportedly attempted to invite Jagr to participate in the closing of Mellon Arena last year and the Winter Classic alumni game this season, but aren't sure if he ever received word of their interest from his KHL team, Avangard Omsk.
GM Ray Shero, who's also attending the World Championships, said Jagr’s positive comments about the city were an encouraging sign that time has healed old wounds.
"It's great to hear because Pittsburgh treats its athletes well," he told the Canadian Press. "A guy like him that the city really responded to. There's so much Jagr stuff still in Pittsburgh -- paraphernalia, jerseys, it's nice to see that he still thinks fondly of Pittsburgh.
"The feeling is mutual."