Three years after he skated off to Russia's KHL, Jaromir Jagr wants to return to the NHL. The 39-year-old winger, who last played in the league for the Rangers in 2007--08 and spent the past three seasons with Avangard Omsk, still maintains a residence in Pittsburgh, the city where he began his mercurial career in 1990.
Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, has contacted the Penguins, but first approached the Red Wings in mid-April. Both teams are interested in the former Hart Trophy winner (a six-time 40-goal scorer), but so far only Detroit has made an offer.
Questions remain about Jagr's age and ability to adapt to a faster, more physical NHL, which—along with his declining stats—was becoming a problem for him when he left. The most recent image of him in the minds of many North American hockey fans is the thundering open-ice check Alex Ovechkin laid on him at the 2010 Winter Olympics. But the prospect of Jagr's skating alongside such playmaking centers as Pavel Datsyuk or Evgeni Malkin should win him a spot with either Detroit or Pittsburgh once free agency begins on July 1.
Jagr has reached out to Penguins owner and former teammate Mario Lemieux. "He doesn't want to come back and fail," says Penguins G.M. Ray Shero. "He's got a legacy." If Jagr's price is realistic, there will be little to lose for whichever club signs him.
MARTIN ROSE/BONGARTS/GETTY IMAGES (JAGR)
REALITY CZECH Nobody's sure how Jagr will adjust to the stronger, faster NHL.