Shero hopes Jagr ‘meant what he said’

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Penguins general manager Ray Shero spoke with Jaromir Jagr’s agent around 5 p.m. today, but the team does not know if Jagr will accept a one-year offer for around $2 million to return.

Shero said Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, told him the Penguins “are very much in the mix.” Svoboda expected to speak with Jagr tonight, Shero said.

“He doesn’t want to force him into a decision,” Shero said of Svoboda.

Shero said the Penguins’ offer to Jagr remains “on the table,” and that not hearing from Jagr tonight would not alter his hope of signing Jagr when the NHL free-agent period opens tomorrow.

“He’s not holding us hostage or anything,” Shero said, adding that he believes the Penguins can sign Jagr and keep right wing Tyler Kennedy given their salary-cap space.

Shero said he never set a deadline of Wednesday for Jagr to accept an offer presented Tuesday after Shero spoke with Svoboda and Jagr.

“Petr thought the decision would be made by Wednesday; I never put a deadline on it,” Shero said. “I said that certainly us, and probably a lot of other teams, would want to know by the start of free agency – that I’d like to have an idea of what’s going on.”

Svoboda said this morning that Jagr had a “tough decision to make” because “Pittsburgh is in his heart.”

Jagr arrived in New York late Wednesday night, Svoboda said.

Shero said discussions for Kennedy’s camp on a new deal were down to “short strokes.”

“He could really push the envelope here if he wants, but he’s made it clear this is where he really wants to play,” Shero said. “Hopefully we can find something by tomorrow, whether it’s a one-, two- or three-year deal that makes sense.

“That’s what we’re trying to do now.”

Shero said that forwards Mike Rupp and Max Talbot will test the market when free-agency opens.

Jagr, 39, is the headline-grabber in the Penguins’ free-agent equation – though Shero said he hasn’t paid attention reports or talk about the so-called “Jagr Watch.”

He doesn’t see Jagr as a risk on a one-year deal.

“With Jagr, wherever he goes, it’s different hockey than in Russia,” Shero said, comparing the NHL to the Kontinental Hockey League, where Jagr spent the past three seasons.

“It’s an 82-game season here. Are you getting that from Jagr? I don’t know. But on a one-year contract he’s a really good player.”

Shero said he is hoping that Jagr has “meant what he’s said by wanting to do right by Mario (Lemieux).”

Lemieux, the Penguins’ majority co-owner, starred with Jagr for the Penguins in the 1990s – a decade in which they combined to win seven scoring titles and the Stanley Cup twice. Jagr requested a trade from the Penguins during the 2000-2001 season that was highlighted by Lemieux’s stunning comeback from retirement.

Lemieux called Jagr last week to invite him back to the Penguins.

Longtime associates of Lemieux and NHL agents told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday they believed Jagr had worked out parameters of a deal to remain with the Penguins. Svoboda would neither confirm nor deny that.

Detroit and Montreal have also made one-year offers to Jagr. Shero said he believes the Penguins’ offer is competitive.

–Rossi

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