Once upon a time, Jaromir Jagr was the public face of the Pittsburgh Penguins - mischievous grin, bubbly personality, Mario Lemieux's sidekick when they were an NHL powerhouse in the early and mid-1990s. Jagr eventually left Pittsburgh and then the NHL altogether, seeking new paths elsewhere. He was the biggest name ever to migrate to Russia's Continental Hockey League, where he spent the past three seasons playing for Avangaard Omsk.
But now Jagr's Siberian exile is over. On Friday, after the Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings dropped out of the bidding for his services, Jagr signed with the Penguins' cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, on a one-year deal worth a reported $3.3-million.
Jagr will add offence to a Flyers' team that looks as if it will lose Ville Leino as an unrestricted free agent and recently traded away two top-six forwards in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
On a day when the salaries were skyrocketing for even average NHL players, Jagr ended up holding out to get more than what the Penguins and Red Wings were offering.
Winning was also a consideration, where the Flyers made the 2009 Stanley Cup finals, but came up short in the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning this past year.
More than anything, Jagr's return for a victory lap should be good news for the Flyers' power play which, despite all of its star power, generally wasn't much good last year, finishing only 19th overall.
Even at the age of 39, Jagr has the presence to back off defenders with his puck-handling skills, which should create open ice for all of Philadelphia's fabulous finishers.
Jagr is currently ninth all-time on the NHL's all-time points list, just behind Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic and just ahead of Phil Esposito and Ray Bourque. His points-per-game average of 1.256 is the fifth best in history among players in the top 100 of NHL scoring, trailing only Wayne Gretzky, Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Marcel Dionne.
Jagr is also one of the most decorated players in NHL history. He won the Art Ross trophy as the NHL's leading scorer five times. He was also a two-time Lester B. Pearson award winner (MVP selected by the players). He took home just one Hart Trophy as MVP, but was runner-up five other times. Beyond Pittsburgh, he also played in the NHL for the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers.