EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A hockey legend is coming to The Garden State.
The New Jersey Devils have signed forward Jaromir Jagr to make up for some of the scoring lost with the recent retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello announced the signing Tuesday. The one-year contract is worth $2 million.
Jagr said three or four teams were interested in signing him. However, he said he wasn’t able to command as much attention or money as in past years because he is now 41 and many teams didn’t have the money to spend.
“In my stage, because I love the game, I was looking for the team where I was going to have the opportunity to play,” Jagr said in a conference call. “I was talking to Lou before Kovalchuk retired.
Jagr split last season with the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins, scoring a combined 16 goals and 19 assists in 45 games. The NHL’s active leading scorer added 10 assists in helping the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup final, but he did not score a postseason goal. He signed with Dallas last summer, and started the year playing in Europe due to the NHL lockout.
The 16 regular-season goals would have led the Devils last season and his 35 points would have been one behind team leader Patrik Elias. Kovalchuk, who walked away from $77 million left on a contract that he signed in 2010, had 11 goals and 20 assists in a season limited to 37 games mostly by a shoulder injury.
A five-time NHL scoring champion, Jagr told his agent Petr Svoboda, a former NHL defenseman, that he wanted to stay in the Eastern Conference.
“There was only one thing on my mind, I wanted to stay in the NHL,” Jagr said, adding Russia’s KHL was not an option.
Besides the 30-year-old Kovalchuk, who left for the KHL, the Devils also lost forward David Clarkson to Toronto via free agency. Last summer, they lost captain Zach Parise to Minnesota in free agency after New Jersey advanced to the Stanley Cup final.
Lamoriello has tried to fill the holes up front, signing free-agent forwards Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder away from the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes, respectively. He also re-signed Elias and Dainius Zubrus. Jacob Josefson has a new contract, and fellow restricted free-agent center Adam Henrique also is close to a new deal.
Jagr has 681 goals and 1,007 assists in 1,391 career regular-season games with Pittsburgh, Washington, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Dallas and Boston. He won Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 1990-91 and 1991-92 as well as the league MVP in 1998-99.
Jagr will wear his famous No. 68 with New Jersey. In the Lamoriello era, only three non-goaltenders have ever worn jersey numbers higher than No. 34 in their history — Doug Gilmour (93), Alexander Mogilny (89) and Stephane Richer (44).
A native of the Czech Republic, Jagr has won five NHL scoring titles. Entering his 20th NHL season, he ranks 34th all-time in games played, tenth in goals, 12th in assists and eighth in points. Among current NHL players, he ranks first in goals, assists and points, and second in games played.
Jagr has played for three teams — Flyers, Stars and Bruins — since returning to the NHL in 2011 after a brief stay in the KHL. Kovalchuk will play for SKA St. Petersburg next season, the same team that Jagr played for during the lockout, being chosen their captain.
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