Three teams in mix for Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr could not put a time frame on his NHL negotiations but had nothing but great things to say Tuesday about the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, the two front-runners to land the 39-year-old winger.
"I don't know," Jagr told ESPN.com when asked how much longer his decision would take.
CAREER STATS (1,273 games)
"Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes it takes a week. I'm not sure how long it's going to take," added the five-time NHL scoring champion.
Jagr's agent Petr Svoboda told ESPN.com earlier Tuesday that the Penguins and Red Wings were front-runners for Jagr's services as well as a third, unidentified team.
The Penguins would represent a return to his original NHL roots.
"In Pittsburgh, I played there 10 years. I still have a house there. I was too lazy to sell it," Jagr said with his trademark laugh.
"Obviously Mario (Lemieux) is the owner. The team they got, (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin, plus other great players, if I went there it would be a lot easier," added Jagr, speaking to ESPN.com via cell phone from his native Czech Republic. "But on the other side, Detroit has great players and play closer to my style, a Euro style. That's a plus. And (Nicklas) Lidstrom is there, plus (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg -- great, great players."
Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock spoke to Jagr over the phone last weekend, a source told ESPN.com.
"Both teams are contenders to win the Cup every year and that's the most exciting thing as a hockey player," said Jagr, not tipping his hand.
While Svoboda said earlier Tuesday that the NHL was a stronger probability than Russia's KHL, where Jagr has played the past three years, one cannot discount that possibility either.
The Red Wings have publicly confirmed their interest in Jagr while the Penguins have not. Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero did not return a message seeking comment from ESPN.com, but coach Dan Bylsma talked about the prospect of signing Jagr at the media session for NHL awards nominees Tuesday.
"Hypothetically, you're talking about a guy who in his last year in the National Hockey League had 75 points," Bylsma said. "That's leading our team last year. That's an intriguing thing to think about -- a power-play guy, what you saw him do in the world championship against NHL-caliber players was nothing short of outstanding.
"Those are intriguing things to think about hypothetically and it's tough not to think about adding 75 points to your roster if that's something you're capable of doing," he said.
Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier declined comment via email to ESPN.com on Tuesday when asked about his team's rumored interest in Jagr.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.