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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Czech star taking shot with Stars

Jagr leaves Philadelphia for one-year, $4.5-M deal with Dallas

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JAROMIR Jagr could be the next big thing in Texas.

The unpredictable winger landed in another unexpected destination and the Dallas Stars couldn't be happier to have him. They plucked the future Hall of Famer off the free-agent market with a US$4.55-million, one-year deal.

"I think this is a bit of a watershed moment," Stars owner Tom Gagliardi told The Canadian Press on Tuesday night. "I think it's an important day for our franchise. We've always been a destination for great players and players that want to have a chance to win and I think this is really just an endorsement for the direction I think we're heading in."

Even at age 40, Jagr arrives with big expectations after putting together a 54-point season in Philadelphia following a three-year hiatus in Russia. He had a number of suitors and was won over by an aggressive pitch from the Stars.

They plan to give No. 68 a prime-time role.

"I don't think there's any question he still has (gas) in the tank," said Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "He had a terrific season last year with Philadelphia. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with him yesterday and it was really refreshing to hear his outlook on where he's at with his game and the passion he still has for it and the work ethic that he has to put into it.

"He's still a world-class player."

The 6-foot-3 Czech has built a career on keeping both opponents and hockey observers guessing.

Many thought Jagr had played his last NHL game when he signed in the KHL with Avangard Omsk in 2008. However, he ended up returning to North America last summer, stunning many by signing with the Flyers after going through a lengthy public courtship with Pittsburgh.

Few, if any, predicted he would end up in Dallas after becoming a free agent again on Sunday.

"He's a guy that's up for challenges," said Nieuwendyk. "He's done so much in his career that I think he views this as a challenge."

In two other notable deals, Colorado kept defenceman Erik Johnson thanks to a $15 -million, four-year deal and New Jersey retained defenceman Bryce Salvador with a $9.5-million, three-year contract.

There are a number of parallels to the situation Jagr just left. After having a chance to play alongside budding NHL star Claude Giroux in Philadelphia, he could now find himself lining up with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson -- at least that's how Nieuwendyk currently has Jagr pencilled in on the depth chart inside his office.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2012 D2

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