The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA - On the western side of Pennsylvania sits The Steel City. On the other side, at least in hockey circles on Friday, sits The Steal City.
The new-look Philadelphia Flyers were at it again on Friday, as they tore through the first day of free agency with four signings, two of which hurt the rival Pittsburgh Penguins across the state.
Within a matter of hours, free-agent forwards Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot signed deals with the Atlantic Division champions. Jagr, 39, a 1990 first-round pick of the Penguins, snared a one-year deal worth $3.3 million, and Talbot, 27, who scored a game-winning Stanley Cup goal for the Penguins, signed a five-year deal worth $9 million.
"It's going to be tough on us," Talbot said when asked how the Pittsburgh fans might react when they first see he and Jagr in Flyers uniforms. "It was tough for me to leave in the first place, as my heart has always been with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But at the same time, it's a new challenge for me in Philly. It's going to be real interesting.
"I never thought I'd play for another team in my life. So, it's been a rough couple of weeks for me."
The marquee signing, though, was Jagr, who had a $2 million offer from the Penguins on the table all week, before Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero withdrew it on Friday morning. Jagr, who played the last three seasons in Russia, helped lead the Penguins to Stanley Cup titles in the 1990s. He also played for the Rangers and Capitals.
"We made what we thought was a very fair contract offer to Jaromir on Tuesday, based on his stated interest of returning to the Penguins," Shero said. "We made our best offer from the start, given our salary-cap structure, in an attempt to facilitate a deal. But now, after several days, with an extended time frame for making a decision, and additional teams getting involved, we have decided to move in a different direction."
As have the Flyers, who last week shipped out high-scoring forwards Jeff Carter (Columbus), and Mike Richards (Los Angeles), and signed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, after acquiring his rights from Phoenix. Jagr will be looked upon to provide some of that missing scoring punch. After all, he has 646 career NHL goals, and when he slips on that orange-and-black uniform for the first time next regular season, he will be the NHL's active scoring leader with 1,599 points.
"Jaromir is one of the greatest players in Penguins history," Shero said, "and we wish him all the best."
Though they are connected through their Pittsburgh ties, Talbot and Jagr have never played on the same team. Talbot had eight goals and 21 points last season. He was a minus-3 for the year and finished with 66 minutes in penalties as Pittsburgh totaled 106 points.
"I think it's the right thing for me to do," Talbot said. "It's the best team that I could go with."
A Czech native, Jagr won an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and a bronze in 2006. He also won two Ice Hockey World Championships in 2005 and 2010. Jagr's agent is former NHL defenseman Petr Svoboda, who, interestingly enough, played five seasons with the Flyers.
"Never met the guy, but I've heard about him," Talbot said of Jagr. "He showed at the World Championships that he can definitely still play. I remember playing against him, and that was tough. He was so big, and so strong on the puck."
The Flyers also signed free-agent defenseman Andreas Lilja, 35, away from the Anaheim Ducks, and gave a contract extension to right wing Jakub Voracek, 22, acquired from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade last week.
"I believe in the changes, I believe in this team," Talbot said. "Two years ago, they were in the Stanley Cup final, so I'm going to an exciting place."
The Flyers, who lost to Chicago in 2010 Stanley Cup finals in six games, finished with 106 points last season and won the Atlantic Division title on a tiebreaker ahead of the Penguins, of all teams. Philadelphia outlasted Buffalo in seven games in Round 1, but was swept out of the postseason in Round 2 by eventual Stanley Cup-champion Boston.
There were some departures from Philadelphia on Friday, as well. Free-agent forward Ville Leino signed a six-year contract with Buffalo, and forward Kris Versteeg was traded to Florida for two draft picks. Leino finished fifth on the Flyers in scoring last season with a career-best 53 points (19 goals). From Finland, Leino now has 30 goals and 73 points in 149 career games split between the Flyers and Red Wings over four years. He will earn $27 million over the life of his Sabres deal.
Versteeg, who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, was acquired by Philadelphia from Toronto at midseason. He finished with 21 goals and 46 points on the season, but had only seven and 11 with the Flyers.
For Versteeg, the Flyers acquired a conditional second-round draft pick in 2012 or 2013, and San Jose's third-round pick in the 2012, which was previously acquired by the Panthers.
The Penguins agreed to terms with forwards Steve Sullivan and Tyler Kennedy as the NHL's free-agent signing period opened up.
Sullivan, 36, is a 15-year veteran who had 10 goals and 22 points for Nashville last season. He spent six seasons with the Predators, and has 682 career points. He signed a one-year contract, worth $1.5 million.
Kennedy, 24, had 21 goals and 45 points in 80 games last season with Pittsburgh. In 266 career NHL games, Kennedy, 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, has 59 goals and 124 points. He signed a two-year contract worth $4 million.
Sullivan, a 5-foot-8, 161-pound left wing, was drafted in the ninth round by the New Jersey Devils in 1994. He scored a career high 34 goals in 2000-01 with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Kennedy, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, helped lead the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup, with five goals and nine points that postseason.
The announcements came soon after Pittsburgh formally withdrew their one-year contract offer to Jagr.
Sullivan had two goals and three points as the Predators advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs for the first time this season. A native of Timmins, Ontario, Sullivan has appeared in 890 games with the Devils, Maple Leafs, Blackhawks and Predators. He has 266 career goals.
Sullivan missed the entire 2007-08 season with a back injury, before returning on Jan. 10, 2009. Sullivan finished that season with 11 goals and 32 points in 41 games, winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.
The Rangers added some muscle to their forward corps by agreeing to terms with Mike Rupp, who left the Penguins for a three-year, $4.5 million deal with New York.
The Rangers were still waiting to hear if they would land coveted center Brad Richards, who highlighted this year's class of unrestricted players.
The 31-year-old Rupp, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for New Jersey in 2003 during Game 7 against Anaheim, had nine goals, eight assists and 124 penalty minutes in 81 games last season with Pittsburgh.
In 497 NHL games with New Jersey, Phoenix, Columbus and Pittsburgh, Rupp has 49 goals, 89 points, and 656 penalty minutes. He has surpassed 100 hits in each of the last five seasons.