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Philadelphia takes flyer on Jagr

Associated Press / July 2, 2011

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On the western side of Pennsylvania sits The Steel City. On the other side, at least in hockey circles yesterday, sits The Steal City.

The new-look Philadelphia Flyers were at it again, 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 the winning Stanley Cup goal for the Penguins in 2009, 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 him 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 yesterday morning. Jagr, who played the last three seasons in Russia, helped lead the Penguins to two Stanley Cup titles in the 1990s. He also played for the Rangers and Capitals.

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.

A Czech native, Jagr won an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and a bronze in 2006. He also won world championships in 2005 and 2010. Jagr’s agent is former NHL defenseman Petr Svoboda, who 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 defenseman Andreas Lilja, 35, away from the Ducks, and gave a contract extension to right wing Jakub Voracek, 22, acquired from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade last week.

There were some departures from Philadelphia, 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.

The Penguins also lost rugged forward Mike Rupp, who left for the division-rival Rangers for three years and $4.5 million. Pittsburgh did re-sign forward Tyler Kennedy for two years, and added Steve Sullivan, who left Nashville for a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

Cole a Canadien The Canadiens signed forward Erik Cole from the Hurricanes and backup goalie Peter Budaj from the Avalanche. Cole, who earned $3 million last season, signed a four-year, $18 million deal, and Budaj inked a two-year contract worth $2.3 million. Alex Auld, the Canadiens’ backup goalie last season, signed with Ottawa. Cole, 32, was a teammate of Canadiens forwards Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta on the US Olympic team at the 2006 Games in Turin. The Canadiens lost defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who accepted a two-year, $7 million deal with the Capitals . . . The Blackhawks agreed to one-year contracts with forwards Andrew Brunette (Minnesota), Jamal Mayers (San Jose), Brett McLean (Bern, Switzerland), and tough guy Dan Carcillo (Philadelphia), and defenseman Sean O’Donnell (Philadelphia) . . . Former Bruin Marco Sturm went to Vancouver from Washington; Joel Ward inked a four-year, $12 million deal that got him to leave Nashville for Washington; Ben Eager moved up to Edmonton from San Jose for a three-year, $3.3 million contract; and Raffi Torres said goodbye to the Stanley Cup finalist Canucks and agreed to a two-year deal worth $3.5 million with Phoenix.

Defense rules It was a good day for defensemen. Ed Jovanovski left Phoenix and signed with Florida for four years and $16.5 million; Sami Salo signed a one-year, $2 million deal to stay with Vancouver; Cam Barker agreed to a two-year, $2.25 million contract with Edmonton; Andy Greene re-signed with New Jersey; Adam Pardy went from Calgary to Dallas for two years and $4 million; and Mike Commodore moved from Columbus to Detroit. Sheldon Souray got out of minor league exile and joined Dallas on a one-year deal worth $1.65 million after Edmonton sent him to Hershey (AHL) for all of last season . . . The Panthers were active in addition to their moves to acquire Versteeg and Jovanovski. Florida had money to spend to get to the new minimum payroll of $48.3 million, and signed veteran goalie Jose Theodore, forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, and Marcel Goc and defenseman Nolan Yonkman. On the flip side, forward Marty Reasoner left the Panthers for a two-year, $2.7 million offer from the Islanders . . . The Sharks signed forward Michal Handzus to a $5 million, two-year contract.

Trading places The Avalanche addressed their shaky goaltender situation in a big way, acquiring Semyon Varlamov from Washington and later signing Jean-Sebastien Giguere to a two-year deal. Colorado also agreed to a four-year contract with defenseman Jan Hejda and a two-year deal with former Bruin and Boston College forward Chuck Kobasew. Varlamov was 11-9-5 last season with two shutouts. The Russian’s 2.23 goals-against average was among the best in the league . . . The Ducks acquired defenseman Kurtis Foster from the Oilers for defenseman Andy Sutton . . . Columbus locked up defenseman James Wisniewski with a six-year, $33 million deal an hour before he would have become an unrestricted free agent. Columbus acquired the rights to Wisniewski from Montreal for a 2012 seventh-round draft pick.

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