- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

Jaromir Jagr, the newest Washington Capital, said yesterday he was surprised to learn where he had been traded because he assumed he was headed to the New York Rangers.
Jagr received a call Wednesday from Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Craig Patrick while vacationing in Prague, where he owns a sports bar that bears his name.
"Afterward I have a great feeling," Jagr said via a conference call from Prague. "The first thing that comes to my mind is that [the Caps] have a great team, but they didn't have to give up anybody for me from their lineup. I felt like they wanted me, they traded for me and that's a great feeling, to go somewhere where you know you're welcome."
Unlike many trades that take weeks to finalize, the Washington-Pittsburgh transaction came together in hours and was deliberately kept secret to ensure that the Rangers, Jagr's only previous suitor, did not learn of it and increase their bid. Not even Jagr was informed of what was taking place.
"You have to understand I wasn't expecting anything else but the Rangers," the right wing said. "I'm in Czechoslovakia [sic], and I'm reading the papers and everybody was talking about the Rangers. Nobody mentioned Washington that's why I was shocked.
"I wasn't disappointed at all. I'm happy actually right now. But to hear a team other than the Rangers was something I didn't expect. I thought I was going to New York for sure."
Jagr, who has won the NHL scoring title five times in 11 seasons, said he didn't think he would have a problem with Washington's defensive system.
"I'm playing in the NHL how many years and everybody changes," he said. "I change, and I change my opinion. It's different hockey than played in the '90s or '80s. Now every detail is important, and I understand after my experience only with defense can you win. Of course, you need to score the goals, but you need to be disciplined and play a great system. That's the only way you can win."
Nor did Jagr think he would have any problem dealing with coach Ron Wilson, who rarely discusses his system with the hired help before putting them in place. Jagr is infamous for having run-ins with almost every coach he has played for.
"I'm not going to come to him and tell him what he has to do," Jagr said. "I see something I like, I can tell him this is the way I see it, but he's making the decisions, he's the coach. I think there's nothing wrong with coaches and players talking to each other."
Jagr did not seem surprised by reports coming out of Pittsburgh that the Penguins were willing to trade center Jan Hrdina to the Caps for right wing Dainius Zubrus. Washington general manager George McPhee denied there was any truth to the story.
"That's great news," Jagr said of the report. "[Hrdina] is a great player. Not many people give him a lot of credit, but he's an unbelievable player. He works hard. He plays great defense plus he loves … Washington's style of play. I think he would be very comfortable here, but I cannot do anything about it."
The deal makes a great deal of sense for both sides. The Penguins need a strong right wing, and Zubrus fits that mold nicely. Zubrus makes $1 million; Hrdina, a restricted free agent, made $700,000 last season and was tendered a qualifying offer of $770,000.
Hrdina likely would be a perfect fit for Washington. For one thing, he not Mario Lemieux is Jagr's favorite center and the pivot Jagr has played with the most. He is also talented, would require no adjustment period dealing with Jagr and plays his position as most European centers are trained, believing defense comes first.
Acquiring Hrdina also would give the Caps the opportunity to deal veteran center Adam Oates, using his talent and skill possibly to obtain a left wing who could work well with Jagr.
McPhee did not rule out the possibility that the team will attempt to sign unrestricted free agent Brett Hull as that player.
What McPhee has made clear since the news of the Jagr trade was first announced is that he is not done dealing but wants a few more days of vacation before getting back on the phone.
Notes The Caps finalized a one-year deal with right wing Ulf Dahlen, keeping the solid checking line (Steve Konowalchuk and Jeff Halpern) together. Dahlen, an unrestricted free agent, made $1 million last season and sought to double it, while the Caps were offering about $1.5 million.
Dahlen, 34, had 15 goals and 48 points. Halpern is a restricted free agent whose contract also expired and needs a new one before camp opens in September… .
Jagr is expected to arrive at Dulles Airport on Monday afternoon, and the Caps are organizing a reception for fans to greet him. Details have yet to be finalized.

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