- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Jaromir Jagr, the NHL scoring champion each of the last four seasons, is on the verge of signing a five-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals that will put him in an elite salary range.
According to a variety of sources, Jagr will sign a deal that will pay him $55 million over five years. If his current contract and the extension go the limit, the dynamic right wing would be tied to the Caps until the end of the 2008-09 season, when he would be 35.
A source with knowledge of the situation said that the deal is done but that team officials are holding off an announcement out of respect to those involved in the tragedies at the Pentagon and in New York City and the current state of war for the country.
The new deal will take affect after Jagr's current two-year contract expires, a deal that pays him $10.03 million this season and $10.4 million next season.
There are bonuses and incentive clauses that kick in every step of the way, for winning more scoring titles (he has five), being named league MVP by the media or winning the Lester B. Pearson Award as voted by players, being named to All-Star teams and the Caps advancing to various stages of the playoffs.
The contract extension will average $11 million a season but is being structured in such a way that, for at least one season, Jagr will make $12 million, thus achieving a personal goal. He always has believed he is among the truly elite players in NHL history and wanted to be the highest paid player in the league.
In fact, he is the highest paid player in the league this season as a result of Colorado's Peter Forsberg's decision to sit out the season and forego his $11 million salary. Two other players, Anaheim's Paul Kariya and Florida's Pavel Bure, make $10 million a season.
The NHL record for contract length belongs to Alexei Yashin of the New York Islanders, who recently signed a 10-year deal worth $87 million. But Yashin, who held out for a complete season two years ago, is making a paltry $6.4 million this season.
Jagr was traded to the Caps on July 11 by Pittsburgh, where the wing played his previous 11 NHL seasons, winning two Stanley Cups and beating up on his new team with amazing regularity. Washington sent three prospects and $4.9 million in cash to the Penguins, and it was obvious that if Jagr couldn't be signed to a long-term contract extension, he would be a rental player for two years at a high cost.
The proposed deal would remove that possibility and leave the Caps with an individual generally considered the best player in the league today.
Much has been made of the fact Jagr asked Pittsburgh three times to trade him and the reasons behind those requests. Yesterday, in a league conference call, Jagr explained in more detail why he asked out.
"I had a great 11 years there, and whatever happened in the playoff, happened in the playoffs," he said. "It looked like the defense just turned against me. Whatever I did was wrong, no matter what I did.
"I knew there was going to be a lot of free agents after the season, and I knew if I stayed in Pittsburgh, all the players [were] not going to be signed, impossible. And I just knew from the season start, [if] the season wouldn't go the way we wanted to and all of a sudden everything would turn against me because fans would start saying we should trade Jagr and sign the other players. If everything didn't go the right way I knew I would be the guy to blame, and I didn't want that."
Notes The Caps play the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden at 8:08 tonight the odd time is because it is an ESPN telecast. It is the second game of a five-game road swing for Washington and comes after it was routed 4-0 Monday afternoon in Boston.
Defenseman Calle Johansson was held out of practice yesterday to recover from bruises sustained in the second period when he was crushed against the boards by Boston's Kyle McLaren. He finished the game, but McLaren did not. McLaren was subsequently dealt a pugilistic pounding by Jeff Halpern and left the game, not to return. He suffered a strained chest muscle and was last seen with his left arm taped across his chest.

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