Jagr keeping Oilers in mind

If Jaromir Jagr returns to the NHL, he says the Edmonton Oilers would have first crack at signing him.

If Jaromir Jagr returns to the NHL, he says the Edmonton Oilers would have first crack at signing him.

Jagr appreciated the effort the Oilers made prior to the NHL trade deadline to sign him for a playoff push, and he respects the NHL club for showing interest.

"I was excited when I heard that Edmonton pushed pretty hard to get me and I really appreciate it. And if I ever go there [the NHL], they would be my No. 1 pick because they showed me the interest first," Jagr said after Canada beat the Czech Republic 5-1 at the world hockey championship on Thursday in Switzerland.

"I will never forget that and I respect that. They would be my first pick."

Jagr played for Omsk of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League this season after an NHL career that included two Stanley Cup titles with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a Hart Trophy in 1999 as the NHL's MVP, and five scoring titles, including four straight starting in 1998.

There were times against Canada that Jagr controlled the puck as he used to when he was the NHL's top attraction. But he is in the autumn of his career and faces an uncertain future. He has one year left on his contract with Omsk and then will decide his future.

"I am not sure I would be good enough anymore,'' he said of playing in the NHL. "It is a different rink and I do not want to go there and be on the fourth line. I want to come back and be the top guy and I do not know if I can do it."

Jagr talked about the pressure that goes with being an elite player for more than a decade and how in the end, that wore him down.

"For 17, 18 years, day-by-day, so much pressure. I do not [know] how to describe it. If I was on the third or fourth line, I would probably still be in the NHL because you do not have to produce every night.

"After awhile, you just need a rest and clear your head. Mentally, the NHL is tough because you have to produce every night on a high level. And everybody expects that because you make a lot of money. I never minded that because I always want to be that guy. But it is hard to play 82 games and playoffs with that pressure."

Jagr said he didn't follow the NHL closely when he was in Omsk and was not surprised to learn that Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby finished 1-3 in NHL scoring this season, reminding him of the days he and Mario Lemieux were 1-2 in scoring in the 1990s.

"Pittsburgh has always played offensive hockey. They always want to play offence and I do not think anything has changed," said Jagr. "They have always given talented guys a chance to play hockey."

As for the playoff series between Washington and Pittsburgh, he said it is great for the NHL.

"Ovechkin, Semin, Malkin and Crosby, this is great and you can see how the young guys are getting better and better. And even here, [Canada's Steve] Stamkos, [who scored twice against the Czechs]. I do not know about this guy but he is a good player and it surprised me.

"I think Canadian hockey, they are on a good way with the young guys. Before it was pretty close, Czechs, Canada, Russia, Swedes, but I think you guys beat everybody. I do not know what happened, if the coaches are coaching different hockey. But you guys do not play typical Canadian hockey."

Jagr made it clear that the 2009 world championship will be his last, and he was non-committal about suiting up for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

"I do not know if I will be there. I do not know and it is so far away. I do not know what kind of team they are going to take and there are a lot of players in the NHL who should go. I am too old for that."

As he headed back to the dressing room, someone mentioned how Jagr still wears a Stanley Cup ring.

"I still have it," he said.

Who knows, maybe he will earn another as member of the Edmonton Oilers.