Jagr traded to Capitals

Washington made the biggest capital gain possible on Wednesday, acquiring perennial NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The trade sends Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to the Capitals for a package of top-flight prospects -- Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, Michal Sivek and future considerations.

All three players were drafted in the top-35 in 1999.

"It feels great, he's the top offensive player in this league," Capitals general manager George McPhee said of Jagr. "We wanted to add offence and this, obviously, is a huge step in the right direction.

"We've basically added a thoroughbred to our plow horses."

"Adding him to Peter Bondra, this really lights the team up," said AOL Internet mogul Ted Leonsis, who owns the Capitals. "This is a great player and they don't come along that often.

"We still have a ways to go, but this is a big step. We're not done.

"We're going to keep trying to improve the team. This puts us on the national scene.

"We now have a really, really great hockey team."

When telephoned by McPhee, Jagr, currently in the Czech Republic, said: "Tell your owner, I have something to prove. I want to be the best player in the world."

"I thought he already was," McPhee retorted.

Jagr has 439 goals and 1,079 points in 806 NHL games, all with Pittsburgh, and won his fourth consecutive Art Ross Trophy with 52 goals and 121 points last season.

But the cash-strapped Penguins, desperate to dump payroll, could no longer afford Jagr and his reported $20.7 million US salary over the next two seasons.

Nor could they afford an elite and equally expensive player in return.

That's because Pittsburgh has 18 free agents to be re-signed, including Darius Kasparaitis, Alexei Kovalev, Robert Lang and Martin Straka.

"We're not done with what we need to do this summer," Penguins GM Craig Patrick said. "There's still a lot of question marks."

Once dangled as trade bait, Jagr found himself in high demand with the deep-pocketed New York Rangers considered front-runners.

"I called them back," Patrick said of the Rangers. "But we were too happy with this deal.

"There was nothing they could do that would have changed our mind."

The free-spending Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings also expressed interest.

Said Leonsis: "I do hope this answers two things. One, that we can get great players to come to Washington, and two, that it knocks the chip off peoples's shoulders and people come out and buy tickets.

"We're going to be a very exciting team. I've done my part.

"Now it's up to the fans. Ladies and gentlemen, wake up and smell the coffee."

Jagr, drafted fifth overall in 1990, captured five Art Ross Trophies (1995, 1998-2001), two Lester B. Pearson Awards (1999, 2000) and one Hart Trophy during his tenure with Pittsburgh.

The two-time Stanley Cup champion and nine-time all-star departs Pittsburgh as its leader in game-winning goals (78) and games played (806) and its second all-time leading scorer behind Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.

"I don't want this to be the Jaromir Jagr show and I don't think he does," Leonsis said. "This is a great player, but great teams win Stanley Cups."

It is the second trade in four months for Kucera, peddled to Pittsburgh by the Columbus Blue Jackets for a sixth-round draft pick on Mar. 13.

The 33-year-old journeyman, whose brother Vojtech is Washington's European scout, had two assists in seven appearances for Pittsburgh.

Kucera has 23 goals and 105 points in 409 NHL games with the Penguins, Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and Harford Whalers.

Beech, selected seventh overall in 1999, went pointless in four appearances with the Capitals last season.

The 20-year-old centre had 22 goals and 66 points in 40 games for the Calgary Hitmen.

Lupaschuk, 20, had 28 goals and 65 points for the Memorial Cup champion Red Deer Rebels last season.

Sivek, also 20, spent last season with Sparta Praha of the Czech Republic.

He posted six goals, 13 points and 28 penalty minutes in 32 games.

Sivek had 23 goals and 60 points in 53 games for the Prince Albert Raiders the year before.