Jagr: ‘I wanted to go to Montreal’

Jaromir Jagr believed he was going to re-sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, and might have done so were it not for the franchise’s focus on the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter free-agent bidding war, the future Hall of Famer told USA Today on Thursday.

After three seasons away from the NHL, Jagr, now 40, signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia last off-season and scored 19 goals and 35 assists playing mostly alongside Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux, helping the club eliminate the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2012 playoffs.

Jagr, who signed another one-year deal Tuesday, this time for $4.55 million, with the Dallas Stars, told the paper that he had every intention of staying in Philly.

“But they wanted to go in a different direction,” Jagr said. “They were waiting for Parise and Suter. I would have had to wait until probably right now to try to negotiate a new deal with the Flyers and I just didn’t want to wait.”

Jagr said he’s not exactly sure what happened in negotiations because his agent was handling it, but when no progress was made by July 1, he took it as a signal that he would no longer be a Flyer. He said he understood, though, why the Flyers would direct their efforts to signing two elite UFAs in their prime.

“They wanted to go for the best lineup they can get,” Jagr said. “And I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it.”

But Dallas was not Jagr’s first choice. The veteran, who spent the bulk of his NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins before stints in Washington and New York, was eyeing a move north of the border once he figured that he was no longer a top priority for the Flyers.

“I always wanted to play in Canada, and I wanted to go to Montreal if I had a chance,” he said. “Montreal wasn’t interested, and then all of a sudden, I got a call from (Stars general manager) Joe Nieuwendyk and I was very happy.”

Nieuwendyk told the veteran that he would play a significant role in Dallas, penciling Jagr on the top offensive line alongside Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.

“I cannot be average,” said Jagr. “I cannot do it.”

The Stars have been average of late. If the 1999 Stanley Cup champs don’t improve in 2012-13, they could miss the playoffs for the fifth season in a row.

“I think I’ve only missed the playoffs once in my life,” Jagr said. “I don’t want to do it again.”