We’re now in the second week of NHL free agency and one of the greatest players to ever play the game is still available: Jaromir Jagr. He is coming off a 46-point season, whilst playing all 82 games for the first time since 2014 when he was with the New Jersey Devils.
The Florida Panthers announced that they do not want to bring Jagr back to the organization, and according to Jagr, neither does any other organization.
Despite the apparent lack of interest, Jagr is no rookie when it comes to moving teams. Since returning to the NHL, after three years in the KHL, the 45-year-old has played for five different teams in six years.
Regardless of his age, Jagr’s numbers indicate one thing: he still knows how to score points.
Jagr has totaled 159 points in his last three seasons with both New Jersey and Florida – more points in fewer games than Patrick Marleau (151), who just signed a three-year $18M contract with Toronto.
Last Tuesday, another top free agent, Alex Radulov, just went off the board to one of Jagr’s former teams, the Dallas Stars. Radulov signed a deal worth $31.25M, $6.25M per year, over the next five years. In 2017 against even strength opponents, Radulov scored 31 points (goals, 23 assists) whilst Jagr scored 33 points (eight goals, 25 assists).
Numbers don’t lie. Scoring wise, Jagr can still compete with the top free agents on this year’s market yet he is still unsigned. Take away the age and your team will be getting a scoring winger, which plenty of NHL teams need.
Jagr has proven year after year that age will not define him. People can complain about his speed as much as they want, but if he keeps scoring points does it really matter?
With the list of free agents getting smaller each day, the Czech is becoming the top free agent available.
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Jagr is obviously in search for another Stanley Cup ring to add to his collection, however, a team in the lower half of the standings should show interest in him as a mentor. A team like the Arizona Coyotes could be one of those teams. During his time in Florida, Jagr was a major part of the success the Panthers experienced from both Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Coyotes are in a similar stage of their rebuild much like the Panthers were. The future Hall of Famer could do the same in Arizona but this time with the likes of Dylan Strome, Maxi Domi, Clayton Keller. The list of young talent is really endless in the Copper State. As previously mentioned, Jagr is in pursuit of a Stanley Cup ring, however, he would be waiting a long time in Arizona for that ring, making an Arizona unlikely destination. On the other hand, most old people eventually move to Arizona later in life so why wait till then?
Until the last few days, the Dallas Stars would’ve been a great destination for the 45-year-old. Over the summer, GM Jim Nill has made some huge moves in order to not only get his team back in the playoffs but to go all the way. Trading for Ben Bishop and signing two of the biggest names on the free-agent market, Martin Hanzel and Alex Radulov, would attract any player at the back end of their career. The Stars did lose offense at the trade deadline in Patrick Eaves, and then Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, and Jiri Hudler to free agency. Jagr seems like a great fit. However, with the Stars resigning both Radek Faska and Brett Ritchie it now leaves no room for the future Hall of Famer.
Another talked about destination for him is in Western Canada with the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames. The Flames seem like the more likely stop in this situation, now that the Oilers have signed Jussi Jokinen. Edmonton will likely want to give Jesse Puljajarvi another chance in Alberta’s capital after spending the second half of the season in Bakersfield.
Now as for the Flames they’ve been busy bringing in defense, resigning Mark Stone, signing Travis Hamonic, and trading for Mike Smith. Last season, the Flames ranked in the lower half of the league in goals for, meaning it is probably time for them to invest in some offense. Jagr could slide perfectly on the top line complementing Calgary’s two stars Monahan and Gaudreau.
Over in the East, the Columbus Blue Jackets emerged last season as one of the best teams in the NHL. On draft day, they bolstered their offense with the addition of Artemi Panarin in exchange for Brandon Saad. Their only real loss this off season has been Sam Gagner who left to join the Vancouver Canucks. Jagr could easily come in and fill the void left by Gagner: he’s a much better player. They are a young team on the rise with only one player over the age of 30 on the offensive side of the puck, Brandon Dubinsky. With the current Vezina winner and one of the best defensive cores in the league, Columbus is ready to go on a deep playoff run and win the cup, just what Jagr wants.
Other teams that could be potential new homes for Jagr are the Montreal Canadiens who are looking for more offense, or the Carolina Hurricanes who want to take that next step.
Personally, I would love to see Jagr back in the black and white of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The right side of their offense may be crowded with Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, and Bryan Rust but that could work in Jagr’s favour. He won’t be forced to play in every game and with him being the age he is it may actually extend his career to 50 like he believes. Also, with the talent on the Penguins roster, he would have a great shot at hitting the 60 point mark, again. The Penguins have just won back-to-back cups, I wouldn’t put it past them to win it again and obviously, Jagr wants another shot before he hangs up the skates.
I could easily make a case for every team and why Jagr would be a good fit, but ultimately we won’t know what will work best until we see him skating next season with his new team.