The NHL Season is 28 days away, and fan favourite Jaromir Jagr has yet to be signed by an NHL Team. Playing in 2017-18 would be Jagr’s 24th season in the NHL. Now an unrestricted free agent, Jagr spent last season as a member of the Florida Panthers where he appeared in all 82 games, scoring 16 goals and adding 30 assists. He became the league’s second-leading scorer all-time last season with 1,914 points, now trailing only Wayne Gretzky.
Jagr is obviously under scrutiny by teams because of his age, not his potential. Jagr has played 161 of a possible 164 games the last two seasons for the Florida Panthers and still has been a solid contributor when he is on the ice. He netted 66 points in 2015-16, good for first on the team, en route to a playoff spot. His point total dropped to 46 last season, but the Panthers were a much worse team. Those 46 points were fourth most on the team and he was still one of their better players, despite their overall dip in talent. He’s not a rental player, he’s a one-year investment for a team, that prevents the development of a young player.
The direction of the league is changing, and a single season of points does not matter. We have seen it with the Leafs, the Oilers and Sabres. Cultivating young talent and developing players is the best option for long term success. Players can enter the league out of college or the junior level and be incredibly productive immediately.
Jagr should return to the KHL, and play in the Olympics. Jagr, who announced his international retirement after the world championships in Prague in 2015, led the Czech Republic to world titles in 2005 and 2010, and to a surprise win at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Jagr has totaled 123 points in 123 games for the Czech Republic in his international career.
If Jagr appears in 57 more NHL games, he’ll overtake Gordie Howe for most games played in league history at 1,768. But I just don’t see it happening.
At this point he won’t receive a meaningful contract. The closer the season gets; the tighter budgets are for teams. Once training camp occurs prospects will begin to challenge for positions and take up space in the budget or roster.
He has stated that an NHL contract would be ideal, but he could not accept a veteran’s minimum, because teams would not be invested in him at all. Teams could see a drop in performance and cut him to free up space, and not need to forgo any cap room. His previous contract had an AAV of 4,000,000.
Jagr is in a tough position, as he could probably rack up 40 points in the NHL this season. He isn’t a long term option for teams, would likely play on the power play and would get equal to or less amount of points as a young developing player.
He needs to ride off into the sunset competing in the Olympics. The KHL is a competitive league in Europe, which would allow Jagr to stay in shape, maintain his craft and wait for the Olympics. Without NHL participation, the Olympics will be that much more interesting. Iginla, Wideman, Gionta, are aged free agents who are rumoured to be interested in representing their countries. Who knows, maybe Jagr and the Czechs can win a medal, that would be a poetic end for a true legend of the game.