As of Wednesday, the only person who really knows whether or not Jaromir Jagr will return to the NHL for his 24th campaign is Jaromir Jagr. But we might have a better idea about the future of the ageless wonder in the coming days and weeks.
This past weekend, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was told by Panthers GM Dale Tallon that he’d be meeting with Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, about the future of the 45-year-old winger and whether a deal can be worked out. Tallon said if there was a contract that would “make sense for both of us,” there was a good chance the Panthers would be bringing the veteran back. It only makes sense, too, as Jagr has found a fit in Florida during the late stages of his career.
Jagr has spent the past two full seasons with the Cats after coming over in a trade deadline deal in 2014-15, and he’s been far more effective than even the most hopeful of hockey fan could have imagined since joining the Panthers. All told, he’s missed only three games over the past two campaigns, racking up 43 goals and 112 points across 161 games. His point total puts him just outside the top 50 in league scoring over the past two seasons — he sits alone in 52nd — and his late-season comments make it hard to believe he won’t want to come back to the NHL next season and try to improve on his 46-point 2016-17 campaign.
“I still love the game and still want to get better every day I step on the ice,” Jagr said in late-March, per the Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov. “This organization was so good to me. They (gave) me a chance; they traded for me. I love it. I play with very good, talented players the last few years here. I love it and nothing has changed.”
So, if there hasn’t been a change of heart, it seems only a matter of time before Jagr is signing on the dotted line and inching ever closer to a quarter century in the NHL. And if Jagr does come back for another season, his assault on the record book can continue and a few more milestones will be met.
This past season, Jagr passed Mark Recchi on the all-time games played list, Paul Coffey on the all-time assists list and Mark Messier on the all-time points list, among others. Here are four more major milestones Jagr can reach if he plays in 2017-18:
Power play sniper
It may not seem a big deal, but Jagr’s currently on the cusp of scoring his way into sole possession of the 10th-most power play goals in league history. He’s done the work to continue to score with the man advantage, too. Over the past two seasons in Florida, he’s become a power play presence for the Panthers, scoring 11 goals when the Cats are up a man. It could take as little as one game for Jagr to earn his 218th power play goal, and when he notches that tally, he’ll move on ahead of Mike Gartner as the 10th greatest power play sniper in league history.
Moving up the charts further is going to be a bit more difficult, though. After goal No. 218, Jagr will need another 15 to move into ninth, 17 to move into eighth and his 19th and 20th goals will move him into seventh and sixth, respectively. Might need to have at least a few more years in him to reach those heights.
All-time great set-up man
When Jagr moved ahead of Coffey this past season, he found himself fifth all-time on the league’s assist chart, behind some of the greatest playmakers the game has ever seen. It’s undeniable that Jagr belongs among that class, but he stands to move even further up the list and make his legend grow that much more if he returns for one more year. If, or when, Jagr starts the new campaign, he’ll be 20 assists back of passing Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque for fourth on the all-time list. Given that Jagr has registered 20-plus assists in every season since he’s been back in the NHL — and put up 30 in 2016-17 — it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t surpass Bourque next year.
But here’s the long-shot goal: put up 45 assists. It’s not an impossible task, especially if Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are healthy and skate alongside Jagr next season. If Jagr was able to put up 45 helpers, which would be the most since his return in 2011-12, he’d move past Mark Messier and into sole possession of third all-time in assists.
Chasing down point No. 2,000
Technically speaking, there’s no nice round milestone for Jagr to reach and there is definitely no one for Jagr surpass — at least not feasibly. In fact, the Hockey-Reference milestone tracker offers maybe the funniest glimpse into what stands between Jagr, who is second all-time, and Wayne Gretzky on the points list. The tracker shows how many points a player needs to move into the next position, highlighting the top 25 all-time. For instance, it indicates Joe Thornton needs four points to move past Luc Robitaille into 21st. But Jagr needs 944 more points to move into first place all-time. That’s not a point difference between first and second all-time. That’s a points chasm. So, it goes without saying that Jagr has no chance there.
However, Jagr will likely hit a remarkable milestone in that he’s set to register point 1,950. Doing so would require 36 points, which seems a given for Jagr, and to hit the mark would put him exactly 100 points ahead of the legendary Gordie Howe. And any point beyond that would put Jagr that much closer to the 2,000-point plateau, a milestone only Gretzky has achieved. If Jagr were to replicate the season he had in 2016-17 — a 46-point campaign — in each of the next two years, he’d become the second player in league history to find the score sheet 2,000 times.
The NHL’s all-time games played leader
Jagr’s longevity is already a thing of legend, but he’s set to etch his name into history if he manages to suit up for just one more season. When Jagr started his 2016-17 campaign, there were eight players in league history who had played more games, but those ahead of him began to fall. First went Scott Stevens. That was followed by Dave Andreychuk. Next on the list was Chris Chelios and then Mark Recchi’s spot fell by the wayside as Jagr kept racking up the games. By the time the campaign ended, Jagr stood alone in fourth all-time, having skated in a mind-boggling 1,711 career games.
This season, though, Jagr is eying up the all-time mark. Similar to the past season, he stands to pass a few of the game’s greats. When Jagr suits up in his 21st game of the season, he will take sole possession of third place all-time ahead of Ron Francis, having played in game No. 1,732. Mark Messier would likewise get bumped back a spot when Jagr suits up for his 46th game. Finally, Jagr would move into first all-time, surpassing Gordie Howe and playing in 1,768 games, by hitting the ice for a 57th time in 2017-18. But that’s not the only way Jagr stands to get into the record book for longevity.
All told, Jagr has played in 1,919 games over the course of his career between the regular season and playoffs, putting him 81 games back of becoming the first player in league history to play in 2,000 total contests. Skating a full season at his age is no guarantee and the fact he played all 82 games this past season doesn’t mean he’ll pull it off again this coming campaign. However, were he to manage to play all 82 games, the penultimate game of the Panthers’ season would be the 2,000th NHL contest of Jagr’s career. And what a 2,000 games they will have been.
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