It took 93 days, multiple reported suitors, talk of playing in the Czech Republic and speculation about a potential deal in the KHL, but finally, with the season little more than 48 hours away, Jaromir Jagr found a home in the NHL for 2017-18.
On Monday, Jagr signed a one-year contract with the Calgary Flames, and while the deal is yet to be made official due to immigration reasons, it puts into place an agreement that will bring Jagr back for his 24th go-round in the NHL. It also gives Jagr, a living legend, a shot at accomplishing even more than he already has in his incredibly illustrious career.
Last season with the Florida Panthers, Jagr entered the campaign with notable milestones on the horizon and checked a few off of his list. In his fourth game of the 2016-17 season, he scored his 750th career goal, becoming the third player in league history to reach such a plateau. On Dec. 23, Jagr became the second-highest scorer in league history when he registered his 21st point of the season and 1,888th of his career, passing Gordie Howe on the NHL's all-time list. He followed that with his 17th assist of the season on Jan. 4, enough to put him into sole possession of fifth on the all-time assists list. Then, on his 45th birthday, Feb. 15, 2017, Jagr notched his 32nd point of the season and 1,900th of his career. And, as last season came to a close, Jagr suited up for his 1,700th career game. Howe, Mark Messier and Ron Francis are the only other players to see that much NHL action.
And while it may seem an obscure statistic, Jagr also put himself ahead of any player in his age class in league history. When he registered his 39th point last season, Jagr moved a single point ahead of Howe for the most points scored by an NHL player after his 40th birthday. Howe, whose longevity is unrivalled, finished his career with 268 points following his 40th, but after his 46-point performance last season, Jagr is eight points ahead.
So, what can Jagr achieve this time around to add to an already long list of Hall of Fame credentials? Here’s what to watch for this season:
5. Puffing up his impressive playoff resume
The Flames aren’t only projected to make the post-season this year, they’re expected to do so. The team has bulked up even further on the blueline with Travis Hamonic, added Mike Smith to help solidify their crease and Jagr gives them another solid scoring option down the lineup. And once they make it to the playoffs, Jagr can take aim at moving up a few all-time lists that he hasn’t quite reached the upper echelons of yet.
The first, and easiest, is the all-time playoff games played list. Jagr simply needs to suit up for Calgary as they work their way through the post-season to move up the list. Playing in six games would give Jagr 214 playoff outings in his career, tying him with Ray Bourque and Kevin Lowe for the 14th-most in league history. Another game beyond that would put Jagr into a tie with Larry Murphy, who played 215 playoff outings in his career. And an eighth game would put Jagr in sole possession of 13th all-time. If the Flames were to make a deep run — and we’re talking Stanley Cup final — then Jagr would likely reach the top 10 of all-time. He needs 15 games played to surpass Kris Draper for 10th all-time, 18 to pass by Glenn Anderson for ninth and 20 games would put him one ahead of Larry Robinson for eight on the all-time list.
In addition, Jagr could earn his way into the top 10 in all-time playoff goals. He has 78 in his career, putting him one back of Jean Beliveau for 10th on the register and Jagr’s 80th playoff goal would put him into a tie with Claude Lemieux for ninth all-time. If one of those goals happens to be a game-winner, then Jagr will have moved into a tie for fifth place in career playoff game-winning goals.
4. The climb to point No. 2,000
The most difficult for Jagr to reach and no doubt the least attainable, but still worth paying attention to. Heading into the 2017-18 campaign, Jagr has 1,914 points and given that he hasn’t scored 86 points in a single season since 2006-07, it’s a safe bet to suggest he won’t be hitting the 2,000-point plateau this year. However, he can reach 1,950 and beyond, widening the gap between himself and Messier for second spot all-time. Jagr’s production trends would suggest that he’s in line for more than 36 points this year, too.
Over the past four years, Jagr has scored 49.5 points per season and at a rate of nearly 0.62 points per game. If he can get in the lineup for opening night and stay healthy for the whole season, that would work out to 50 points and give Jagr 1,964 for his career. The wild card is playing time. He’s been a second-liner for the bulk of the past four years and is likely to see a demotion to the third line in Calgary. He might not be able to produce quite as much in that role.
The shame here is that Jagr said he’s 99.9-percent certain this is his final year, per Blesk.cz’s Tomas Pokorny. If that turns out to be the case, Jagr will undoubtedly come short of joining Wayne Gretzky as the only other player in league history to register 2,000 points.
3. Chasing down second all-time in combined playoff and regular season scoring
Jagr reaching second all-time in scoring was met with no small amount of fanfare. The game was stopped, Jagr was presented with a gold stick and proceeded to give the kind of speech that only Jagr could, joking about how he expected the point to come from a goal or beautiful assist not by way of a puck off the posterior. But that was only the regular season record. When it comes to combined points, Jagr still has a way to go before he passes Messier on the all-time list. In fact, he’d need to match his best output since returning to the NHL to tie Messier.
Combining Jagr’s regular season output with his post-season production brings him to 2,115 total points, but that’s 67 fewer than Messier, who combined for 2,182 points over the course of his career. Playing on some high-flying Oilers teams certainly helped Messier’s case.
Adding another 67 points to his career total isn’t going to come easy. In all likelihood, Jagr is looking at maxing out around 40-some points in the regular season and that would leave him needing a monster post-season to pass Messier. Chances are he won’t quite get there.
If that 0.1 percent can come to fruition, though, Jagr would likely have a shot at passing Messier in 2018-19.
2. Passing Ray Bourque on the all-time assists list
It’s no surprise that Jagr, with more than 1,900 points to his name, is right near the top of both the all-time goals and assists registers. But as his career winds down, he’s got a chance to advance further up the latter list with two players in his sights. The first is Bourque, whom Jagr needs 21 assists to pass for fourth on the all-time list — Jagr is currently at 1,149 assists to Bourque’s 1,169. It’s an attainable mark for Jagr, too, assuming all goes well and he stays healthy.
Since returning to the NHL in 2011-12, there hasn’t been a single season, barring the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, in which Jagr has registered fewer than 30 helpers. Even in his worst campaign, a 17-goal, 47-point year split between the Panthers and New Jersey Devils, Jagr found the scoresheet with 30 assists.
The long shot goal is for Jagr to manage 45 assists. Doing so would vault him ahead of Messier, who has 1,193 career assists, and into third place on the all-time list. Again, if Jagr didn’t seem so keen on calling it quits after this season, maybe he’d have a better chance at passing Messier.
1. The career games played leader
Jagr will never surpass Wayne Gretzky’s scoring totals, neither in the regular season nor the playoffs, but if the Czech legend is looking to add one all-time record to his resume, he can do so this season. At the culmination of the 2016-17 season, Jagr had played his 1,711th game. In doing so, he sits alone in fourth place all-time and sets himself up for a chase of the all-time games played mark.
First to fall in Jagr’s chase of the top spot all-time will be Francis. The current Hurricanes GM suited up in 1,731 games across his career, which means Jagr will only need to hit the ice for 21 contests this season to move into sole possession of third on the all-time games played list. After Francis, though, Jagr has another 25-game climb to surpass Messier, who ranks second all-time with 1,756 games. That would put Jagr at 46 games on the season. Finally, Jagr would have to play an additional 11 games to move past Howe and into first on the all-time list.
The most remarkable thing about Jagr taking over top spot on the games played list, beyond the fact he’s surpassing Mr. Hockey himself, is that he will be the first player other than Howe to hold the career games played record since the 1961-62 season. That’s 56 years that Howe has remained on top of the league, and it’s been 38 years since Howe played the 1,767th game that gave him the current record.
Nearly four decades have passed with Howe as the league’s games played king, but this season, if Jagr can remain healthy, he’ll take over top spot when he hits the ice for his 57th game.
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