We don’t have to cry Jaromir Jagr a river. The dude lives a charmed life by all accounts. But if we take his tweets at face value, he’s receiving zero love during the NHL’s unrestricted free agent negotiating window. We know he’s still a fit for the Florida Panthers as part of their top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, but Jagr, 45, is set to hit the open market.
According to this tweet:
And this one:
…he has no suitors. Whether he’s just joking or not, it’s worth asking which teams should want Jagr. There are plenty of fits for his services. He’s still an above-average scoring forward, good enough to play on a first or second line in the right situation. So where would Jagr work out nicely? Sorry, romantics – the answer isn’t Pittsburgh. Under coach Mike Sullivan, their forwards play a warp-speed style, and that isn’t how No. 68 operates any more. He’s more puck protector than pace pusher. But consider these teams:
It’s tough to imagine Jagr trotting diagonally across North America to play in a wintery Canadian market, so the Flames would be a dark horse at best to ink Jagr. From a pure hockey standpoint, though, he fits. The Flames have emerged as a threat in the Pacific after making the playoffs in 2016-17 and adding goaltender Mike Smith and defenseman Travis Hamonic via trade this off-season. The dynamite two-way line of Mikael Backlund between Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik is set, but the Flames haven’t settled on a right winger to play with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. No one has flourished in that spot since Jiri Hudler a couple years back. Jagr would be an interesting option. If he can keep up with Barkov and Huberdeau, he can play with Monahan and ‘Johnny Hockey.’
Jagr’s first go-round with Dallas was uneventful, but a lot has changed since then. Signing in Dallas could reunite Jagr with Tyler Seguin, his linemate on a Boston Bruins team that reached the Stanley Cup final in 2012-13. In signing goalie Ben Bishop, 30, to a six-year deal, GM Jim Nill sent the message it’s time for this Stars core to make its championship push. Dallas is just a year removed from winning the Central Division, and it endured some horrible injury luck last season, not to mention bad goaltending, both of which have now been remedied on paper. Still, the Stars have lost Patrick Eaves from last year’s winger group, and Jiri Hudler, Ales Hemsky and Patrick Sharp are UFAs. They need veteran scoring from the wings, especially with Valeri Nichushkin still in the KHL another season. Jagr could work as a stopgap signing.
He still fits there, especially when the Panthers gave the Vegas Golden Knights Jonathan Marchessault and Rielly Smith. Woof. With Jagr and Thomas Vanek UFAs and Jussi Jokinen bought out, the only true wingers signed in Florida who were regular NHLers last season are Huberdeau and Colton Sceviour. Can someone please explain what the Panthers are doing?
LOS ANGELES KINGS
If the Kings are smart, they go nowhere near Jagr. They are already the NHL’s biggest, slowest team, and that style of play has passed the sport by, causing L.A. to miss the playoffs twice in its past three seasons. But, hey, if the Kings are linked to Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, who also don’t fit the model new GM Rob Blake should be following right now, the Kings may as well pursue Jagr as well.
James Neal and his $5-million cap hit now reside in Vegas. The Predators need to replace his scoring. Inking Jagr to fill that right wing slot wouldn’t cost as much as Neal, so GM David Poile would have a bit of extra cash to play around with. He’ll reportedly need that to fulfill restricted free agent Ryan Johansen’s gargantuan salary request.
NEW YORK RANGERS
After buying out Dan Girardi and trading Derek Stepan, the Blueshirts suddenly have some cap space to play with, even after they extend RFA Mika Zibanejad’s contract. They’re likely to pursue a big-ticket name such as Kevin Shattenkirk, but if they need some extra scoring up front after losing Stepan and Oscar Lindberg, Jagr could fit nicely. Landing him likely wouldn’t require a multi-year investment from GM Jeff Gorton. Jagr holds the Rangers’ single-season records for goals (54) and points (123), set in 2005-06 when he was a grizzled 34-year-old. Let it sink in for a moment that he’s still playing.
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