As of July 5th, future Hockey Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr is still a free agent. And with a bit of buzz starting to grow around where he will sign, or if he will get signed, who better than the Columbus Blue Jackets? At the right price, and the right term, Columbus and Jaromir Jagr would be a fantastic match.
The Columbus Blue Jackets Should Sign Jaromir Jagr
The first thing that needs to be addressed when approaching this topic would be the contract the Blue Jackets would offer Jagr. With Jagr turning 45-years old next season, anything longer than a one-year contract would be foolish. And with the pipeline of promising prospects coming through, a roster spot is going to need to be freed up by the 2018-19 season.
The rumored ask of Jagr and his camp is a contract worth $3 million. And with $12.9 million in cap space, this is a very realistic and affordable price to pay for a still-useful skater and fantastic presence in the locker room.
The one worry that this would bring is that the Blue Jackets still need to re-sign two rather important restricted free agents in Alexander Wennberg and Josh Anderson. When looking at Wennberg, a fair price and term would be a four-year, $4.5 million AAV deal. As for Anderson, the deal would be even cheaper, likely coming in around $1.5 million per season. If Anderson and Wennberg take up $6 million, that still leaves the Jackets to bring in Jagr at $3 million and have a bit of wiggle room, $3.9 million to be exact.
Where Would Jagr Fit In?
With Jagr noticeably slowing down over the past two seasons with the Florida Panthers, it has become quite obvious that he is now likely a third line winger. This would be a perfect one-season fit for the Jackets as they look to push for a second consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff appearance.
Jagr spent the majority of his season on the second and third lines with players like Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Jon Marchessault. And when taking into account he had the second best Relative Corsi-For percentage on the Panthers roster, at 6.25, it is hard to argue that he couldn’t do something similar with the likes of skaters like Lukas Sedlak, Oliver Bjorkstrand, or even Boone Jenner.
A skilled third line of Jaromir Jagr on the left wing, where he played much of last season, Sedlak at center, and Bjorkstrand at right wing would be a solid depth addition to an already strong Columbus line-up. And when taking into account that Bjorkstrand thrives on skill lines, not being able to flourish on the gritty fourth line last season, this could be a great fit for his development as a winger of the future for Columbus.
For those of you who aren’t overly persuaded by the analytics side of hockey, this is where you should be convinced that signing Jagr would be a great decision. Seriously though, who wouldn’t want a future Hall of Famer, and one that can still produce well, on their roster for a cheap and short-term contract?
First off, Jagr has played in a total of 1,711 NHL games. That’s 315 more than the 1,396 combined games the two veteran presences, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky. Jagr has seen it all, the best and worst of it. Being able to bring a cool and collected veteran of that many NHL games is something the third youngest team in the NHL would be smart to act on.
The other intangible that Jagr would bring to the Blue Jackets is his impressive resume in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the current roster, it is looking very likely that Columbus will make a postseason appearance for the second consecutive season, and this is where Jagr could come in handy. He has appeared in the playoffs on 18 occasions, playing in 208 playoff games. He would bring the sense of “been there, done that” composure that the young Jackets need in the postseason.
Implications of Signing Jaromir Jagr
The primary implication, and most immediate, that signing Jagr would have is that the Matt Duchene trade rumors would die away instantly. Unless the Jackets were to involve someone like Dubinsky in the trade, which is highly unlikely, they wouldn’t have the cap space remaining to bring on the $6 million cap hit of Duchene.
The other implication that signing Jagr would have is on how the depth center positions would look, primarily the fourth line. With the salary cap being used on re-signing restricted free agents Wennberg and Anderson, along with bringing on Jagr, there would be little to no money to sign any other big names, not that any that would fit the teams needs are left in the free agent market currently.
This would likely see Sedlak continuing his play on the third line in the center role, but with new partners after the departures of both Sam Gagner and Scott Hartnell. While Sedlak didn’t light the stat sheet up, his seven goals, six assists, and 3.14 Rel.CF% show he is quite a solid option for the third line center position. He would also be an option to drop down to the fourth line position, but that all depends on the performance of last years third overall selection Pierre-Luc Dubois.
As for the fourth line, that’s a bit less clear and concise of a decision than the debate of Dubois of Sedlak on the third. With the additions of Tyler Motte, via the trade with Chicago, and Jordan Schroeder, via the trade with Minnesota, there could very well be a rotation of centers on the fourth line. It’s possible that the former can challenge for the spot and that the latter is likely going to be an AHL top liner/fill-in for injuries.
Regardless, the worries that some have about the depth at center should be quelled by the emergence of Sedlak last year and that Dubois should be ready to make the jump to the NHL next season.
This is a weird word for some fans to visualize. It’s a hard thing to do for some to think of what kind of benefits a name like Jagr could bring. For one, the fact that a Jagr Columbus Blue Jackets sweater would sell out in quick fashion is a benefit. Another factor is the “star power” that he would bring with him and his storied resume. With Jagr and Panarin pulling on the Union Blue next season, and coming off the back of the best season in franchise history, the seats in Nationwide Arena would be a hot commodity in The Buckeye State.
With all due respect to the current players, a well-known name in the hockey world like Jaromir Jagr carries a lot more weight for neutral fans than someone like Josh Anderson, Alexander Wennberg, or even Sergei Bobrovsky. This is yet another benefit the Jackets could yield from a one-year deal with the living legend.
So Should the Jackets Sign Jagr?
The answer is clear that the Jackets should pursue Jaromir Jagr. If Jarmo Kekalainen and Co. can agree to terms on a one-year deal that doesn’t hinder the re-signings of Wennberg and Anderson, this is really a no-brainer. Jagr would improve the bottom six pairings; the young players would reap the benefits of playing with him; he would bring all the intangibles a Stanley Cup contender needs; and he would improve the marketability and possibly help remove the ever-present “small market” tag from Columbus.
In short, the Columbus Blue Jackets should sign Jaromir Jagr.