After making his return to the NHL in the 2011-12 season Jaromir Jagr and his tour around the NHL has captivated fans and provided some unique and incredible moments. A sure-fire Hall of Famer, even before his return from a KHL sojourn, he has been a consistent point producer, leader, and feel good story in hockey. This journey may be over soon, as Jagr remains unsigned.
Why Hasn’t Anyone Signed Him?
The veteran winger is coming off a 16-goal, 30-assist season. Despite this 46-point effort, Jagr finds himself without a contract nearly a month after free agency started. After three productive seasons, and his popularity with teammates and fans, the Florida Panthers declined the chance to bring back the aging legend. Experts guessed as to possible landing spots for Jagr, although he has gone on to social media twice to claim he hasn’t been contacted by any general manager. Both posts came from June 29th, two days before contracts could be signed, and were Jagr’s first since June 4th.
Everywhere I look,I read:all FA getting calls from10-12teams. Me0 calls.On the contrary,I'm trying to call them,and no ones picking up.😀😳🇨🇿
— Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) June 29, 2017
FA 1994- all GMs called , FA 2017- 0 calls🏆😀 pic.twitter.com/7uLJm95CAB
— Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) June 29, 2017
This begs the question, what gives? With the increased popularity of thw retirement tour season, and the fact that his numbers remain productive, most would assume Jagr would be a target for a franchise looking for a veteran presence in the locker room who could still play. Why might teams be hesitant to make a move on him? Could this possibly be the end of the line for Jagr, who has estimated he could and might play into his 50’s?
Florida is making space for prospects, and brought in Radim Vrbata, a veteran Czech winger who fits the speed and style of play of the team. Also brought into the fray was Evgeni Dadonov, a talented forward and former Panther coming off a career year in the KHL. Owen Tippett, first round pick, is a stronger winger who will likely have a top six role on the team.
Will Anyone Sign Jaromir Jagr?
Two teams linked to the winger are the Montreal Canadians and the New Jersey Devils. Montreal needs to replace the scoring they lost with the departure of Alexander Radulov, and might have to deal with Andrei Markov leaving as well. New Jersey seems like an option as well due to their cap space, Jagr’s 93 points in 139 games with the club, and the fact their offense looks improved with additions like Marcus Johansson and the first overall pick in 2017 Nico Hischier. Detroit makes sense as a destination also. They have made a habit of signing vets to one year deals, especially ones who are on the edge of retirement.
It is hard to find a reason for a team not to be in on Jagr. The problem is that teams can find reasons not to be just as easily. First, a base salary of $4 million at his age is more than his play and experience are likely to be worth. The free agent market became complicated by the Vegas Knights and the expansion draft. With every team losing players, and another team to worry about poaching them, the shift is on. You have to get younger and be in a position to keep your young players.
It isn’t just him either…
Jagr isn’t the only future Hall of Famer who’s in the NHL unemployment line. Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan both remain in player purgatory awaiting to find out if they will continue their careers. In the ever increasing “what have you done for me lately?” culture of the NHL, the shift has been made to locking up young players for as long as possible, for as little money as possible. Average salaries are on the rise though, and the cap isn’t moving as quickly as general managers need. This means that veteran players become cap casualties. While it’s possible that someone extends them a PTO, it is a long way away from a contract.
The story of Jaromir Jagr’s career is an almost unbelievable one. If it continues, and Jagr plays at least 57 games, he’ll pass Gordie Howe for the most games of all time, and he has a shot at moving past both Ray Bourque and Mark Messier for third all time in assists. Hopefully the show continues and we get to see one more chance for these all time numbers, and Jagr to take one more shot at the Stanley Cup.