I think my favorite part about Jaromir Jagr returning to the NHL is that 'Jagr Watch' has become an annual tradition. Even better, is that a new fan base has had the opportunity to have their fun with Jagr puns over the last three summers, which include having 'Moves like Jagr' and pounding some Jagr Bombs.
On Tuesday, fans of the New Jersey Devils had a chance to join the fun when the team announced that the 41-year-old superstar had come to terms on a one-year, $4 million contract. That contract will have a $2 million base salary with a $2 million games played bonus that is activated in the event that Jagr plays in 45 contests in 2013-14.
Jagr is capable of eliciting a euphoric, childish joy in fans. Having acted as one of the game's biggest stars in the 90s and 2000s, a rock star level of excitement seems to follow him from city-to-city on what could be described as his farewell tour. Obviously, Jagr's time is running out. For some fans, an aging player -- even one with Jagr's pedigree -- is not the most enticing option for filling out their favorite team's forward group. However, once No. 68 is printed on their team's jersey, more than a few start to warmup to the idea.
While the Devils might not be getting the Jagr that faced them as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers or even Philadelphia Flyers, they're still getting a player who understands the game on a level that many never will. I know members of the Flyers were enamored with Jagr when he joined their club two summers ago and were not only motivated by his work ethic, but inspired by it. He drove them to want to work harder. In my opinion, that component is reason enough to justify the signing.
When considering the public relations boost it can provide coming off the the Ilya Kovalchuk retirement, I consider the acquisition a great move by the Devils. Especially when taking into account the games played bonus could save the franchise $2 million.
Of course, Jagr is going to need to make on-ice contributions, too.
At this point in his career, it should be expected that his performance is going to decline in some way, shape or form. Based upon his play last year, New Jersey should probably expect to get a player who can help drive possession and contribute on the power play. As John Fischer of In Lou We Trust writes, a majority of his points have come at even strength since returning to the NHL in 2011. So, labeling him as a specialist isn't totally accurate.
Ultimately, it's the end of July and projecting what Jagr will/will not do this season is a crap shoot. Personally, I always wonder if he can meet the rigors of a complete season at this stage in his career. His groin/hamstring acted up around mid-season in 2011-12 and that gave me pause. Of course, he was able to contribute to Boston's 22-game playoff run this past postseason, albeit after only 45 games in the regular season.
All-in-all, I think Devils fans will have a lot of fun watching Jagr play. The guy is a superstar with plenty of charisma and a mystic that harkens back to his younger days. It might not help the team's chances this season, but his mentorship to core members of the team could reach far into the future.
At the very least, New Jersey fans will have the opportunity to say they got to see Jaromir Jagr play on a nightly basis.