Jaromir Jagr will play for Kladno HC, a team he’s part-owner of in the Czech Republic, while he waits for the right offer from an NHL franchise, according to TSN. The news first came from Czech outlet Hokej, which got a quote from a team spokesperson who said Jagr is expected to make his debut Saturday.
The future of Jagr remains one of the biggest questions in the hockey world entering the 2017-18 season. The future Hall of Famer has said he wants to return to the NHL for a 24th season, but he’s willing to wait until the right opportunity comes along. For example, he refused to take a tryout deal from any NHL team.
By playing for Kladno, Jagr will retain the flexibility to figure out his situation at his own leisure. As part-owner, he’ll be able to leave the team whenever he wants, whether that’s for the 2018 Winter Olympics or an NHL gig. There is a potential scenario where Jagr could do both of those things by signing an NHL deal immediately following his participation in Pyeongchang.
The KHL would be another option for Jagr, although signing with a team there would make returning to the NHL difficult. The KHL regular season doesn’t end until early March after the NHL trade deadline has already passed, so even if Jagr wanted to come back to North America after the KHL season, he wouldn’t be eligible for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In that case, it’s fair to wonder why he’d want to come back.
So playing for Kladno seems like a good way for Jagr to stay in playing shape while leaving the NHL door open. He could conceivably stay there until February, suit up for the Czech Republic in the Olympics, then sign an NHL deal right afterwards that could make him playoff-eligible. That could set him up for the potentially sweet (albeit unlikely) deal of an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup in the same year.
One report said that the longtime forward plans to make a decision by Oct. 5, which is the day after the beginning of the NHL regular season.
Jagr may not have the foot speed anymore, but he was still productive with 46 points in 82 games for the Panthers last season. The key will be finding the right fit, which may take some time.