The end of the road may be here for Jaromir Jagr after 24 seasons in the NHL. The Calgary Flames placed the legendary forward on waivers Sunday, and he’s reportedly planning to pursue playing opportunities in Europe unless another NHL team claims him.
But before we start eulogizing the career of one of the greatest hockey players to ever bless this planet, let’s consider a decision that’ll be facing 30 of the NHL’s general managers over the next 24 hours: Will anyone claim Jagr?
Jagr’s NHL career is likely over as the league speeds by him, but as TSN’s Bob McKenzie said Sunday, “You never know.” It’ll take just one team aching for winger help for him to get one last shot.
The forward is on a cap hit so cheap ($1 million) his contract can be fully buried, so there’s no financial risk. He’s a season removed from recording 46 points and two seasons removed from recording 66 points. For teams currently considering whether to pony up high draft picks before the trade deadline, this low-risk option has to at least garner some consideration.
Here’s a look at some possible landing places, even if HC Kladno or another stint in the KHL is more likely.
This is probably the move everyone wants. Jagr reuniting with the Penguins for one last run at a Stanley Cup would be an awesome story. It also might make sense on a hockey level given Pittsburgh’s underwhelming winger depth.
Rookie Dominik Simon is getting his shot on the same line as Sidney Crosby right now, so it’s not like the team is flush with stellar options. The fanfare around the move in itself would be a lot of fun. Then again, given what the Penguins won a Cup with last year, they may prefer to stick with the kids.
The Bruins have gotten some unexpectedly strong performances from the likes of Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, and Ryan Spooner, but they’re still a top-heavy team relying on a lot of unproven players in major roles. Part of the problem here is that Jagr could potentially help a lot of teams’ fourth lines, including the one in Boston. Does anyone want to try to convince him to take on that kind of role, though? He’s never really been a fourth liner before.
When you’re desperate for offense, maybe you do something a bit outside the box. The Canadiens’ chances of catching up in the Eastern Conference wild-card race are slim at this point, so Jagr might not make a difference. At the same time, that context means the team has little to lose.
Jagr is a versatile asset, and with the Canadiens’ season coming down to playing for pride, it’s worth trying him out on a team that has significantly underperformed on offence. There’s no guarantee it works, but that’s the case with every potential waiver claim. It’s not critical for him to come in and have a major impact on a Habs team essentially eliminated from postseason contention, so why not give the fans something to cheer about?
There’s also some good analysis in there about why Jagr, despite his age, appears to still be a useful NHL player. So, yeah, it would be a desperation play by the Canadiens to try to salvage their season, but it couldn’t really hurt, either.
The Oilers would be another Canadian team claiming Jagr largely out of desperation, but they have been skating Connor McDavid with Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev lately, which is a sign of where their winger depth is at. After trading Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in recent years, it is ... not good.
They’ve also shown an interest in more “heavy” style players in recent years such as Milan Lucic, Zack Kassian, and Patrick Maroon, rather than being a team built on pure speed. So Jagr seems like a sensible fit, even if his addition probably wouldn’t do much to improve the Oilers’ playoff odds, which currently sit at three percent according to The Athletic.
Vegas Golden Knights
Jagr joining the party in Vegas? Oh man, this would be so fun. The problem seems obvious: Head coach Gerard Gallant has the Golden Knights playing a fast-paced style that doesn’t seem like a great fit and has already generated strong results with the pieces already in house. What’s the point of potentially screwing up a good thing by throwing Jagr into the mix? Well, it’s still Vegas, and there’s no doubt that bringing in Jagr would add some theatrics. Screw it, let’s do this.