Six years ago, I wrote about the Rangers going after a certain free agent who had been away from the NHL for a while and was looking to come back from the KHL. The player in question was 39 at the time, and the potential for a reunion with the Rangers was appealing to many.
Now, six years later, I’m going to make an even better argument to go after that same free agent, who is now 44-years-old and is arguably a better fit for the Rangers than he was half a dozen years ago.
Hockey is weird.
Jaromir Jagr is great, like legitimately great at hockey and a seemingly ageless wonder. After signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers, bouncing around to the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, and New Jersey Devils, Jagr seemed to find a stable home for him with the Florida Panthers. The Panthers were a younger team with offensive talent that allowed Jagr to fall into a more supportive role. He no longer had to be “The Guy”. Jagr was free to just do his thing and it worked out pretty well for the Panthers.
Back in 2011, teams were probably hesitant to sign a 39-year-old Jagr to be the headliner for their offense. Today teams seem to be balking at calling up the big Czech forward because of an insistence on speed and youth. And while those concerns may be valid, because Jagr’s explosiveness isn’t what it used to be, that hasn’t stopped the legendary winger from being a productive.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com Jagr drove possession at a 55% CF clip at 5-on-5 while also generating offense at a rate of 53% SCF at even strength last season. And his per game rates were equally impressive. He put up .43 goals per game, 1.43 assists per game (.91 primary assists per game). All of this culminating in 1.76 points per game while putting up 7.06 shots per game all at even strength. All of this at age 44. Jagr, man.
All those numbers from last year are very impressive, but what is even more impressive is how much of an impact Jagr had on his teammates.
As you can see over the last three years Jagr has had a demonstratively positive impact on his teammates. All of this is evidence that not only can the living legend still play, but he can still play at a high level against top competition. It’s also evidence that a reunion with the Rangers would be mutually beneficial.
Adding Jagr to a forward corps that includes Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Pavel Buchnevich, et al would give the Rangers a player who excels at holding on to the puck and maintaining possession. That is something that has been missing from the team’s run and gun offense.
Now the problem is that the Rangers don’t necessarily need Jagr. The team has an abundance of wingers. The Rangers need a center. But Jeff Gorton and the rest of the front office should look to add the veteran nonetheless. Jagr could play up and down the lineup and he could put Grabner on the fourth line. On paper, the Rangers depth on the wing would be outstanding. And Jagr could give J.T. Miller a winger who knows how to play in the offensive zone.
He may have lost his speed, but Jagr’s high hockey IQ and his silky smooth hands still remain.
On the power play, Jagr still uses that deep understanding of the game to somehow turn invisible and find the soft spots on the ice. He knows all the tricks. Because he created many of them himself.
While a Jagr reunion may tickle all of our nostalgia bones, it also makes a lot of sense for the Rangers to add a player of his caliber to an already potent offense.
The closer we get to October, the smaller Jagr’s price tag may be getting. But it is also worth mentioning that Jagr is open to the idea of joining a team midway through the season. If he doesn’t sign before training camps begin, that doesn’t mean the book is closed on his NHL career.
Sometimes turning back the clock pays off. So, why not the Rangers?