1711 games, 765 goals, 1149 assists, a Hall of Fame resume and one stellar set of hair. Jaromir Jagr brings a lot to the game of hockey, but he find himself without a job heading into the 2017-18 NHL season.
Jagr will not be returning to the Florida Panthers after two seasons with the team. He signed two one-year deals with the team and had productive seasons in Sunrise. He posted 66 points his first year with the team and 46 points over the course of the 2016-17 season. So how could a 45-year-old forward who finished fourth highest on his team in scoring still be without a team this late in the offseason?
The fact that Jagr is still playing in the league is a testament to his work ethic and preparation he puts into making sure he’s ready for game day. Knowing him, he’ll be prepared for the upcoming season. It’s just a matter of finding him a team that can complement his style of play, and to which he can also bring veteran leadership.
Are the Carolina Hurricanes and Jagr a match? A young team budding with promise needing veteran leadership to get them over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons seems like a good landing spot for his services.
But let’s step on the brakes for a moment.
Jagr’s production dropped 20 points after Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau missed significant time due to injuries over the 2016-17 season. Jagr had great chemistry with the pair of forwards and his statistics may have seen a bump because of working with the two. In the later part of his career, Jagr has thrived when being surrounded with a high quality center.
The Hurricanes have a high quality center on their roster in Jordan Staal. However, Staal will most likely be slotted next to sophomore sensation Sebastian Aho, with whom he found chemistry with, and one of either Elias Lindholm or Teuvo Teravainen. Otherwise, Jagr doesn’t fit well on the Canes’ roster. Speed and youth is what the Canes are currently relying on, and Jagr can’t fit either bill.
Justin Williams was brought in this offseason to help bring veteran leadership to the Hurricanes, and it seems general manager Ron Francis - Jagr’s former teammate in Pittsburgh - is done making moves. Their leadership quota filled, there’s really no place for Jagr to fit in the Canes’ lineup.
The league continues to shape itself behind its current youth movement. Stars like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews are pushed to the forefront and veterans that may deserve a contract are left in the dust. Some veterans - Kris Versteeg, Tuomo Ruutu, Daniel Cleary, R.J. Umberger among them - have been forced to accept professional tryouts despite their career accolades. Veterans are losing their place in the league. That’s sadly why an all-time great remains without an NHL contract in August, and why the Hurricanes shouldn’t be at the front of the line to offer Jagr a new deal.