After weeks of speculation, it appears as if the New Jersey Devils have won the Jaromir Jagr sweepstakes. The 41-year-old right winger agreed to a one-year contract on Monday, July 22, although it has not been formally announced by the Devils.
This is pertinent news to Philadelphia Flyers fans, as the team is slated to face the division-rival Devils four times in the 2013-14 season, not including a possible meeting in the playoffs. In their last 11 regular season games against the Devils, the Flyers are 4-6-1. During the 2011-12 playoffs, the Devils defeated the Flyers in five games en route to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The signing of Jagr by the Devils should come as no surprise. After the unexpected retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was scrambling to make moves in an attempt to replace Kovalchuk’s offensive ability. While Jagr will not be able to replace Kovalchuk entirely, his offensive presence will be welcomed.
In his 20 NHL seasons, Jagr has registered 681 goals and 1,007 assists. He’s amassed an incredible 1,688 points in 1,391 games. Last season, he split time with the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins, tallying 16 goals and 19 assists in 45 games. Despite his age, Jagr can still find a scoring touch.
While Jagr is not the player he used to be, he is still a threat. Although he lacks the speed he enjoyed in his prime, his puck-handling abilities remain one of the best in the NHL. He continues to make calculated, well-placed passes, particularly in front of the net. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Jagr serves as a strong power forward.
Outside of the 60 minute games, the veteran Jagr has become a valuable asset to any NHL team he plays for. His work ethic and extra practices helped propel Claude Giroux to superstardom. Playing on the same line as Jagr throughout the 2011-12 season led Giroux to his most successful year yet, as he registered 93 points in 77 games. Jagr was quick to compare Giroux to former Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux, noting that he loved playing alongside Giroux.
The Devils sport a number of young players with tremendous potential, namely 23-year-olds Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov. Both forwards have enjoyed offensive success with the Devils, and Lamoriello could well have acquired Jagr to expedite their progress. Jagr found success in maturing Giroux, and he may be able to do the same with Henrique and Loktionov.
While the Jagr signing may pose a threat to the Flyers, fans should keep in mind that the Devils are still reeling from the loss of Kovalchuk. The Russian star was enjoying a hot streak against the Flyers at the time of his retirement. While Jagr cannot replace Kovalchuk, he will add an offensive touch, and his ability to improve his teammates cannot be ignored.