The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea won’t feature active NHL players, but a legendary recent NHL player could take part. That would be 45-year-old Czech winger Jaromir Jagr (seen above during the 2010 Olympics), who had 16 goals and 46 points for the Florida Panthers last season, but is currently without a NHL contract. As Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski writes, Jagr told Czech TV he wants to return to the NHL, but playing or training in Europe is a possibility as well:
In an interview with Czech TV, Jagr made it clear that he wants to return to the NHL, and that remains the priority. “I love hockey in the NHL, so I’m able to wait, how many people would give everything to NHL at least one match?,” he said. “I’m so fond of everything around the NHL that I want to extend my career there.”
But if there’s no NHL team offering a contract, then there’s no return to the NHL. So Jagr said there are a couple of options for next season, without an NHL deal: Signing with a European league team with an out clause to return to the NHL during the 2017-18 season if the offer arrives; or “stay in Kladno and focus on training and see how I feel.”
Staying in Europe to train or play also would likely let Jagr compete in the Olympics if he wanted to, and Czech TV’s Zdenek Matejovsky notes that Jagr mentioned that:
If Jaromir Jagr will not sign in the NHL he told the Czech TV in Prague today that there is a chance he may play for Czechs at the Olympics!
— Zdenek Matejovsky (@zedmat) September 5, 2017
As Wyshynski writes, this isn’t the first time Jagr has brought up playing in the 2018 Games:
Please also recall that around the 2014 Sochi Games, Jagr said that playing for the 2018 national team wasn’t out of the question. “I understand that. It’s funny, but don’t forget that by then I’ll be playing in Europe on the big ice and there probably won’t be NHL players,” Jagr said back in 2013. “I would have to stay healthy and I would have to have the same desire.”
We’ll see if this happens. The NHL still seems to be the focus for Jagr, and it’s quite possible he could pick up a North American deal by then; players who notched 16 goals and 30 assists last season aren’t exactly common, and injuries to their roster or a slow start in the standings might overcome teams’ concerns about his age.
However, if no one bites, playing in Europe and heading to the Olympics might be a good option for him, and his presence would certainly seem to boost the Czechs’ chances of winning gold. It could make for yet another compelling chapter in the already-remarkable story of his career, too.