Jaromir Jagr is a 45-year-old veteran who has a wealth of NHL experience and still has some offensive skill left in the tank. Outside of his age, those are some attractive qualities which should have earned him a new one-year contract with a new NHL team. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
With the 2017-18 season marching ever closer, Jagr is still a man without a team and he sounds pretty surprised to be in his current predicament.
Via NHL.com, Jagr spoke about how close he is to Gordie Howe’s record for most NHL games played in a career as well as his approach to 2,000 points. He quickly noted that his struggle to find a new team wasn’t expected.
“I’m not thinking about the total number of NHL games. It’s true that when I got back to the NHL (in 2011), I told myself I would very much want to get to 2,000 [NHL] points. But it’s still far away. I didn’t expect it would be so hard to get a job in the NHL this year.”
Jagr noted that he’s open to options outside of the NHL if nothing develops. He mentioned skating in the Czech Republic, but quickly added that he wouldn’t want to play in the KHL as he would want to keep the door open for a mid-season return to the NHL.
Though Jagr doesn’t currently have a deal, he doesn’t sound like the type of player who will jump at any offer thrown his way. He’s very mindful of the type of role he’d be in should a team sign him to a 24th NHL season. Simply, he’d want a significant role.
“Most important for me is to see some serious interest from the team. Because the more serious it is, the bigger the chance to get a better role on the team. And then it’s on me how I would use that chance. Right now, I need to be ready when the opportunity comes. That’s all I need to take care of now; taking care of anything else doesn’t make sense.”
Jagr admits he isn’t the player he once was, but he sounds like he thinks he still has what it takes to face the best. He points out that he recently competed against top defensemen while playing with the Florida Panthers.
“I know very well I’m not the same player like 10 or 15 years ago when I was able to win games by myself. It’s up to the coach what position he wants to use me. Maybe it would be even better for me if I played on a second or third line because I would play against worse players and worse defensemen. I didn’t have as much luck in my entire career, I always had to face the top defensemen. Even in Florida, I always played against the best, which was always very tough.”
You can’t fault Jagr for having a delicate, deliberate approach given his age and history in the NHL. He doesn’t have to jump at any offer thrown his way if he feels it isn’t the right fit. Jagr doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone, though he may want to prove to himself that he has what it takes to keep competing despite his advancing age.
It’s easy to feel sympathetic for Jagr. For years, he has turned in a work ethic which makes players half his age look lazy. Here’s hoping he can find that next NHL opportunity and he has a chance to claim the record for most games played in a career.