Jaromir Jagr is headed to Florida ... and not to look into luxury retirement living opportunities.
The 43-year-old winger, who did everything but demand a trade earlier this week, was shipped to the Panthers in a Thursday afternoon shocker. In exchange, the Devils receive Florida's second-round pick in the upcoming NHL draft and their choice of Florida’s or Minnesota’s third-rounder in 2016.
Giving up two early selections is an aggressive move for a team that's still in a rebuilding phase, but with a rare playoff spot within reach—the Panthers sit just two points back of the struggling Bruins for the final playoff spot in the East with 22 games to go—it's also a statement of confidence from GM Dale Tallon in his promising but inconsistent club.
For Jagr, it's a chance to play for his eighth NHL team. It's also an opportunity for a fresh start. Although he's reached several career milestones while racking up 11 goals and 29 points this season, his ice time had dwindled since GM Lou Lamoriello stepped behind the bench and he's currently mired in an eight-game pointless streak.
It's a good bet he'll line up alongside Nick Bjugstad for the Cats. The big center plays at a slower pace than Sasha Barkov and his down-low game seems like a better fit for Jagr, who also should provide a boost to Florida's 28th ranked power play.
If he gets off the schneid, he could set a few new marks with the Panthers. Jagr's next goal will the 717th of his career, tying him with Phil Esposito for fifth all time. He also has an outside shot at catching Ron Francis for fourth on the all time scoring list, but would need 15 points down the stretch to match his former Pittsburgh teammate.
As for the Devils, this is an outstanding return on their free agency investment. They got great mileage out of Jagr (35 goals and 96 points in 139 games) at an age when most players are limited to alumni appearances and still managed to cash him in for a couple of solid picks, including one that's a lock to be in the top 50 in this year's deep draft. No guarantees they'll get a great player with either of those selections, but for a guy who was headed out the door in six weeks they couldn't have hoped for more.