From the moment the Panthers formally announced that Jaromir Jagr wouldn’t be offered a new contract, speculation has run rampant about where the living legend could land next season and every fanbase has at least toyed with the idea of where Jagr would fit into the lineup. But it appears one team, the Calgary Flames, may actually be considering making an offer to the 45-year-old winger.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman spoke with NHL Network on Monday and said that while he’s heard reports of several teams possibly kicking the tires on bringing Jagr aboard, the Flames are one team that is believed to have legitimate interest, even if only in passing.
“I know some teams have kind of talked and taken a look at it,” Friedman said. “And I think Calgary has been one that has kind of looked at it. One of his former coaches, Glen Gulutzan, is coaching up there.”
Jagr, one will recall, played for Gulutzan back during the 2012-13 season when the current Flames coach was the bench boss of the Dallas Stars. Jagr, then 40, had signed with the Stars ahead of the lockout-shortened campaign and spent 34 games in Dallas before being dealt to the Boston Bruins for a package that included Lane MacDermid, Cody Payne and a 2013 first-round selection, which was used to selection Jason Dickinson. During his short stay with the Stars, Jagr was fairly productive, positing 14 goals and 26 points while averaging 18-plus minutes per night.
That should come as a surprise to no one, though, because Jagr has actually managed to have a few seasons better than his year in Dallas in the years since playing under Gulutzan. In 2013-14, for instance, Jagr scored at a .82 points per game rate, higher than he had in Dallas, and furthered that two seasons later when he scored at a rate of .84 points per game during his first full season with the Panthers in 2015-16. The two campaigns were 67- and 66-point seasons, respectively.
Per NHL.com, when asked about Jagr earlier this past season, Gulutzan praised Jagr’s strength and hockey IQ. "We clipped some clips, I remember back in Dallas, that we sat and watched as a coaching staff going, 'Oh my God, how did he even do that?’ ” Gulutzan said, according to NHL.com.
Worth noting is that if Jagr were to land back with Gulutzan and head to Calgary, he may not assume a top-six role. Over the past two seasons, Jagr had been a fixture on the top two lines in Florida, but Calgary’s forward group is deeper with less opportunity for the veteran to crack the top two lines on the wing. He could, however, fit perfectly in a third-line role alongside Kris Versteeg and Sam Bennett. And, if that doesn’t work, there’s no doubt that Jagr could hang on the fourth line, if that’s what was asked of him.
Of course, this is Jaromir Jagr we’re talking about, and he made himself incredibly valuable playing alongside two youngsters in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, so if Gulutzan wanted to give Jagr a look on the right side with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, it wouldn’t exactly be the worst idea. Realistically, he could still be a 50-point player if given the chance to shine alongside a few of the Flames’ young stars.
The one area Jagr would absolutely get a look in Calgary, regardless of where he fits into the forward group, would be the power play. Jagr has managed 13 goals and 24 points on the power play, the 100th-best mark among all forwards in the league, over the past two seasons. Though that may not seem all that great, his point total would be enough to make him the fourth-most effective Flame over the past two campaigns and leave him only a single point back of Mikael Backlund for third. And Calgary’s power play with Jagr could be lethal. Already the 10th-best unit last season, it could crack the top five if it were to add even more scoring punch.
The fit being there for Jagr, however, could come down to how much interest the Flames have and at what price. Still without a deal in place for Sam Bennett, which is a contract that could cost Calgary a few million, the Flames have $7.17 million in cap space, and any deal for Jagr could chew up at least a couple million, if not more. In each of the past three seasons, Jagr has had a base salary of at least $3.5 million — the highest was $4 million in 2016-17 — with the opportunity to earn additional millions through performance bonuses. A similar contract would eat up nearly half of Calgary’s current cap space and the Flames likely don’t want to shell out too much in bonus money.
That’s why negotiations are negotiations, though, and there’s the possibility for the two sides to find a middleground that works. And if it doesn’t, Friedman noted that Jagr might be willing to start the season overseas, which Jagr himself said could be a possibility if he can’t find an NHL deal.
“From what I hear, I think (Jagr’s) patient enough to wait for the right opportunity because if it doesn’t come in the NHL, maybe it comes overseas,” Friedman said. “Maybe he goes and play in the Olympics or maybe he starts, as he’s talked about, with his local team from the Czech League and comes back somewhere during the year.”
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