Well, after rejecting an offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins, legendary Czech winger Jaromir Jagr has signed a 1-year, $3.3 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jagr is a name that will conjure some pretty mixed emotions in some, and very specific emotions in others. He was one of the best scorers the NHL has ever seen, but you don't get to be "legendary" without also being old. His two Stanley Cup wins with the Penguins were almost 20 years ago. Based on the feedback many Flyers fans are giving to the signing though, it feels like yesterday.
After departing the NHL following the 2007-2008 season, Jagr has has been playing with Avangard Omsk of the KHL. It was widely believed his return landing in North America would be in Pittsburgh, where he spent his first 11 seasons. However, the Pens' offer for his services was said to be $2 million, far less than the $3.3 he got from the Flyers.
Fans may object to both that number and to Jagr the player, whom we've been trained to hate. In addition to playing with the Pens, he's also been a Washington Capital and a New York Ranger.
Throughout most of his NHL career, Jagr was an amazingly gifted goal scorer and playmaker. He's won a league MVP award and been a finalist five other times, and led the league in scoring five different times. The last of those was 2001, but even in 2007-2008, then with the Rangers, Jags scored 25 goals and tallied 46 assists. Two seasons earlier, his first with New York, he had 54 goals and 69 assists. Again though, we're talking about quite a few years ago. Jagr has been productive in Russia, but it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank.
There's also no telling how he'll fit in here. (Hell, who knows what "here" even means right now. The Flyers look like a completely different team heading into next season.) Will he quickly subscribe to Peter Laviolette's demanding system, or will he be a lazy backchecker and this season's version of Nikolay Zherdev, only with a heftier price tag and a name that fans already hate? With talks stalling between the Flyers and Ville Leino, the Flyers are presumably hoping Jagr can adequately replace something approaching the production Ville contributed at a price less than the reported ~$4 million Leino's camp is looking for. Even at 39, Jagr could both outscore Leino and do more to help his linemates. There's no doubt he'll draw defenders' attention.
[UPDATE: Leino has signed with Buffalo on a huge 6-year, $27 million deal. Good for Ville and all, but it's pretty questionable he's worth that amount, and the signing makes the Jagr deal look a hell of a lot better. Rather than lock up a player with only a short track record of NHL success, all of which came after he came to Philadelphia, the Flyers made a low-risk (in that it's only one year) deal with a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. If you're mad that Jagr is a Flyer for the upcoming season, would you have preferred 6 years of $4.5 million?]
Last night, Anthony SanFilippo of the Daily Times referred to the Flyers' possible signing of Jagr as similar to the Phillies coming along and signing Cliff Lee last winter. While I agree with that from the surprise-attack-on-a-rival angle, the personnel angle really feels like the signing of Pedro Martinez.
We can only hope the results are the same, with Jagr winning over the fans that have loved to hate him for the past two decades. And, just as we wrapped up putting together this post, there's news that the Flyers have signed another former Penguin—center Max Talbot…
Anyone want to go on the record with some projections for Jagr's goals/assists/points this season?
Photo credit Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE.