There’s a lot of magic left in legendary hands of winger Jaromir Jagr. It’s not every day that an all-time great comes walking into your dressing room.
In addition to Jagr’s still potent offensive abilities, the decorated 43-year-old offers a massive amount experience and impressive work habits that should rub off on the Florida Panthers’ youthful core.
“We’re hopeful Jaromir can lead these young guys to the promised land,” Panthers general manager Dave Tallon said. “It’s a win-win for us.”
Tallon was speaking in a news conference last Thursday after the Panthers acquired Jagr from the New Jersey Devils for two draft picks – a 2015 second-round pick and either Florida or the Minnesota Wild’s third-round selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Through two games, Jagr and the Panthers are looking like an ideal match. He’s developed instant chemistry with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Tallon said. “I’m excited about him coming here and just spending some time with him and watching him play. He’s an exciting guy to watch play. He’s still got it.”
Jagr recorded two points in Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. His first goal as a Panther tied Hall-of-Famer Phil Esposito for fifth-place on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list with 717 goals. There’s no doubt that Jagr will continue playing beyond the 2014-15 season. Tallon said “a half-dozen” teams tried to pry Jagr from the Devils. Including Florida, Jagr will have a number of suitors to choose from in the offseason.
Tallon hopes to keep Jagr in Florida beyond this season.
“That’s the hope,” Tallon said. “That’s what we talked about. I’d love to see him play another year or two here. That’s what his goal is. His fitness level is second to none.”
Jagr can still dominate along the boards in the offensive zone. At 6-foot-3, 240-pounds, Jagr is extremely hard to budge off the puck – especially in behind the net and in the corners.
“He’s strong down low,” Tallon said. “It will really help our offense.”
Prior to Jagr’s arrival, the Panthers had lost four consecutive games. Jagr has won his first two games as a Panther.
His latest chapter, Jagr feels the experience of being around a youthful group will have a rejuvenating effect. Many of his teammates were born after Jagr made his NHL debut in 1990.
“It’s like a new life,” Jagr said in his introductory press conference. “I’ve played the game for so many years, and counting those games in Europe, I think I’ve played the most games any hockey player has ever played. So, I got a lot of experience. There’s a lot of young guys, and it makes me excited a little more. When you play with young guys, they make life easy for you.”
Jagr will have a chance to finish his career as the league’s third-highest all-time goal-scorer. Marcel Dionne is currently fourth-place with 731 career goals. Brett Hull ranks third with 741 career goals. There’s even a chance Jagr could even surpass Gordie Howe’s 1,850 career points to finish third all-time in points. Jagr is currently fifth-place with 1,786 career points.
Who knows how high Jagr would’ve been on these lists had he not opted to spend a portion of his career in the KHL and missed a slew of NHL games because of three lockouts.
As an incredible physical specimen at 43, Jagr could continue deceiving Father Time for years to come. Could he match “Mr. Hockey” by playing until the age of 52? Probably not. Hockey fans are hoping no. 68 will continue being a productive player for as long as possible.
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