Jaromir Jagr has a Hall of Fame resume – ninth all-time in NHL points and second all-time in sports history mullets behind Al Iafrate and just ahead of Barry Melrose. Although his hair is cut and he may no longer be the player that won five scoring titles, his return to the NHL in a Flyers uniform after playing three seasons in Russia will be one of the most intriguing storylines of the 2011-2012 season.
#1 Al Iafrate's "Skullet"
#2 Jagr's Mullet (Benasty)
Flyers fans who are out for blood because they think the Flyers brass chose Jagr instead of re-signing fan-favorite Ville Leino need to chill out and understand what happened. Leino rejected the Flyers $3.5M offer for 4 years because he knew he could get more in an offseason marketplace that overpaid for everyone. Instead, Leino jumped ship for Buffalo in the tune of $4.5M per year for 6 years. The Sabres can have him for that price. I applaud the Flyers execs for not getting suckered into this offseason’s inflated market and overpay for an emerging player who has had one amazing playoff run and one solid but not amazing regular season. The risk of handcuffing the team’s finances for the next 6 years just wasn’t worth it for Holmgren, and I couldn’t agree more.
Instead, Holmgren said goodbye to Leino and rolled the dice by locking up a short-term wild card with steep upside in Jaromir Jagr. $3.3M is a lot of money for a 39 year-old that has been out of the NHL for 3 years, but if it doesn’t work out, your risk is covered by giving him only a one year deal.
Jagr posted 51 points (19G, 32A) in 49 games last season for Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (Russia) bringing his three-year total with Omsk to 146 points (66G, 88A) in 155 games. No one expects him to operate near the point-per-game clip like he did out there, but put him alongside either Claude Giroux or Danny Briere, and I think 15G and 35A is a pretty conservative expectation over a full season. Here are his stats since 2005.
2005-2006 NY Rangers (NHL): 82 games, 54G, 69A, 123 PTS: 1.50 pts/game
2006-2007 NY Rangers (NHL): 82 games, 30G, 66A, 96 PTS: 1.17 pts/game
2007-2008 NY Rangers (NHL): 82 games, 25G, 46A, 71 PTS: 0.86 pts/game
2008-2009 Omsk (KHL): 55 games, 22G, 28A, 53 PTS: 0.96 pts/game
2009-2010 Omsk (KHL): 51 games, 22G, 20A, 42 PTS: 0.82 pts/game
2010-2011 Omsk (KHL): 49 games, 19G, 32A, 52 PTS: 1.06 pts/game
The scouting report on Jagr is that he still possesses the same physically dominating skill set that he had when was raking in scoring titles. In all of my years of watching the sport, only Sidney Crosby has been able to resemble even a hint of Jagr’s unbelievable lower body strength and power along the boards. The big difference in Jaromir’s game today is that his conditioning isn’t where it should be, limiting that dominating ability to 15-20 second spurts before sucking wind. I will say, he looked pretty damn good in the past Olympics and World Hockey Championships. I think the refreshed energy Jagr will gain from his big return will get him motivated to improve his fitness and hit the gym hard.
Jagr replaces the mullet with a soul patch? Weak sauce.
Jagr is 39 years old, but keep in mind he played the last three seasons in the KHL which is only a 56-game regular season. Furthermore, the Russian elite leagues, like most European leagues, are like figure skating compared to the physicality and violence of the NHL. The wear and tear on the players isn’t even comparable to the North American game. So when Jagr told the media that he feels like a “young 39”, he means it.
Despite hating Jagr so much for so many years, I like pickup for the Flyers. I’m not ready to buy a #68 jersey quite yet, but I think he can do some serious damage when paired with some of the weapons the Flyers have in their top two lines. Grade: B