It could have been great.
It could have been a fantastic ending to a storied career.
But it wasn’t and now we’re here.
Reports have been surfacing this week that Jaromir Jagr’s tenure as a Calgary Flame may be coming to an end after only a few short months.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Flames, and Jagr’s agent are ‘working on an exit’ from Calgary after signing a one-year, $1 million contract in October.
From Headlines: CAL/Jagr working on an exit. Jagr deserves to be treated w/respect and agent has permission to talk to other clubs. Nothing materialized yet, but time in CAL is drawing to an end. There is believed to be European interest.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 7, 2018
If this is indeed the end for Jagr in Calgary, the NHL legend would have played only 22 games with with the Flames, registering seven points and one solitary goal. And he’ll come up just short of a major all-time NHL record.
It’s been a disappointing 2017-18 campaign to say the least for the 45-year-old Jagr, who has been sidelined by injuries and saw limited ice time since inking his contract. The main injury the Czech star has been dealing with has been a nagging lower-body injury that has kept him out of 17 Flames games so far on the season.
That has included Calgary’s recent stretch of games, as Jagr hasn’t suited up with the club since a New Year’s Eve 4-3 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The sad part is that his absence from the lineup hasn’t been that noticeable, as Calgary has plugged his hole on the depth chart with other third and forth-liners with success.
While Jagr’s time with the Flames, if it has come to an end, can be looked at as a colossal disappointment, I look at it as a low-risk gamble that just didn’t pay off.
When Calgary signed the veteran before the regular season, the city was abuzz with expectations and hope for the 45-year-old to provide solid secondary scoring for the team. And, there was a justified reason to believe that, as Jagr was coming off 66 and 46 point seasons with the Florida Panthers, respectively.
To get a player of that calibre and pedigree for a $1 million cap hit was a huge steal for Calgary, even if he didn’t replicate the previous seasons in offensive production.
However, from his first game with the Flames on October 11 against the Los Angeles Kings, it was apparent that Jagr had lost a step and needed to get his legs back.
Missing so much time to injury and playing around 13 minutes per night on average, Jagr hasn’t been able to regain his game speed, which was already diminished from his prime years in the league. That’s not to say he didn’t have an impact on the Flames, as some of his best hockey was on Calgary’s third line alongside Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski.
Jagr’s lone goal with Calgary came on November 9 against the Detroit Red Wings, the same game where he assisted on Jankowski’s first career marker.
But as soon as that line began to pick up steam, Jagr was in and out of the lineup due to that lower-body injury.
The fact is Jagr is no longer an ageless wonder.
They say that Father Time catches up with everyone and it finally seems like Jagr’s body has finally been caught.
What’s truly disappointing is that Jagr’s quest to overthrow Gordie Howe’s for most career games played is in serious jeopardy.
Most teams around the league are nearing or past the midway point of the season, with Jagr needing 35 more games played to beat Howe’s decades-old record.
If the Flames and Jagr do decide to negotiate an out, there is a chance that he could sign with another NHL team for the rest of the season. That team however would have to pay Jagr his pro-rated salary, along with a $150,000 bonus if he plays eight more games, and potentially another $500,000 as the season progresses.
With the NHL trade deadline coming up in a few months, it will be interesting to see what teams would have cap and roster space to ink Jagr, if he still wants to play in North America.
There have been some rumours that he could decide to leave the NHL all together and play for the Czech national team at the 2018 Olympics, though I think that’s unlikely as Jagr retired from national competition in 2015.
Jagr’s time in Calgary is characterized as “what could have been” for me.
A proper offseason of training and a full camp would likely have produced much different results. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) January 7, 2018
Ultimately, I don’t blame the Flames for a second for signing Jagr to his one-year deal.
No general manager ever bats a thousand, and whiffing on a short, cheap contract is something that will happen from time to time.
It’s not like Calgary sold the farm to get Jagr, opting to roll the dice with a show-me contract that didn’t work out in the end.
As for Jagr, I hope that this isn’t the last we’ll see him in a Flames jersey or on NHL ice.
But if it is, it’s been one hell of a ride.
Like Dr. Seuss once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”