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WWYD Wednesday: Sign Jaromir Jagr?

It’s the middle of August and a couple of things still haven’t happened yet: the Calgary Flames haven’t bolstered their suspect winger depth and Jaromir Jagr hasn’t signed with an NHL team.

On the surface, it seems like a natural marriage. Calgary’s RW depth is particularly shallow and Jagr is looking to play at least one more season in the league before he retires to the Czech Republic. In reality, however, there are likely certain obstacles standing in the way of the two getting together.

The question is, are those issues insurmountable?

Let’s get this out of the way: it’s entirely possible that Jagr has no interest in playing in Calgary. It’s cold in the winter, we’re not a “global” city like New York, and there’s a lot of travel during the season. For now, we’ll assume his options are limited enough – and that his interest in sticking around the NHL is earnest enough – that Calgary is considered an option.

We’ll also establish that Jagr is still a quality hockey player, at least according to his results last year. He finished fourth in Panthers scoring with 46 points in 82 games, just eight back of team leader Vincent Trochek. The season before last, he scored 27 goals and 66 points.

In addition, all of Jagr’s underlying numbers were above average despite his advanced age:

Jarome Iginla added for context.

As a result, Jagr projects as the kind of guy who could slide onto the third line without much issue:

That said, here are the three considerations that may prevent any of us from buying an official Calgary Flames Jagr jersey this year:

Jagr is old and slow

His results remain above board, but there’s no fighting the fact that Jagr is 45 years old and not all that fleet of foot. This could be a problem from two angles:

  1. He falls off a cliff this year. Jagr has broken the typical aging curve so we can’t be certain of what to expect out of him in 2017-18. Maybe he continues to defy mother nature and be an above average forward. Or maybe he finally gives in to mother nature and drags the Flames’ third line down in Brouwer-like fashion.
  2. His pace is too slow for the Flames system. It’s possible that Glen Gulutzan’s coaching and/or Jagr’s probable linemates require someone who can get around the rink in a timely fashion. Even if Jagr is relatively efficient thanks to his strength and smarts, the team may not be interested in trying to bolt him onto their current processes.

Calgary’s cap problem

The Flames still need to re-sign Sam Bennett and Brett Kulak. They have about $6M in cap space to work with, give or take, which will be a pretty tight fit. Bennett will likely settle in the $2.5-$3M range, leaving $2.5-3M for Jagr and Kulak combined. With almost no cap space left to manage things during the season.

Maybe Jagr is desperate enough to accept a cheap, bonus-ladened deal to help out? Then again, maybe not.

Room for the kids

As things currently stand, Calgary has maybe one spot on the team for a young player. Here’s how the depth chart settles out currently:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland

Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik

Versteeg – Bennett – Lazar

? – Stajan – Brouwer

Freddie Hamilton

On the fringes, the Flames have Mark Jankowski and Spencer Foo pushing for a spot on the parent club, with other darkhorses including Hunter Shinkaruk and Andrew Mangiapane. Garnet Hathaway is also a guy who could battle for 13th forward duty.

If Calgary signs Jagr, however, it closes up any immediate opportunities for the organization’s hopefuls. Of course, injuries happen and can make for an impromptu chance for a kid to move up, but those gaps can be random and often short lived.

On the other hand, take a look at that depth chart again, and imagine what would happen if just one or two of the Flames’ top six wingers were injured for any length of time. Things get awfully thin in a hurry, so there is an argument to be made either way.

Conclusion

Jagr seems like he could be a cheap, capable solution to the Flames’ depth problem, but there are risks worth considering. Not only is the player relatively old and and slow, the Flames have a tenuous cap situation and kids pushing for promotion.

So what would you do? If you could sign Jagr and fit him under the Flames’ cap… would you?

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  • Just.Visiting

    I’ve always liked Jagr, but I think the disciplined thing to do is to pass.

    The team has a window to contend that exceeds one season. In that context, the prudent thing to do is to leave a spot in the top nine open for one of the prospects to earn.

    To illustrate, Janko potentially brings an all round game that would mesh nicely with the Mikes. This would allow the Flames to move Tkachuk with Bennett and Versteeg to give three really solid lines, thereby enhancing the third line performance and making it more difficult to defend against the Flames.

    If Janko isn’t ready, Foo, Lazar, etc. might be.

    The answer cannot continue to be “let’s bring in a veteran whose best years are behind him to lead us to victory.”

    Winning requires the unexpected exceeding of expectations, not just meeting modest expectations.

  • Atomic Clown

    No, please. Outside of players drafted in the top 10, the flames rarely give their youngsters quality ice time. Jankowski has nothing left to prove in the AHL besides adding 10ish more pounds, he needs to play. By Christmas, you ideally want Foo and at least one other winger from the 2013 class knocking on the door, ready in case of an emergency call up. So no, no Jagr.

    • Just.Visiting

      Check out the end of season interview with Janko for which he’s wearing a t-shirt. I was shocked at how much he’s already bulked up. The one intriguing thing about him is that I’m not sure we actually know yet how good he might be, since he hasn’t really grown into his body yet.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    As much as I’d like to own a jagr jersey, I agree we have question marks in Stockton and the only way you answer a question is to address it by giving them a chance to prove themselves in the Nhl. I say no, we have many players on the cusp and cheap rookie contracts could potentially push us into cup contention. We need to prove to these kids that if they work hard the can be nhl flames.