What the Jaromir Jagr signing means for the Flames

It means a living legend has signed in Calgary.

It also means that the Flames just got a whole lot better on the ice, with just a couple of days to go before the season opener.

Upgraded lineup

With hockey a mere two days away, let’s go with the present implications first.

The Flames now have a top nine that should look like:

Johnny Gaudreau Sean Monahan Micheal Ferland
Matthew Tkachuk Mikael Backlund Michael Frolik
Kris Versteeg Sam Bennett Jaromir Jagr

Take a minute to just let it soak in. Just look at it for a moment. Because that, right there, is three solid lines that can all attack, that can all contribute, that can all play at a high level.

The biggest questions there are Micheal Ferland and Sam Bennett: Ferland because he has yet to play in such a high-level role for an extended period of time, and Bennett because he hasn’t quite shown what’s been expected of him since he was drafted fourth overall in 2014. Bennett has been a fine enough player in his own right, but there’s a reason he re-signed with a two-year bridge deal worth $1.95 million per, as opposed to a longer term contract akin to what Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan signed.

One of the things that has stymied Bennett has been his linemates. We’ve seen what he can do when paired with talent, but that frequently was not the case last season. While Kris Versteeg performed, Troy Brouwer simply was not a fit for his line – and had the Flames not signed Jagr, it’s likely we would have seen him there.

The other option was Mark Jankowski, and let’s be honest: as excited as one may be about Jankowski’s potential, he’s not Jaromir frickin’ Jagr.

Signing Jagr has done more than given Bennett another talented veteran to play with: it’s bumped everyone else down the rest of the lineup, too.

If Brouwer was playing on the third line, then that means someone else would be playing on the fourth line – someone who has now been bumped out of the lineup by Jagr’s presence. By making their third line stronger, they’ve made their fourth line stronger as well.

Jagr removes all questions from the Flames’ forward group, instead leaving an impressive collection of talent, top to bottom.

The top nine

Ferland has looked great in his limited showings alongside Gaudreau and Monahan – he showed potential back in 2015-16, even if his shooting percentage was so low no tangible impact was discerned; he was great to close out the 2016-17 season; and he’s looked like he’s belonged in this preseason – but that’s just it, the showings have been limited. But in 2015-16, that line had a CF of 52.83%, and this past season it was 51.13%. In preseason, at 56.52% Ferland has been one of the Flames’ stronger corsi players. This line has real potential.

Another point in favour of keeping Ferland on the top line is consistency. In speaking with Gaudreau about Ferland a few days ago, he seemed frustrated that he hasn’t had a consistent right wing since Jiri Hudler. And Ferland – 20 years younger than Jagr – is a better fit for a potential long-term line. If things don’t work out, they can be switched up later; in the meantime, Ferland has done absolutely everything in his power and then some to prove it’s his spot to start.

We already know what the 3M line can do: their 57.39% CF made them one of the best lines in the entire NHL in 2016-17, especially when you factor in their 34.93% offensive zone starts.

That just leaves the third line: one that, using last season’s numbers, scored 37, 26, and 46 points. We already know that Bennett and Versteeg work well together: not only were they two of the Flames’ better players in the playoffs, but they made each other better in the regular season, as well.

CF% Together Bennett CF% alone Versteeg CF% alone
48.83 48.54 45.96

Which brings us to Jagr.

In 2016-17, Jagr was a 54.85% CF player, falling right in line with the 53.95% he’s sported since returning to the NHL.

Not just that, but he has overwhelmingly improved the players he’s played with. Here are the forwards Jagr played alongside last season in Florida, minimum 100 5v5 minutes, in descending order of ice time:

Player CF% Together Jagr CF% alone Player CF% alone
Aleksander Barkov 57.08 51.40 40.23
Jonathan Huberdeau 55.61 46.96 47.06
Jonathan Marchessault 57.52 52.92 48.65
Vincent Trocheck 56.00 54.83 54.00
Seth Griffith 58.63 53.93 45.35
Jared McCann 52.61 53.59 50.29
Jussi Jokinen 57.56 54.85 52.72

It’s fair to point out that in most cases, Jagr and his linemates had elevated offensive zone starts, but that’s what you do with scoring players. You put them in positions to score. Nobody is expecting Jagr to come in and be a Backlund-level shutdown forward: he’s here to bolster the Flames’ lineup and scoring, which is exactly what they need.

But wait, isn’t he old?

Well, yeah. He’s 45 years old: the third oldest player to ever play in the NHL, after Gordie Howe (who stopped at age 52) and Chris Chelios (48). Howe was from a different era, but in his 44-year-old season, Chelios scored 22 points. Jagr more than doubled that at the same age. He’s his own beast.

And age doesn’t take away from smarts or hands, both of which Jagr has in abundance. His game should be the exact same it was in Florida, and he had a pretty successful couple of seasons there, It’s also worth noting he’ll likely get less ice time here in Calgary. In 2016-17, Jagr averaged 17:00 of ice time; Versteeg, by comparison, averaged 14:44. The opportunity to keep Jagr’s legs fresh exists.

Jagr didn’t see an overwhelming benefit from racking up points on the powerplay, either. Of his 16 goals, eight were at even strength and eight were on the man advantage; of his 30 assists, 25 were at even strength and five were on the powerplay.

What we’re seeing here is a player who continues to drive play and put up points, all the while helping his teammates, and he’ll likely be in a third line role. Via Own The Puck:

The man, the myth, the legend

And then there’s this: Calgary will be the first Canadian team Jagr will ever play for. And if that isn’t an honour, I don’t know what is.

Jagr has played in the West before: 34 games for the Dallas Stars, back in the 2012-13 season, before he was traded to the Boston Bruins. He played under one coach Glen Gulutzan, which apparently was a deciding factor in coming to Calgary.

Jagr has played 1,711 games in the NHL, the fourth most ever. He needs to play another 57 games to pass Howe to be number one all time, which seems pretty likely.

He has scored 765 goals: third most in the NHL. He’d need to score 37 to move into second all-time past Howe, which seems less likely.

He has registered 1,149 assists, fifth most in the NHL. Another 21 will move him into fourth place, passing Ray Bourque. If he has a really good year and puts up 45, he could move into third all time, past Mark Messier. Fourth place seems a little more probable.

He has scored 1,914 points, second most in the NHL. He needs 944 to pass Wayne Gretzky and move into first place. DREAM BIG.

Because Jaromir Jagr is a Calgary Flame, and everything is possible in this life.

The Flames are officially contenders.

    • Carl the tooth

      Yeah I hear the Czech is like the Bahamas this time of year lol I’m sure Jagr is quite aware of the weather here , he has played more games here than a few flames players lol

  • Nicely done.
    Economically I hope this will help the Flames close their season seat sales as it has languished. Jag’s is as marketable as any player in the league and as you expertly note in the analysis, he still has some game!
    Im happy for the Flames as Ken Kings stench was starting to become a self sustaining blight. This is a worthy distraction and something that all fans can embrace, optimism!!
    Perhaps Ken King can cancel the bottle drive narrative and focus on something less puketastic, like selling #68 jerseys.

    • Scary Gary

      Definitely languishing, “Thanks to the incredible support of our loyal fans, we are currently sold out of Season Tickets and Game Packs.” – from the flames website.

  • idbr

    I’d really like to see Bennett with Tkachuk. I also think Versteeg would fit in well with Backlund and Frolik. Of the players left I’d like to see something like:
    Gaudreau Monahan Ferland
    Versteeg Backlund Frolik
    Tkachuk Bennett Jagr
    Stajan Jankowski One of (Hamilton/Lazar/Brouwer)

    • Atomic Clown

      The fourth line looks to be any combination of 4 players: Jankowski, Stajan, Brouwer, Lazar. Of the lot, Brouwer looks to play the most games, probably 70+. Stajan is also looking at 60+. Jankowski and Lazar will play a rotational game. That gives us two centers on that line at all times. Hopefully Brouwer can play a truculent game, and put up 30 points. Thats not wroth the $4.5 million hes getting paid, but better than nothing

  • Sven

    Gaudreau Monahan Ferland
    Tkachuk Backlund Frolik
    Versteeg Bennett Jagr
    Stajan Jankowski Brouwer

    There’s a whole lot to like there-

    and how awesome that he was drafted back in 1990 14 spots ahead of Keith Tkachuk?

  • Doh!!!

    I like the depth that Janko and Jagr bring to the forwards this year. If one of the top six go down, it won’t impact the team as much as last year. But I’m really worried about the lack of grit. Stajan – Janko – Brouwer is not what I would call an “energy” line. I’d honestly rather see Hathaway – Janko – Glass. What you lose in skill, you more than make up for in enthusiasm to crash, forecheck and drop the mitts.

    • I am Batman

      Haha…. can’t get over the fact that NOBODY but the Lames offered Jagr a little contract…. let’s see how he catches up to the Oilers (very fast) team on Wednesday….. bet he can’t keep up….

      • Sven


        ‘better to stay silent and be thought a fool – then to post and then remove all doubt’ – non?

        “Jaromir Jagr reportedly won’t be joining the St. Louis Blues, but could be heading to Calgary.

        St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun that the Blues made an offer to the unrestricted free agent over the weekend, but was told Jagr is going in a different direction.

        Armstrong says he, Martin Brodeur and Mike Yeo spoke with Jagr on the phone over the weekend then made him an offer. ”

        — Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) October 2, 2017

        unlike North Red Deer

        people actually like playing in Calgary

        • Sven

          @chris pronger-

          your name is an interesting choice:

          of historic interest:

          “Kevin Lowe said yesterday what Calgarians have known for years: No one wants to move to Edmonton.

          In the midst of an organizational slide that all began when Chris Pronger’s wife demanded he be traded out of Edmonton, the Oilers find themselves unable to attract anyone to what was once a hockey hotbed.”

          Eric Francis , 2007

          and more currently:

          “ESPN conducted its annual poll (insider link) of which NHL cities are the most unpopular among NHL players. This year the Winnipeg Jets took the top slot, with the Edmonton Oilers placing second ”

          ESPN / April 2017

          and so Mr Jagr will skate for a year along side another who spurned an offer from Edmonton for a chance to lace up his skates in YYC , Kris Versteeg, while waiting for Edmonton native Spencer Foo to get a year of professional hockey under his belt – and then skate with the Flames after opting to sign with Calgary instead of his home town side…

          and thus

          the sun rises in the east and sets in the west , the trees shed their leaves in the fall , Liberals raise taxes – and Edmonton remains a horrible place to play hockey

        • Hockeyfan6778

          Let’s all just ignore Batman And pronger. They are just trolls here trying to highjack legitimate hockey conversations. Replies just feed them. Don’t get them wet either.

      • Sven


        do people actually attend school in Edmonton?

        ‘better to stay silent and be thought a fool – then to post and then remove all doubt’ – non?

        “Jaromir Jagr reportedly won’t be joining the St. Louis Blues, but could be heading to Calgary.

        St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun that the Blues made an offer to the unrestricted free agent over the weekend, but was told Jagr is going in a different direction.

        Armstrong says he, Martin Brodeur and Mike Yeo spoke with Jagr on the phone over the weekend then made him an offer. ”

        — Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) October 2, 2017

        unlike North Red Deer

        people actually like playing in Calgary

      • Intercourse the Penguins

        I think it is being down wind of TWO oil refineries, situated in a valley and surrounded by mosquito infested muskeg that makes Smogmonton such an unwanted destination for any health conscious person.

  • Ludis Fanaticus

    Jagr’s start date is something I think is worth pondering.
    I’m sure he is in good shape, given all the reports that he is maniacal about his fitness.
    However, playing is always different and I would think it might be worth saving him for Saturday. That gives him a chance to ease in with some practices to aid in his physical development (flexibility), as well as to learn a little something about the systems the Flames are playing.
    How many times have we seen an athlete jump in at game speed and pull something.

    As pleased as I am for Versteeg and Bennett, I am more curious about how this move changes the Flames power play.
    I can imagine him eating up unit 2 penalty killers up. If he doesn’t end up on unit 1.

    Treliving has provided his coaches with a couple good problem
    How to deploy the new old winger?
    How to introduce him to the team so that he isn’t a distraction? We cant have the guys changing their game waiting for Jagr to lead.

  • Kevin R

    Hate to be the Debbie raincloud of this, although looking out the window…..:-{ but has anyone considered this:
    Bennett & Versteeg & Jagr’s total cap hit is just a tidge higher than Brouwer’s. Yikes!!!!

    • Captain Ron

      Yeah it looks bad for sure. I’d be tempted to try to move him along with one of our high end prospects to someone willing to do it for a 2nd rounder. Not sure I would but I’d think about it if the opportunity came along.

  • Backburner

    I guess GG has some pull… Grossman, Glass, Cramarosa, Jagr… these are all players he’s coached before. I wonder if he has been throwing names out there to BT. Must be a lot of trust there.

  • Captain Ron

    From the Sportsnet article on top RW’s in the NHL where he ranked #7:

    “Doubt the old man at your peril, because at 44 years old last year Jagr was still on the edge of being elite. The knock on him is that he’s slow, which is true, but that lack of speed doesn’t seem to hinder him because his hockey sense is nearly unparalleled.

    Jagr remains one of the best generators of on-ice goals at even strength in the NHL, transitions the puck more effectively than almost any winger in the game, and dumps the puck less than any other right-winger. Jagr’s ability to protect the puck and complete a smart play makes his linemates better, and he was almost the sole reason the Panthers weren’t completely in the tank while most of their star players suffered injuries last year. He’s incredible, and some team needs to sign him right now.”

  • Mr. J

    flames outsmarted everyone again lol first they were the only ones to give up what they did for Hamonic. Now they were the only ones to go after jagr. Yes st louis did but what choice did they have, 5 of there top 9 players are out with injuries.

    Slow Jagr will not retrieve pucks but instead will hang out waiting for them lol cant wait

    • Hockeyfan6778

      Lol well when you look at Pittsburgh giving up a first for Reeves a first for hamonic is not bad. It actually has been the price for a top 4 D last bunch of years.

      With yagr you can’t really go wrong signing him for a mill. One he doesn’t work out and your out a mill. Two he still gets his 40 plus points he has been getting and he is a bargain.


      And you guys were petty excited at the possibility of getting him and off course now are bashing him. Just like foo signing. And versteeg.

      • Willi P

        Thanks for the link. ON was pumped about wanting Jagr. Now he is a dud like all the others that spurned the Grease Puddle in Shelbyville. Post 3 and the reply, awesome.

      • WillyWonka

        I like the oiler nation comments on the “bring in Jagr to play on the top line” piece noted above.
        One of the first few comments, indicative of the general consensus, Was,
        “October 4th, 2017, the puck drops and the Flames come up with the puck in their own zone. Dougie Hamilton passes the puck to Girodano who flubs it and with a fierce Maroon forecheck the puck goes to McDavid who through some slick stick work sends the puck to the right side to Jagr who snipes the first shot of the season bar down on Mike Smith. Opening shift, opening goal.

        Jagr skates to the corner and salutes Rogers Place as the fans go into mass hysteria.”
        I guess O.N. readers gave to resign themselves to the fact that the guy they desired for their top line RE will be playing third line in Calgary!!! Hahaha

    • Trevy

      I do love the sound of jealousy coming from an Oiler fan! Say what you want, but you know as well as all Oiler fans, that you guys would of loved this guy on your team…sad but true…oh, and lol

    • Carl the tooth

      From what I’ve seen from Hamonic so far is he is a great defenceman and looks to be a good trade . 1 or 2 mill for a guy who led an nhl team in scoring 2 years ago is worth it . Lol lovin it!!

    • oilcanboyd

      Translation: You are jealous! The oilers also need a right winger because they need to play Drysaddle at that position with McD instead of creating eully as strong first and second lines. Pullyou bombed again in training camp and was sent away. Quasimoto will soon follow – difference from preseason to regular season.