SOMEWHERE IN NORTH AMERICA–A 10-week game of musical chairs and chicken resulted in no new contract and the end of the association between Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers.
At the end of a dismal day for Jagr fans, the Legend provided some relief that was shared by a fan on twitter.
Panthers General manager Dale Tallon ended months of confusion Saturday for himself, the team, its fans and Jagr faithful without making an offer for the wildly popular Czech legend whose Florida Panthers jerseys outsell all others at the Pantherland gift shop of the BB&T Center.
For the first time since the end of his brief tenure with the Boston Bruins during their Stanley Cup finals appearance in 2012-13, Jagr is looking for a team that will employ a five-time scoring champ who has played a fourth-best 1710 games and needs only 57 to tie Gordie Howe for #1. Between Jagr and Howe are his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Ron Francis (#3 with 1731 games) and former New York Rangers teammate Mark Messier (#2 with 1756 games).
Other plateaus Jagr should reach his year include 20 assists to tie Ray Bourque for fourth all-time with 1169 assists.
The Jagr-O-Meter highlights Jagr’s place on various statistical categories as well as some of his accomplishments during the 2016-17 season. Jagr loved playing with the Panthers and told beat writer Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel that he would have played third line to stay with the team. Whether that was presented as an option to the Panthers before negotiations were abandoned is unkown at this time, but at jagrometer.com we have come to respect Jagr’s candidness and honesty and from our dealings with him and take him at his word. Hopes were high for his return seemed more likely than not when he told defensemen Alex Petrovic he thought he would be back within earshot of Miami Herald Panthers writer George Richards.
While 46 points (16 goals and 30 assists) while playing all 82 games was a low total for the durable rightwing, it still ranked fourth on the Panthers. He was one of two Panthers forwards with a positive +/- rating of +2. Florida struggled to score most of the season and only found a consistent scoring touch for a five game stretch when it seemed ready to make a playoff run.
That was was the last success the red and pyrite would enjoy in a season that got longer with every blown lead or blow out or blown lead that turned into a blowout. Only a two-game win streak to close out the season prevented a seventh-place finish for a team that topped the Atlantic Division a season earlier.
Tallon has chosen to gamble the young players and a few less famous veterans is the best way to return to success. In addition to Jagr the team no longer employs Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith and Jonahton Marchessault. These four were the only forwards not named Barkov, Huberdeau or Trocheck to hit the scoresheet with any regularity over the last two seasons.
Where to next for the legend?
Former NHL player Brian Lawton became an agent after his playing days and now frequently on the panel at NHL Network. During Saturday afternoon’s free agent coverage he said there is definitely a place in the NHL for Jagr. He noted many times players will see what they can get then realize they may ultimately have to take less money, perhaps with incentive bonuses. Fortunately for Jagr his durability has kept in him the lineup for all but eight games over the last four seasons meaning he’s cashed in on all this incentives which were based on games played.
Any number of Jagr’s past teams should be interested as well as other teams though none have gone public with their interest as of July 2. A bonus–Jagr brings Czech hockey fans to NHL arenas at home and on the road, who proudly wave the Czech flag to support their country’s most famous citizen.
For now, Jagr fans around the world will have to see if Jagr plays in the NHL this coming season or if a team in any number of leagues overseas will see #68 gliding down the right wing boards. And then there’s the ultimate homecoming: The owner of the Kladno Knights could skate this winter for his boyhood team, which would be a boom for that team as well as the rest of the Czech professional league.
Is Vrbata an improvement or a cost savings for Florida?
Read and decide.
Veronika grateful for meeting Jaromir in Florida
While the goal here is to stay out of Jagr’s personal life, his girlfriend Veronkia made a post on Instagram that was reported in this article in the Czech newspaper isport.czech., aka @Deniksport on Twitter. The couple has been together for what is approaching two years. Your browser may be able to translate if it comes up in Czech and the link provided was from the page translated to English. The translation programs are sometimes erratic but the emotion is easy to feel when reading the post of happiness that these two met during Jagr’s time in South Florida.
Jagr video while we wait for his next address
Jagrometer.com is compiled by Ray Haluska, a one-time sportswriter who covered the first few seasons of Jagr’s career and was an advisor to the author of the 1997 book, “Jagr.” The Jagr-O-Meter is updated after games to reflect Jagr’s pursuit of milestones in the NHL.
Comments and suggestions are welcome at the comment box on this page or by writing ROKINRAY@aol.com.