The New York Rangers can use an experienced offensive weapon next season. Veteran and former Blueshirt Jaromir Jagr fits the bill.
Once upon a time, NHL legend Jaromir Jagr called Madison Square Garden home.
He was the captain of the New York Rangers from 2006 until 2008. One of the best years of his Hall of Fame career happened on Broadway, as he potted 54 goals with 69 helpers in 2005, resulting in an All-Star nod and the Ted Lindsay Award. He led the organization to three straight playoff appearances.
It’s been nearly a decade since Jagr wore a blue sweater. However, he will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 — and now may be the time to return to the Rangers.
Jagr may be 45 years old but he’s hardly shown signs of regression. Suiting up for the Florida Panthers, he played in all 82 games and collected 16 goals and 30 assists, good for a plus/minus of +2. This was just one year removed from yet another standout campaign for Jagr as he totaled 66 points, en route to leading the team to the top of the Atlantic Division.
Though when you take a look at the right side of the Rangers offense, finding a spot for Jagr may prove to be difficult.
Mats Zuccarello led the team in points last year. When he’s on top of his game, Rick Nash is the top player on the ice. Michael Grabner had a career-high 27 goals, Jesper Fast is the most underrated forward on the roster and Pavel Buchnevich still profiles as a top-six talent. Even though Grabner, Fast and center Oscar Lindberg have all been mentioned as potential expansion draft casualities, there’s a logjam nonetheless.
Despite his age, players of Jagr’s caliber rarely become available. New York struggled both in late-game offensive situations and on the power play, one that ranked 11th during the regular season but looked awful during the playoffs.
Jagr, of course, can contribute in both of those areas — and more.
There are a number of reasons why the front office of the Rangers should invest in their former star.
Unlike other top-tier forwards, Jagr won’t come with much of a commitment, both monetarily and length-wise. He signed a one-year, $5.5 million pact with the Panthers last offseason and figures to ink a similar deal this summer. Jagr’s eight power play goals would’ve been the best mark for the Rangers, and his veteran savvy and skill will give their man-up a much-needed boost.
That’s not all he can offer. Jagr can be someone the team looks to late in games. He can mentor the likes of Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller, all of whom are 24 years old or younger. Most importantly, Jagr is on a quest to win and add a third championship to his resume. The Rangers proved that despite having a relatively young roster, they’re poised to contend for the NHL’s top prize next season.
For every positive, of course, comes a negative, as Jagr doesn’t necessarily fit like a glove with the organization.
As previously mentioned, Alain Vigneault has more than enough bodies to fill out the right wing position on all four lines. Team President Glen Sather and General Manager Jeff Gorton have made a concerted effort to make their roster younger over the past year. The Rangers also don’t have a great deal of cap space, and a good chunk of it should be allocated to revamping the defense. Not to mention, Jagr has repeatedly stated that he loves playing for the Panthers.
Just like the better portion of this decade, the Rangers will enter next season with a legitimate shot at hoisting the Stanley Cup at year’s end — if they get the right help.
Yes, the blue line is an area of need but the offense, too, needs reinforcements.
Bringing Jagr back into the fold wouldn’t only be a low-risk, high reward deal — it could take the New York Rangers to the next level.