After the departure of David Clarkson and the stunning retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk, the New Jersey Devils are turning to one of the most accomplished players in NHL history to fill a short-term void on the wing.
At 41 years young, Jaromir Jagr will suit up for yet another NHL team -- and remain a fantasy commodity in doing so.
The Devils came to terms on a contract with the coveted unrestricted free agent on Tuesday, setting up a potential tandem of the two highest-scoring players from the Czech Republic in NHL history. With longtime Devils wing and Czech native Patrik Elias (930 career points -- second all-time among Czechs) looking for a new linemate on the right side after Clarkson signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jagr (1,688 points -- first all-time among Czechs) is a candidate to help New Jersey fill that void.
Make no mistake, losing Kovalchuk and Clarkson will make things significantly more difficult offensively for the Devils in 2013-14, but those holes in the lineup present an opportunity for Jagr and fellow offseason acquisitions Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe to at least compete for top-six ice time with the team. This alone makes all three relevant from a fantasy standpoint.
If Jagr ends up operating on a line with Elias, he would join another wily veteran who put up a point per game over his first 27 games of 2012-13 before tailing off a bit with nine points over his final 21 games. Jagr will certainly benefit from working with the 37-year-old Elias, who has missed only two games over the last three regular seasons with 176 points over that span (21st in NHL) and knows the ins and outs of the Devils' system.
There's also no question Jagr will bring a veteran know-how that can aid the continued development of the team's top centers (Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov). That said, it's important to note we're talking about an aging forward whose most prolific seasons are in the rearview mirror.
Therefore, be careful how much stock you put into a player fresh off the least productive playoff run of his NHL career.
Jagr found a way to make some key plays in crucial situations for the Boston Bruins during their run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, but the bottom line is that the veteran fell short of expectations by going goalless in 22 playoff games. He held his ground on the team's second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand as an unselfish distributor (10 playoff assists), but showed fatigue along the way and was in and out of the decisive Game 6 against the Blackhawks due to injury.
It was Jagr's 17th career trip to the postseason and 11th time he played in 10 or more playoff games in a single season. Of those 11 times, the 2013 playoffs marked the first time that Jagr came up empty in the goal-scoring department in such a lengthy postseason run.
Jagr was also one of only five players -- Shawn Thornton, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michal Rozsival and Nick Leddy being the others -- to play 20 or more playoff games in 2013 and fail to score a goal. To say he's by far the most notable player on that list is even an understatement.
But with a full offseason of rest, Jagr is certainly capable of producing in the 40-50 point range with 15-20 power-play points if he plays anything close to a full, 82-game season. Jagr is 10th on the all-time goal-scoring list (681 career goals) and will be a productive middle-round fantasy asset as he continues to climb the record books.
Two seasons ago, Jagr notched 54 points in 73 games as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers -- proving he can still rack up points at a high level. Last year, he became the first player in NHL history to score goals in four consecutive games at age 41 or older. His nine multi-point outings and ability to post at least one shot on goal in 43 of his 45 games in 2012-13 adds to the case that he can remain productive for at least another season.
Also, for what it's worth at the surface, Jagr totaled 35 points last season over his time with Boston and the Dallas Stars. Kovalchuk and Clarkson posted 31 and 24, respectively.
All things considered, Jagr should still have enough left in the tank for fantasy owners to benefit from his presence in the Devils lineup.
Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen
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