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Flames GM Brad Treliving says Jagr signing makes team deeper and more dangerous

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Jaromir Jagr is now officially a member of the Flames.

And make no mistake - his addition makes the team much more dangerous as they begin their quest for a Stanley Cup.  

"We watched a lot of his shifts from last year,'' says the man who brokered the signing, GM Brad Treliving.

"Correction, we watched all of his shifts from last year. He still has that ability inside the blueline to hold onto pucks. His mind is at an elite level. He still makes plays.

"Is pace his strongest asset? No, but then you figure how you support speed around him and ultimately allow him to bring his assets into play.

"He's different than other guys at 45 who depend primarily on pace.

"If you don't know what Jaromir Jagr's all about by now you haven't been paying attention.

"We want to get better. We feel he can make us better. So you do the deal."

So be aware, the game's ageless wonder is here to do more than stock costume mullets in FanAttic outlets in time for Halloween and watch 68 Flaming C jerseys fly off the shelves.

It's also significant the team added a sure-fire, slam-dunk, first-ballot future Hall-of-Famer to their talent stable without surrendering any tangible assets, only salary - a one-year deal at $1 million and the possibility of an extra mil in bonuses.

Here in Calgary, Treliving emphasizes, Jagr won't be asked to turn back the clock but to keep its hands ticking.

For anyone concerned about diminishing returns, consider that Jagr hit for 27 goals only two seasons ago in Florida. His 46-point output last year was more than that of any Flame right-winger.  

Using his size and retractable-ladder-length reach, it's still virtually impossible to pry the puck off the guy. Given a bit of additional work space, he remains capable of creating hocus-pocus on the powerplay.

And then there are the intangibles that are hard to define.

"You can't underscore … the word I'll use is presence,'' says Treliving. "When you've done what he's done in the game, it's there. Non-negotiable. You carry it around with you 24/7. You're just naturally going to have people watching. That goes with being Jaromir Jagr. 

"Could this seem to be a little on steroids, playing in Canada? Probably. But I'm guessing there's not too much this guy hasn't seen in the game.

"The attention, he's earned. And it's something we talked about extensively, but not in a negative way. How does it impact us? How do we not make it into too big of a deal and get us off course?

"You look at the on-ice piece and you look at assimilating him into your room.

"You prepare, you discuss, you analyze, you talk and then at the end of the day you act. We've acted.'"

Think of the hard-to-wrap-your-head-around longevity aspect of Jagr's career in this way: Two days before the rangy, rawboned teenaged Czech prodigy debuted for the Pittsburgh Penguins back on Oct. 5, 1990, East and West Germany reunified.

That was 27 years, two Stanley Cup rings, 1,711 regular-season appearances, 765 goals, 1,914 points, five Art Ross trophies, one Hart trophy, seven first all-star team appearances, an Olympic gold medal, eight ports of call, 20 NHL records and an avalanche of just-too-funny Tweets ago.

Yes, the birth certificate reads Feb. 15, 1972.

But the pedigree, the savvy, the push to excel remains timelessly in vogue.

"He's obviously a pretty powerful figure and has earned a lot of respect over a long time,'' said winger Kris Versteeg. "I'm pretty sure a lot of guys would be honoured to play with him. But in the end, you can't worry about him, you've got to worry about yourself. And that's what he wants, too.

"He doesn't want to be force-fed pucks in certain situations.

"His body size and positioning down low is still second to none. Hard to get the puck off and his hockey sense is through the roof."

Coach Glen Gulutzan has nothing but fond memories from his one-season collaboration with Jagr (in 2011-12) down in the Lone Star State.

"He was fantastic for our group. Him, Jamie Benn, Loui Ericsson were really good players, Ray Whitney … they were kinda our core. Very good for our young guys - Cody Eakin, Reilley Smith. And I don't expect much has changed with Jaromir.

"Big body, fantastic below the circles. Hockey IQ like you've never seen. Hands. He was real good. We ended up moving him at the end of that year to a playoff team but I can say he was really good for our group in Dallas."

Slotting Jagr alongside young, scrappy Sam Bennett and Versteeg creates an intriguing third attacking option, complementing the Backlund-Frolik-Tkachuk 3M Line and Monahan-Gaudreau-Ferland trio.

"When he walks in the room,'' says frequent international teammate Michael Frolik, who grew up a booster of the national icon in their mutual hometown in the Czech Republic, "you see big respect.

"He's a big guy. With all the media in Czech, every day he's in the paper. He brings a lot of attention.

"We're all excited.

"He's one of the best to ever play the game. We're getting a legend."

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