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Devils' Jagr remains valuable commodity at age 43

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr continues to be defiant against Father Time, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the now 43-year-old could be one of the most influential players to change teams prior to the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello hasn't said he is going to trade Jagr, nor has Jagr made public any request to be traded, but New Jersey's position in the standings (seventh in the Metropolitan Division) and Jagr's position as a player on a one-year contract who can still score makes him a valuable commodity as the deadline nears.

"He's got it, he's still got it," Devils forward Dainius Zubrus said. "He's still doing it."

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr
Right Wing - NJD
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 29
SOG: 109 | +/-: -10
Jagr leads the Devils with 29 points in 52 games heading into their game Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). He's averaging 17:59 of ice time per game, but lately his minutes have gone down as his role has shrunk since the Devils made their coaching change on Dec. 26.

Maybe it's because of his diminished role that Jagr made it a point to say the following, which can be seen as sending a message to teams that might be interested in acquiring him for the stretch run:

"I think some teams worry about when I go there I want to be on the first power play, I want to be on the first line; it's not true," Jagr said. "I'm here on the third line, and I play 15 minutes, sometimes I don't get on the power play, and I'm happy. Not happy, but I do my job. I try to do it the best. I think sometimes the teams or the coaches, they think, he always plays on the outside. I know where's my strength. I like to play offensive zone on the boards. I still feel like I'm strong enough to beat anybody, at least hold that puck. If it's true or not, I still believe in it. Maybe I'm not going to beat that guy one-on-one like I used to, but I can still make a play from that corner from the cycle. That's my strength. And in the playoffs that's the way you play. I don't have to play 40 minutes."

Jagr added he feels he can play on any line for any team.

"Unless you're [Sidney] Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin who play a little more, or [Patrick] Kane and those guys, most of the time when you look at playoffs guys are playing from 18 to 15 [minutes], everybody, it doesn't matter if you're a first line or not," Jagr said. "It has changed a lot in that way. I think it helps me to realize it. Of course I want to play 20 minutes, but I find out it doesn't matter who I play with, I'm happy if I play my role, the cycle game and play on the boards."

Lamoriello, who has never been one to disclose his plans, at least indicated he thinks Jagr still has a lot to offer in the NHL.

"What we're saying about, and I agree, is that he's in phenomenal shape, is still contributing, and could be an asset to anybody depending on what they needed, if that were the case," Lamoriello said.

Jagr's current teammates can attest to that too.

Zubrus said he thinks Jagr generates offensive zone time for the Devils because of how strong he is on the puck in the corners.

"He's as strong of a guy that we have on the puck, down low and cycling," Zubrus said. "Even on the forecheck he's hungry."

Devils defenseman Andy Greene compared Jagr to a center in the NBA.

"He turns his back into guys, backs them up, and wants to wear them down," Greene said. "He's still a big guy, a strong guy, and he has the chance to wear guys out throughout a game. Especially in a playoff series, you get him in there and he can wear teams down for sure."

That people are still talking this way about Jagr makes it easy to wonder if we'll ever see another player like him at this age; a 43-year-old player with a combination of skill and power that is still coveted by contending teams because they might not think they can find it anywhere else.

"It's rare," Zubrus said. "Yes, it's very rare."

The last players to play in the NHL, and have an impact, at 43 were Teemu Selanne and Mark Recchi, but their games weren't built on being powerful along the walls the way Jagr has had to live for his entire career.

"He's one of those generational players," Greene said, "but he's been through a couple generations, a couple different eras now."

But Jagr hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1992, when he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins. A trade before March 2 might give him the chance to do it again.

Even if it happens, Jagr isn't going to walk into the sunset the way Recchi did after winning the Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011. He plans on playing next season, and likely beyond.

"If I have to go to tryout I go to tryout. I just love the NHL, so it doesn't matter," Jagr said. "I'll go try out. If I have to go I'll go, and I'll be ready. Trust me, I'm going to make that team.

"Where else can you go into an arena and have 20,000 people watching you and you make something great and they clap their hands, or they're booing you? Where else are you going to do that? It's a show. You're not going to find that excitement anywhere else. I'm going to sit at home and what, watch TV and say I wish I was there?'"

Jagr will risk doing that if the Devils hold onto him beyond the trade deadline. There should be enough teams calling on him that it shouldn't be a problem.


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