Jaromir Jagr's ice time and production diminished in his final months with the New Jersey Devils, but no one thought for a second that the 43-year-old was finished.
Sure enough, the veteran forward is changing addresses in time for the stretch run and his new sunny destination could turn out to be a fountain of youth for his fantasy stock.
Jagr (50 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) was traded to the Florida Panthers on Thursday, instantly giving him added fantasy value and igniting their Stanley Cup Playoff push. Whether Jagr ends up playing alongside emerging goal-scorer Nick Bjugstad (21 goals, 36 percent owned) and Jussi Jokinen, or with Aleksander Barkov (eight percent) and Jonathan Huberdeau, he is a lock for a top-six forward role with his new team, that much we know.
Jagr has slowed down considerably since his hat trick Jan. 3 with two goals and two assists over his next 17 games, including a current eight-game pointless drought. But his shot attempts relative this season and career track record mean he still carries some fantasy upside.
His 1,784 career points rank fifth on the NHL all-time scoring list and the fact that he had 67 last season proves he's not far removed from producing at a high level in fantasy. With Mike Cammalleri in and out of the lineup this season and the Devils lacking youth overall, there were not proper reinforcements around him to bail him out of his scoring funk. Once his role in New Jersey became limited, we all knew something was coming before the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET.
He consistently logged ice time in the high teens or low 20s per game earlier in the season, but recently missed time with the flu and logged 17:00 or more three times in 19 games since the turn of the calendar year.
The Panthers (2.32 goals per game, 25th in NHL) are not too far ahead of the Devils (2.18, 28th) in terms of scoring, but their young centers could benefit largely from Jagr's presence, and vice versa from their youth and offensive potential.
Though Jagr probably won't be a point-per-game player the rest of the way, the Panthers are two points behind the Boston Bruins for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. There are meaningful games to come and Jagr just might be the player who puts them over the top.
Florida is in action Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks, one of its 22 remaining games. Jagr has a chance to post 10-15 points, chip in on the power play and blend with the youth around him to finish his season on a high note.
If you're a fantasy owner with an expendable bench player, how can you not jump on that if he's still available in your league.