While his $3.3 million salary is a bit bloated, the Philadelphia Flyers might get more from Jaromir Jagr than many critics expect. If nothing else, he’ll be inspired in a big chunk of Atlantic Division contests. Beyond sticking it to the Pittsburgh Penguins, many overlook the fact that Jagr will also have added motivation to get on-ice “revenge” against the New York Rangers, a team he spent parts of four seasons with. The deal would have been worthy of more ridicule if the term wasn’t right, but since it’s just a one-year deal, their risks are isolated to that hefty price alone.
Of course, the $3.3 million question is whether or not the future Hall of Famer will be an effective NHL player after spending the last three seasons in the KHL. His final season with the Rangers was a relative disappointment; after scoring 123 points in 2005-06 and 96 in 06-07, Jagr fell short of earning the right to extend his contract in New York by scoring “just” 71 points.
Jagr put up those impressive 05-06 and 06-07 numbers skating alongside fellow aging forward Michael Nylander and both forwards seemed to decline once they parted ways. Nylander’s post-Jagr path has been downright disastrous; he began that 2007 off-season by messily spurning the Edmonton Oilers to sign an ill-fated deal with the Washington Capitals. His price was a big issue, but his style wasn’t very cohesive with the Capitals’ style either, prompting the team to bury him in the minors. Things got even worse for Nylander last season, as a season-ending injury kicked him while he was down and put his career in serious jeopardy.
After navigating some serious bumps in the road over the last few years, the two forwards will be reunited – at least briefly – in Flyers’ training camp. While Jagr received that handsome one-year deal, Nylander’s situation is more fluid: he must fight for a roster spot via a training camp tryout. That invitation makes Puck Update’s Steve Ovadia wonder if the Flyers are having some concerns about how Jagr might fit into their team.
In the frenzy of the NHL off-season, the Flyers might have thought signing Jagr seemed like a great idea. They got to stick it to the Penguins, who were also interested in Jagr. And they got people talking about something other than the Flyers trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
But when the excitement of signing Jagr cleared, I’m wondering if the Flyers suddenly found themselves with doubts about just how Jagr will fit into their team. Coach Peter Laviolette loves sending forwards to the net, while Jagr lives along the side boards. Will Laviolette have to run two different offenses depending upon who’s on the ice?
I suspect the Nylander invitation is a bit of an insurance policy on Jagr. If Nylander can still play well enough, I think the Flyers like the idea of having a security blanket for Jagr. Jagr and Nylander could do their own east-west thing while the rest of the team can execute Laviolette’s north-south game plan.
Nylander centering Jagr’s line would be more than a bit comical considering the fact that Jagr cited the perks of skating alongside Claude Giroux and Danny Briere when explaining why he signed with the Flyers.
The next season will be an interesting test of Peter Laviolette’s strategic skills since the Flyers roster shifted from an overloaded offensive power to a team that is structured like many other NHL teams (a decent spread of talent on offense and defense with a high-priced goalie). Jagr’s greatest impact will probably come on the power play this season either way, so it might actually make some sense to pair him with Nylander in even strength situations and then throw him on one of the top PP units.
Ultimately, that’s for Laviolette (along with both Nylander and Jagr’s efforts in practices and training camp) to decide. Whether they resemble a Broadway play or a traveling circus, the Flyers should remain one of the NHL’s most dramatic and colorful teams next season – so stay tuned.
(H/T to Puck Daddy.)