Perhaps the Edmonton Oilers are holding off on doing anything further with their roster until Leon Draisaitl’s deal is complete and the ink is dry. The fear that he may get more money than the Oilers had originally anticipated could be stopping the team from making further roster changes — even if they aren’t completely comfortable with their roster heading into the season.
Meanwhile, one of the most respected forwards in NHL history and a sure-fire, first-ballot NHL Hall of Fame forward is sitting on the sidelines and waiting for a contract from an NHL team. Jaromir Jagr has all the tools on paper to help the Oilers and after rumblings surfaced that the Florida Panthers and Jagr had some issues, he’ll definitely not be returning to the Panthers.
The question becomes, what is taking the Oilers so long?
Jagr: The Player
If the Oilers have one apparent weakness, it could be at right wing. The team has some young and promising talent, but it’s unproven — the opposite of a player like Jagr who is a left-shooting right winger with a track record of high-end production. Jagr is a player who over the course of his almost 30-year professional hockey career, Jagr has amassed 1914 points in 1711 games. He’s had five 100-plus point seasons and even up to and through last season was producing at a top-six level.
The only issue (beyond whether or not he wants to come here) is Jagr’s age and how soon his game regresses. Make no mistake, that regression has begun, but when does it drop off a cliff? Or does it?
Known as a player unwavering and adamant about his health and physical conditioning, there have been countless players who’ve cited Jagr’s commitment to training and playing the game of hockey at an elite level as both inspiring and almost positively intimidating.
It’s fair to suggest that even if his game does decline, it won’t be at the same level as other NHL players who’ve struggled as their careers came to a close. His 46 points (last season) might turn into 35 points (this season) and that would still be good for tops among Oilers’ right-wingers (assuming Draisaitl plays center).
Jagr: The Value
Some are suggesting Jagr has not signed a deal yet thanks to the salary he’s expecting to receive. Realistically, if the Oilers can bring him in for $2.5-$3.5 million on a one-year contract, that has to be considered a number worth considering. It’s not far off of his totals in the past and his contracts are often heavily weighted with performance bonuses that make any deal friendly enough for the team.
An area worth consideration — more than in terms of on-ice points — is what having a player like Jagr is worth in your dressing room.
Still a young team in many respects, the Oilers have made wise decisions when it comes to surrounding the core with veterans who can help usher them into a new identity. If you ask the team, they’ll tell you what it means to be dressing beside a guy like Milan Lucic. In much the same way, Jagr brings a presence everywhere he goes. Call it an aura of respectability, if you will. Does adding that type of element equate to another $500k in value? Maybe $1 million?
Jagr: The Drawbacks
There is an argument against a move of this nature and it has some merit. Bringing in Jagr does not make sense if your intention is to play him on the third or fourth line. He’s best utilized as a top-six forward and should be brought in with that positioning in mind.
To do so means taking a spot (while an arguably unearned one) from a player like Ryan Strome or Jesse Puljujarvi. Both players are expected to help the Oilers offensively and will be less likely to produce points if not in a role to capitalize on their opportunities.
That said, an argument can also be made that Jagr’s presence would do nothing but help both Strome and Puljujarvi establish themselves as useful NHL players and that the amount they could learn from Jagr in one season could be instrumental over the long-term course of their NHL careers.
Jagr: The Verdict
No one seems to know what Jagr is asking for. There is every possibility he has a high number in mind and is simply waiting for a team to come up to that number. If so, that would put the Oilers out of the running. But, if the number is fair and the player has a desire to continue playing, there are worse places to choose than Edmonton.
A team full of promise and an organization that employs one of the best players (if not the best) in the world should look attractive to anyone. There is no guarantee that Jagr and Connor McDavid will play together, but there’s not guarantee he won’t either. The Oilers are an early favorite on many lists to go deep this coming season. They simply need one or two pieces to round things out.
If Jaromir Jagr is that piece, what is everyone waiting for?