Ever since it was clear the New Jersey Devils were not a playoff team -- and despite recent signs of mild life, we can still say that fate is clear -- ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr has been seen as a surefire rental to be dealt before the NHL trade deadline on March 2.
No surprise that he is increasingly, publicly, open to a move. The latest comments reported in several outlets all but beg for it. From Richard Chere at NJ.com:
Jaromir Jagr said his role with the Devils was doomed the moment general manager Lou Lamoriello fired coach Pete DeBoer on Dec. 26.
Jagr said he saw the drop in ice time and diminished role on the power play coming in the wake of the coaching change.
"I knew it was going to happen. There is a history, so I knew. When coaches change, that's just the way it is. This is not the first time it's happened to me."
That article goes on to quote Jagr on still liking the Devils organization, and understanding that they'll go with younger players as the season winds down, but he'd still like to play -- and play a lot. Er go, play with another team.
For trade suitors -- which probably don't include the New York Islanders, but do include many Islanders fans nervous about injuries to Kyle Okposo and Mikhail Grabovski -- Jagr represents an enticing siren song. There is much to like and also much to fear with an outlier like this, who is both completely unique yet also, at his age, at the mercy of time and mortality inching ever closer.
Reasons to covet:
- He is still good, routinely producing points and good possession numbers at age 43.
- Though his once-excellent speed has left him, he still retains the agility and on-ice vision that made him a superstar.
- Given his magical hands and vision, it's hard not to fantasize about seeing him next to John Tavares.
Reasons to fear:
- His ice time has gone down in New Jersey at the same time his team's record has improved; he's pointless in his last seven games.
- A common perception is that his "lost step" makes him a poor fit for a team whose m.o. is to push the pace.
- At age 43, with long NHL regular seasons preceding them, people worry about him wearing down and being less effective in the playoffs. He suffered and played through an injury -- but still produced -- with Boston in the 2013 postseason, his last. (Still, as a reminder: anyone can suffer an injury at any time.)
- He obviously isn't content if he's not being used as a top dog -- so if a team acquired him for depth rather than stardom, what then?
To that last point, an ominous quote from the Chere story:
"Any player you ask who is used to playing a lot of minutes and they go down, you can't play like that," Jagr said. "You're so tired. Plus, you don't have the touch.You don't even know what to do with the puck when you get it."
For Isles fans, the dream scenario is him creating some kind of magic with Tavares, improving the power play, and being the latest former Patrick Division team to stick it to the Penguins by having him excel in a rival's uniform.
The nightmare scenario -- outside of the Penguins, or Capitals, or someone else acquiring and thriving with him -- is giving up something decent to acquire him, only to see him be a poor fit for the minutes he wants, running out of fumes as the postseason intensifies.
As noted in our trade deadline overview, it's highly unlikely that this kind of move is hiding up Isles GM Garth Snow's sleeve. But Jagr will be heading somewhere at the trade deadline. And the team that gets him could be in better position to hurt the Isles.