Jaromir Jagr is no Jarome Iginla. He’s no Brenden Morrow. He’s no Ryane Clowe, even. He hasn’t spent his entire career with one team, becoming the face of a franchise, a captain or a glue guy.
He’s a mercenary. He has bounced between teams, selling himself to the highest bidder without regard to league or loyalty. He left the NHL for the KHL and came back again. He spurned his old Pittsburgh Penguins, joining the rival Philadelphia Flyers when they gave him a one-year, $3.3 million deal. Then he bolted for the Dallas Stars when they gave him a one-year, $4.5 million deal.
He rented a hotel room, not even an apartment, for his stay in Big D during this lockout-shortened season. The Stars talked to him about an extension and didn’t reach a deal, and they had to know he would shop himself this summer, as usual.
Oh, and he’s 41.
But from a pure hockey perspective, he might turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to the Boston Bruins – just as good as any addition to any team before the NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday.
The Bruins lost both Morrow and Iginla to the Penguins last week. They failed to land Iginla even though they had offered the Calgary Flames a better package than the Penguins had, because Iginla had a no-trade clause and chose to go to Pittsburgh at the last minute. That hurt. They thought they had a deal.
[Related: Can Jaromir Jagr help Bruins topple Penguins in playoffs?]
Morrow would have added grit and depth. Iginla would have given them another power forward. Both would have fit their style perfectly, and both ended up with one of their main competitors instead.
But Jagr was not necessarily available last week, and snagging him now for a draft pick and two prospects is a heck of a consolation prize. Yes, he is a mercenary. No, he does not add grit, and no, he is not a power forward. But those are not necessarily negatives.
Jagr is a pro. He cares only about hockey and obviously knows how to adjust to new surroundings. And with his contract expiring, he comes with no commitment beyond this season, not to mention motivation to earn more money July 5.
Most important, he is productive, and he came at a lower price than Iginla would have.
Do the Bruins necessarily need another power forward or more toughness, especially if they can get Milan Lucic on his game? What they need is someone to address perhaps their greatest weakness – a power play that ranks 24th in the NHL, converting at only 15.2 percent.
[Also: Canucks acquire Derek Roy from Stars to solidify center position]
Forget the two Stanley Cups that Jagr won early in his career. Forget even the 679 goals, 1,000 assists and 1,679 points he has amassed in his NHL career, despite his three-season stint in Russia. This isn’t about his Hall of Fame credentials. This is about what he is right now.
Jagr has 14 goals – six of them on the power play – and 26 points. Even if he benefitted from playing with Jamie Benn, consider this:
That’s as many goals as the Bruins’ goal-scoring leader: Brad Marchand. That’s three more power-play goals than any current Bruin.
That’s five more goals and four more points than Iginla. That’s eight more goals and 15 more points than Morrow. That’s 14 more goals and 15 more points than Clowe, the San Jose Sharks winger who was scratched Monday night because of trade talks – who obviously is valued for his size, grit and past production more than anything he has done lately.
The Bruins were going to give up a first-round pick for Iginla, plus prospects Alexander Khokhlachev and Matt Bartkowski. For Jagr, they will give up a first-rounder only if they make the Eastern Conference final – otherwise, it will be a second-rounder – and prospects Lane MacDermid and Cody Payne. The Hockey News ranked Khokhlachev as their third-best prospect in its latest “Future Watch” issue. The magazine did not mention MacDermid or Payne in the top 10.
[More: Top 10 most fascinating people of the 2013 NHL trade deadline]
The Stars signed Jagr for several reasons – to reach the salary floor, to sell tickets, to give Benn a mentor and to make the playoffs. He helped them get to the floor. He helped them a bit at the box office, at least at first. He helped Benn and the rest of the team the way he helped Claude Giroux and the Flyers last season, sharing his wisdom and setting an example with his work ethic.
Trading Morrow was more difficult for the Stars because he was their captain, because of all he had done for the organization. But Morrow was not contributing much anymore and had lost his spot in the top six because of the additions of Jagr and Ray Whitney. That had to do with his performance, not the team’s. This was different.
The reason the Stars traded Jagr isn’t that he can’t play anymore. It’s that he still can. It’s because they could get something for him when they had little hope left. They had been burned in the past by holding onto pending unrestricted free agents like Mike Modano and Brad Richards, failing to make the playoffs and losing them for nothing. They simply could not afford to do it again.
After a 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night, the Stars woke up Tuesday only three points out of eighth in the Western Conference. But they had four teams in front of them, hadn’t been responding to coach Glen Gulutzan and had lost three of their last four games. So they traded Derek Roy to the Vancouver Canucks for a pick and a prospect, and they traded Jagr to the Bruins.
Finally, the B’s got a break.
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