Instead, he was on his way to Ottawa, hoping to provide the New York Rangers with the spark they’ll need to end an embarrassing playoff drought.
Jagr, acquired from Washington for Anson Carter on Friday, is expected to make his Rangers debut when New York visits the Corel Centre to take on the Senators.
In danger of missing the postseason for a seventh straight year despite having the NHL’s top payroll, the Rangers pulled the trigger on the deal after six months of on-and-off negotiations with the Caps, who were clearly looking to dump salary.
“If you look at the record today, we’re two points back (of eighth place),” Rangers coach and general manager Glen Sather said. “If you’re going to do something, now is the time before it’s too late.”
Jagr, who had 16 goals and 30 assists for Washington, earning his ninth All-Star selection earlier this week, was not available for comment after the trade. However, at the Capitals’ morning skate before the Florida game, he said it had been tough to concentrate because of his anticipated move.
“No matter how much you say to yourself, ‘You’re a professional. You’ve got to go to the game and play your best.’ It’s not easy because any game or any sport, if you want to play the best you can play, you have to be mentally ready,” Jagr said. “And it’s not easy to do right now.”
The Rangers hope he won’t take long to adjust to his new environment. New York has lost its last three games, and is winless in five (0-3-2), dropping four points behind the Islanders in the hunt for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
”(Jagr) told us today he was nervous and excited about it,” Sather said. “He’s been a great player and I would think he would come to New York and be the same player he’s been throughout his career. There’s no reason to think that he can’t come there and be very successful. He’s got a good year going right now.”
Jagr and his new teammates will try to cool off the Senators, who are 13-2-4 in their last 19 games. Martin Havlat and Peter Schaefer each scored twice and Marian Hossa had three assists as Ottawa held on for a 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday.
“We were lucky in the last five seconds, but we got the two points and I am happy with the way we played tonight,” Havlat said.
The Senators have outscored opponents 45-22 during a 9-0-2 stretch at home since a 3-2 loss to Boston on Dec. 13. Ottawa has moved within one point of Toronto for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Hossa, one of three Senators added to next month’s All-Star Game, has seven goals and nine assists in his last 10 games.