Does it sting? Hell yes, it stings. Despite being thirty-nine years old, I wanted Jaromir Jagr back in New York Ranger blue. In the seasons after the lockout, he single-handedly brought the franchise back to respectability. How was he repaid? He asked for a two-year deal in 2008 and Glen Sather would not back down from a one-year contract. And so they parted ways, with no ill-will towards each other. Jagr went to the KHL and became a king with Omsk Avangard, proving he can still play professional hockey, and excelled at the last Winter Olympics. A few weeks ago, when it came to be known that he wanted back in the NHL, I was expecting the Rangers to take him with open arms. After all, the situation would have been perfect: he would get a one year deal for $2-3 million, and would not be the captain or under any pressure because he would not be the team’s go-to guy. He could have scored his 20-30 goals and sailed off into the sunset the way he was meant to.
The Penguins then entered the equation, and it made even more sense, figuring Jagr would want to end his career where it began. As more teams, included the Red Wings, became interested, the Rangers sat silent, causing Jagr to tell the press that they did not even call him. Then today came the bombshell…Jaromir Jagr has signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. They seemed to have come out of nowhere, how a lot of signings happen nowadays, leaving a lot of people either scratching their heads in confusion, or gnashing their teeth in anger. He has made a strange decision here, alienating fans of both the Penguins and Rangers. The Pens would have more of a reason to be angry, though, since Jagr’s camp was actually in contact with them for a few days.
But as for Rangers’ fans, why is there so much anger? As soon as it was announced that he signed with the team’s Pennsylvania rival, all hell broke loose on Twitter and message forums. All that Jagr meant to this team for those four seasons went out the window, and all of a sudden he became money hungry, a headcase, and locker-room cancer within minutes, none of those being true. Jagr is in Philly because he wants to play hockey, and they wanted to have him there. The Red Wings and Penguins withdrew their offers, and the Rangers never even made a call. Why be angry at him? This fan base has an obsession with youth, and I was quickly told by people on Twitter that signing him would have robbed a roster spot from a young player. This too is false, as the Rangers do not have any promising young players at the right-wing position to be ready this season, especially one that would have added another element to this team. At thirty-nine, Jagr would have come here, kicked ass, and taken prisoners. Whether this is a testament to how good he is or how bad the Rangers are, I do not know—bottom line, he would have been this team’s best player, but if he did fail, there would have been little risk attached. But in getting back to the youth movement, that is the direction the Rangers are heading in, despite my warning that all teams still need a veteran presence. The Rangers do not see the need for such an old player, and therefore, they did not bring him here. Please do not label Jagr a traitor, because I absolutely believe that if the Rangers wanted him, he would have signed here in an instant.
And so I wish Jaromir Jagr all the best in Philadelphia. It pains me to say, but I would like to see him succeed, despite the Flyers being near the bottom of my list in likeable teams. I cannot speak for everyone, but I harbor no hard feelings towards him in any way. It would be nice to see him score 30 goals, just to shut up all the people who say his career is over. Best of luck, Jaromir, you will still be one of my favorites.