In Which We Investigate Jagr’s Chances of Success and Define What Success Should Mean
I’ve previously been dismissive about Jaromir Jagr’s chance of finding success back in North America, or at least finding enough success to justify his 3.3 million dollar contract. To recap my previous argument against him:
The Flyers do have one more forward meant to staunch the bleeding of the Richards/Carter trade: Jaromir Jagr. However, it’s hard to believe that this 39 year old, who hasn’t played NHL hockey in three years, is going to be up to the task. The former sniper may indeed prove his critics wrong, but it’s probably not such a safe idea to hinge your franchise’s offensive hopes on a man who will be one of the oldest active players in the National Hockey League.
I still don’t think this is an unreasonable point to make. Jagr is 39 years old. As of the start of last season, there were five active players over 40 (Madano, Roloson, Recchi, Selanne and Lidstrom) and two of them retired over the summer. More damning is the fact that there were three 39 year olds (Craig Conroy, Kris Draper, and Doug Weight) playing last season and all of them are now retired.
Very few NHL players make it to their late 30s, and usually by the time they do, it’s clearly time for them to hang up their skates. Yes, there are counter examples (Boston fans are obviously especially glad that Recchi chose to delay retirement for one more shot at the cup), but 99% of the time guys like Conroy, Draper, Madano and Weight slip into that black goodnight with their best years far behind them. Those who successfully play hockey into their later years are truly rare, and the best of the best. However…
Jagr Actually is the Best of the Best
Obviously, with 1599 career points and 646 career goals, Jagr is a no-questions-asked Hall of Fame player and easily one of the greatest of all time. Mike H. over at SB Nation Philly gives a great account of exactly how illustrious Jagr’s time in the NHL has been.
Furthermore, let’s not forget that Jagr didn’t exactly sneak off to Russia. He went out with a 71 point bang in which he led the 2007-2008 Rangers in points and tied Chris Drury for the team lead in goals (those were the days, right?).
And in while the competition level in KHL is hardly comparable to the NHL, one can’t exactly claim Jagr has let up on the gas. He’s been a point-per-game player for Avangard Omsk throughout his three seasons with the team, finishing in the top 10 in scoring twice.
The Other Side of the Story
The above section is a fairly convincing argument for a Jagr resurgence in Philadelphia, and I’m sure Jagr’s agent told the Flyers brass the same narrative I just laid out. The only problem is that the Czech’s KHL numbers look a lot less impressive when you look at who did better than he did.
Yes, Jagr finished in the top 10 two out of his three years in the KHL, but that also means one year he failed to even break the top 10 in a league filled with washed up NHLers. Hell, Matt Ellison (14 points in 43 NHL games) and Patrick Thoresen (24 points in 106 games), have ranked higher in scoring than Jagr not once, but twice (09-10 and 10-11). Anyone want to hand either of them a 3.3 million dollar contract?
What Should Philly be Getting for the Money?
It’s unreasonable to expect Jagr to come back to America and pick up right where he left off four years ago. The question is, what should the Flyers expect to get out of a 3.3 million dollar cap hit?
Below is a table of the ten forwards with the most comparable salaries to Jagr. In order to make sure under-paid RFAs do not skew the numbers, only players whose current contracts extend into their UFA years are included. Yes, it would be nice to find players who fit exactly Jagr’s situation, but they’re aren’t a whole lot of free agents who come out of nowhere to sign one year deals, and this group is the best comparison we have.
As it turns out, the average cap hit of these ten players is within 57k of Jagr’s actual salary, so I think it’s about as accurate a data set as we can get without adding outliers (those with cap hits farther away from Jagr’s) from both ends of the spectrum. What have we learned? In order to be worth his salary, Jagr needs to put up about 18 goals and 43 points - Basically the stats of a decent second line winger.
Can He Do It?
That’s a harder question to answer. Despite racking up the points, Jagr “only” scored 25 goals in his final season, although he scored 30 the season before that. The goals might be a littler hard to come by four years later, but going from 25 to 18 goals would still be a sizable 28% drop in production, so I’d say he can do it.
On the points end, it should be a little easier. Going from 71 to 43 points would be a 60% drop from his last NHL season, so I think it’s definitely reasonable to expect at least 43 points out of Jagr this year.
Will a 43 points from their newest aquistion make up for gap in points left from the Carter/Richards trades? I still doubt it. But expect Jagr to have a respectable season, I don’t think he’s done yet.