For once, the Devils managed to re-sign their most important free agent before July 1 as it was announced they’ve agreed to terms with HOF’er to be Jaromir Jagr for at least next season. The source of this news was Jagr himself, talking to Czech reporters from Belarus where Jagr will be participating in the World Championships beginning next week. While it was long suspected Jagr would come back to the Devils for his 21st NHL season, he did intimate at one point not making the playoffs would influence his decision. Thankfully for the Devils it proved not to be the case, as Jagr had one of his finest seasons last year with his 24 goals, team-leading 67 points with a +16 at age 42, to go along with his leadership on and off the ice.
Honestly it made sense for everyone concerned, clearly the Devils need Jagr with not only what he can still add to the scoresheet (not to mention he brought the best out of linemates like Travis Zajac as well) but for the example he sets on and off the ice – with GM Lou Lamoriello referring to both in his end of the season comments on Jagr:
“I don’t think there’s any question that the season he’s had was most impressive and what’s just as impressive is his commitment and his work ethic and the way he wants to continue to play,” Lamoriello said on the day after the Devils’ final game of 2013-14. “So, we certainly would like to have him back. I don’t think there’s any reason not. The only way that somebody would not think that is if they put his age number in front of what he really accomplished. He had an exceptional year in every way.”
For Jagr himself, it also makes sense to return. He filled a void left on and off the ice by the departures of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk and became more of a leader than he’s been on any other team except during his tour of duty with the Rangers. Even for a player and person of Jagr’s caliber, there aren’t many teams that would offer Jagr both prominent icetime and the ability to be a team leader at age 42. Even if Bryce Salvador‘s the captain and Martin Brodeur has been the longest-tenured Devil, Jagr seemed to have his pulse on the team as much as anyone, being upbeat when required and critical when neccesary. Not to mention the system itself fits Jagr’s talents at this point in his career with his possession and cycling abilities, a system Jagr endorsed when he went to bat for coach Pete DeBoer remaining.
While terms haven’t been announced, it’s all but certainly a one-year deal, especially since Jagr admitted he only wants to sign one-year deals at this point as a vehicle to stay hungry. Canadian journalist Renaud Laviole tweeted the deal was for $5-6 million for next year depending on bonuses. Though it’s still a long offseason ahead, at least the Devils have taken a very important first step. Next up is deciding the fate of UFA defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Mark Fayne, and how that will impact our d-core as a whole (and conversely whether we can use our defensive depth to help our forward depth in a trade).