Jaromir Jagr at the 2015 World Championship
Jaromir Jagr still has his sights set on playing in the NHL, but if he can't find a job this season, the 45-year-old is contemplating unretiring from international play to suit up at the Olympics.
It’s not exactly decision time for Jaromir Jagr yet as there’s still more than a month before the NHL campaign begins, but the 45-year-old continues to mull over his options should he not land a contract before the season begins.
In the months since it was announced he wouldn’t receive a new deal from the Florida Panthers, Jagr has joked about the difficulty in finding a new hockey home, contemplated what his role could be this season in the NHL, spoke openly about potentially starting the season with his hometown team in the Czech league, Kladno, and has even mentioned trying his hand at a top league overseas, such as the KHL, where he played from 2008 to 2011.
But his latest consideration is one that is sure to draw some intrigue: according to Czech reporter Zdenek Matejovsky, Jagr told Ceska Televize that there’s a chance he could play in the upcoming Olympics.
That’s notable for a few reasons. First, it seems to indicate that Jagr really is continuing to think about what his season may look like should he (somehow) fail to land an NHL contract by the time February rolls around. It also adds Jagr to the list of potential veteran, former NHLers — a list that includes the likes of Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla — who could see themselves suit up at the tournament as a result of no work in the NHL. But more than that, Jagr’s possible interest in playing for the Czech Republic at another Olympics could signal his return to the international stage despite the fact he announced his retirement from such play more than two years ago.
One will recall that back in 2015, following a World Championship run with the Czech Republic, the then-43-year-old announced that he was finished with international competition. And if it was to be his swan song, it would have been quite the sendoff for Jagr. While the Czechs failed to medal, falling 3-0 in the bronze medal game against the United States, Jagr’s outstanding six-goal, nine-point performance across the 10-game tournament was enough to earn him MVP honors. It was yet another accolade in an international career that had already seen Jagr enter the Triple Gold Club, win three gold and six total major international medals, plus 46 goals and 101 points in 116 games across the Olympics, World Championship and World Cup.
And it really did seem as though Jagr was set on remaining retired. Proof of that came ahead of last year's World Cup of Hockey. As the Czech national team began to assemble their squad for the September 2016 tournament, GM Martin Rucinsky reached out to Jagr to see if he’d be interested in participating. After a week of consideration, Jagr turned down the offer, saying he wouldn’t be able to get ready for the tournament and thus wouldn’t be taking part.
Now, however, with the Olympics on the table and no NHL deal in place, Jagr might be willing to come back around to the Czech team, and there’s no doubt the Czech team would welcome him with open arms. Even with a roster that had its choice of NHL talent to bring over to Pyeongchang, Jagr would almost be guaranteed to make the cut. However, with the Czech team set to play without the likes of David Pastrnak, Ondrej Palat, Jakub Voracek, Michael Frolik and others due to the NHL’s decision not to send players to the tournament, Jagr would be a mortal lock. Adding some clout to Jagr’s potential participation is that he was included on the Czech national team’s “so-called long list” of potential players for the Olympics, per iSport.cz.
Of course, all of this comes with one giant, Jagr-mullet-sized caveat. It’s evident from everything Jagr has said that his desire is to play in the NHL this coming season, and he reiterated as much when speaking with Ceska Televize. It only makes sense, too, that Jagr would want to return after a 16-goal, 46-point campaign in 2016-17 with the Panthers. It’s evident he still has what it takes to compete and produce at the NHL level, even if he is inching ever closer to his 46th birthday.
According to NHL.com, Jagr said ideally he could find a fit on a team that needs help on the wing, has a few skilled players for him to play alongside and plays a style of game that would allow him to flourish. But Jagr’s not about to sign the first offer that comes his way. Even as much as he desires to continue in the NHL, Jagr noted that he wants to be paid enough that he’s guaranteed a fair shot at a roster spot. Taking league minimum, Jagr said, would open up the option for whichever team he signed with to kick him to the curb mid-season.
Jagr seems hopeful that the door isn’t shut yet on the NHL, either. "There are many teams who haven't yet finished their rosters and they have lots of gaps there,” Jagr said, according to NHL.com. “The teams and [GMs] are not [in] a rush. They know they still have [a month] before the season starts.”
If the start of the campaign should come and go without Jagr on a roster, though, the Olympics could still offer fans the opportunity to watch the living legend on a big stage.
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