Fire&Ice - The Devils traded the 43-year-old right wing to the Florida Panthers today for a 2015 second-round pick and a conditional third round pick in 2016. The Devils will have the choice of either Florida's 2016 third-rounder or the third-round pick they received from Minnesota earlier this week in the deal for Sean Bergenheim.
Let me start by saying that over the last season and a half, Jaromir Jagr has been an absolute pleasure to watch. He has been one of the lone brights spots amongst otherwise dim expectations. At 42 years, while skating like he has a piano strapped to his back, he remains a miracle of modern science. Some nights you could still argue he is the most talented player on the ice. His, strength, vision, puck handling ability and overall passion for the game are too be marveled at. It's unfortunate that's days as a Devil are over. Not because he is necessarily a huge loss on the ice, but it was fun watching history happen right before our eyes on a nightly basis.
With that said, anyone that doesn't like this trade is a damn fool. As the Devils win total has increased, Jagr's playing time and subsequent production has also decreased. Whether those things are mutually exclusive or not is up for debate. However, over the last few seasons, including his time with Boston, Jaromir has shown he gets better with the more ice time he is given. Unfortunately, with the new coaching regime that hasn't fit into their plans. Jagr wants to play, and he wants to play a lot. I actually commend him for that. Since he began his tenure with the Devils, Jaromir has never been one to mince words. The "spare no feelings, say what it is" type. Absolutely a respectable trait. Be that as it may, the last thing a bipolar team like the Devils needs is a disgruntled 42 year old. He didn't say anything that was particular wrong, but you can't have players that are in the twilight of their career causing distractions. It's why Martin Brodeur wasn't retained after his year long battle with Cory Schneider for playing time, and it's why Jaromir Jagr was moved despite the Devils having an outside shot at a playoff spot.
The sick thing is, in Lou's mind, I don't necessarily thinks he is selling. It's just not in his DNA. While it may be a fool's errand to expect Michael Ryder or Martin Havlat to replace what Jaromir brought to the table, I don't think it's impossible for the Devils to continue their winning ways. They weren't some offensive juggernaut being running strictly through Jagr. This is a team that wins when they get timely goal scoring, steady defense and an otherworldly goaltending effort. Jagr's goal scoring, or lack thereof, has been anything but timely. Eight games without a point when the Devils need him the most. Hell, Jordin Tootoo, Steve Bernier, and Adam Larsson have been exponentially more imperative to the Devils success as of late. While the playoffs remain a pipe dream, it's not a dream that is necessarily shattered by trading away a player that was unhappy.
What's more unprecedented than Jagr's abilities at 42 years young, is being able to trade away a 42 year old that is set to be a free agent for a 2nd AND 3rd round pick. That is an absolute steal. The only time that someone has received that much compensation for someone in their 40's was the beneficiary of a life insurance package. Regardless of the Devils making the playoffs or not, they are a team that is trying to get better in the future. Trading away 20+ games of senior citizenship for a 2nd round pick in an extremely deep draft a step in the right direction. Being to pick the better of Florida's two picks in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft is just icing on the cake. It was a calculated move that makes the team younger, and potentially gives them the ability to put some offensive talent in front of one of the best goaltenders the NHL has to offer.
I appreciate what Jagr did for the Devils. I appreciate what he has done for hockey. I appreciate that he enjoyed being a member of this team. Unfortunately, a lot of that was based on the responsibilities he was given. It's no secret that he liked playing 1st line minutes. Why do you think Jagr LOVED Peter Debeor? Because he was the greatest coach he has ever had? Hell no. It was because he constantly gave him over 20 minutes of ice time a night. It's because he played a slow, grind it out style that Jagr could thrive in. Jagr wasn't clamoring for a trade at last years deadline, when the Devils were just as bad and he was playing all the time. Now they have enjoyed a relatively long period of success (comparatively speaking) and he wants out? I understand his commitment to playing the sport at a high level as long as possible, but its no coincidence he became a malcontent when he wasn't the focal point of the team, regardless of their recent success.