Yesterday, Jaromir Jagr essentially broke the news that he would stay with the New Jersey Devils. Today, it was made official. The team announced that they have re-signed Jagr to a one year extension. This report by Rich Chere at NJ.com has the contract details: a base salary of $3.5 million with up to $2 million in bonuses based on games played. Not only does Jagr remain at the Rock for another season, but he's getting a raise. Last season, he earned a $2 million base salary with $2 million in bonuses - a total cap hit of $4 million.
It's really hard to argue against the raise based on performance. He was our unanimous choice for the team's most valuable player from the 2013-14 season. Here's what I wrote about the decision:
Oh, what would this team be without Jaromir Jagr this season? He's the team's leader in points with 24 goals and 43 assists. He's the team's leader in shots on net with 231.He's the team's leader in both Corsi For% and relative Corsi For% in 5-on-5 play at 59.2% (!) and +7.1% (!!) among regulars per Extra Skater. The latter is important to note because being present for shooting attempts and generating them means that when he's on the ice, the play is going forward. Even by the eye test, #68 has constantly picked on defensemen and forwards along the boards, in the corners, and even in open ice. The remarkable thing isn't that he's done all this at the age of 42. It's that he's done all this and made skeptics like me not only look foolish but seriously feel that bringing him back may be a good idea.
You want more evidence of how crazy good Jagr was last season? Here's his entire With or Without You chart at Hockey Analysis from last season. Most of the team was better in possession with Jagr than without him. Look at the goalies for how it affected the team in 5-on-5 play: not bad without Jagr but awesome in that 59% with him. He didn't just lead the team in points and shots or have the best possession rate. He was arguably their best player.
If that wasn't enough, there was reason to believe he wanted to come back. He was very complimentary of Peter DeBoer, who the team has retained for another season, and the system he has put in place. As he should: seriously, those Corsi percentages don't lie. He played significant minutes, averaging over 19 minutes per game on the team's top line and power play unit. He played in all 82 games plus the Olympics and now the World Championships; he took the workload and remains willing and able to play. He was very good on a team that really didn't miss the post season by a large margin so it's not as if this appears to be a hopeless situation in 2014-15. It's not a surprise that he wanted to return. How he announced it was, but that's all. All together, the team's best forward wanted to return to the team. What team wouldn't want to sign him again? What team wouldn't want to give him a higher salary for it, too? And so it was done and both parties are pleased, based on my reading of this report from Chere.
The one concern about Jagr is the same concern from back in July when he was signed: his age. He's 42 and will turn 43 this season. Jagr's conditioning and commitment to preparation for games is nothing short of impressive. The phrase "rise and grind" maybe should be replaced by "rise and Jagr." On that alone, I'm pretty confident he'll get those bonuses to get him up to $5.5 million. That said, I cannot stress enough that Father Time remains the champion in this regard. To put last season in perspective, Jagr had one of the most productive seasons for any skater over the age of 40. According to this quick search at Hockey Reference, his 67 points placed him sixth out of only 97 seasons for players who fit the age criteria. Even fewer have played beyond 42 and the max for that has been Gordie Howe's 52. That may not be too bad on it's own, but on a Devils team where most of the top nine is set; the team may have to hope Jagr goes against history and comes close to repeating 2013-14. I'm sure he'll try. He may actually do it. Whether he will be so fortunate with injuries and puck luck again (or more lucky, in the case of his teammates) is unknown.
Personally, I'm really glad I get to see #68 again. He was too good to not give another chance. I respect the raise. If the season falls apart, I'm sure someone will want him. And for the season to not fall apart, Jagr will likely be a reason why. I'm fine with the raise to $5.5 million given his performance. Are you? How do you think this will affect other moves made this offseason, which now has truly begun for the Devils? Please vote in the poll and leave your reaction and other Jagr-based thoughts about the new deal in the comments. Thank you for reading.