We’re less than a week into NHL free agency, and we’ve already had to say goodbye to a number of Flyers.
Sergei Bobrovsky is off the force. James van Riemsdyk went from playing hockey in his backyard to playing for the “Yankees of hockey” (minus all the winning). Matt Carle has returned to fight crime with Hulk Hogan in Thunder Bay. And yet the one that I’ll miss the most is Jaromir Jagr.
When the Flyers signed Jagr last year, I was skeptical. A 40-year-old player who had spent his last few seasons in the KHL? Putting this on top of the Carter and Richards trades was adding insult to injury. Accepting a former enemy into the fold was also tough. I grew up despising Jagr and his flowing locks. He was a Penguin, a Capital, a Ranger, and for a long time, a Flyer killer.
But then I saw 68 play with 28. Jagr took to playing with Claude Giroux and magic happened. Scott Hartnell formed the other side of their goal-scoring Voltron and their line went on to be one of the best in the NHL. Jags influenced Hartnell and Giroux so much that they did the salute when they were introduced at the All-Star Game skills competition. They were highly insulted when Mike Rupp idiotically did the salute in the Winter Classic. They formed one of the best lines in recent Flyers history, and Jagr helped both Giroux and Hartnell reach career highs.
On top of that, he put up 54 points in 73 games, which ain’t too shabby, especially for a 40-year-old. He still had the shot, the smile, and the bubble butt. He still had the best vision on the ice. His passes were immaculate. Yes indeed, I fell for Jagr.
I hoped that the Flyers would bring him back for one more go around. To see just how much gas that Jags had left in the tank. There were rumors that he would come back at $3 million a year. I got even more hopeful, which was silly. I wasn’t devastated when it was announced that he had reached an agreement for a $4.5 million contract with the Dallas Stars, but I was a little sad. After all, you can’t be surprised when Jaromir Jagr takes the money and runs. It’s nature and it’s inevitable.
Who will be the anchor on G’s line now? Jakub Voracek, perhaps? He did take lessons from Jagr on using his size more effectively and perhaps would flourish with one of the league’s best centers. There have been talks of the Flyers trading for Bobby Ryan and to say that he would be a nice fit on that line is like saying that chocolate and peanut butter are delicious together. There are also the never-ending Rick Nash rumors, and if you acquire Rick Nash and don’t play him with Giroux, you’ve lost your mind.
But none of them will be the same as Jagr. He had one amazingly fun year with the Flyers, filled with wooing the local media, filming bizarre Czech commercials, midnight workouts, and a handlebar mustache. I’ll look back fondly at 68’s time in Orange and Black. We’ll always have the time that he scored a goal against the Penguins and directly saluted a fan who was giving him the finger.
Good night and salute, Jaromir Jagr.