End of an era? Jaromir Jagr heads into free agency with uncertain future
The 45-year-old NHL legend takes to Twitter in search of new team
Jaromir Jagr wants to play at least one more season in the NHL.
It's unclear if any team wants him.
The 45-year-old forward, not exactly a regular poster on social media, took to Twitter on Thursday to say that no team has shown any interest in signing him when the NHL's free-agent period begins on Saturday.
Jagr said he hasn't gotten any feelers from clubs and that no team has taken his calls, either. He said that everywhere he looks, he's seeing that free agents have gotten inquiries from 10 teams or more.
"Me0 calls," Jagr wrote. "On the contrary, I'm trying to call them, and no ones picking up."
Everywhere I look,I read:all FA getting calls from10-12teams. Me0 calls.On the contrary,I'm trying to call them,and no ones picking up.😀😳🇨🇿—@68Jagr
The Florida Panthers, however, say the perception that they haven't been talking about Jagr simply isn't the case.
"I talk to his agent on a regular basis," said Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, who has had Jagr in Florida for the last 2 1/2 seasons. "I've been talking to Petr Svoboda almost every day, every other day. I just talked to him today. We're going to talk again tomorrow. So I don't know where that's coming from.
Tallon said the talks have been "cordial," and was asked if the window for re-signing Jagr is still open.
"Of course it is," Tallon said. "We've got until September, October."
Jagr followed up with a second tweet, showing a photo of himself on the phone many years ago and him looking at the phone now. He said in 1994, every team called him .
FA 1994- all GMs called , FA 2017- 0 calls🏆😀 <a href="https://t.co/7uLJm95CAB">pic.twitter.com/7uLJm95CAB</a>—@68Jagr
It was a rare method for Jagr to utilize when speaking out. He's been on Twitter for nearly six years, and averages about one tweet per month.
The Panthers had a Summer Summit meeting with their fans on Thursday night, not long after Jagr posted his tweets, and naturally his future was among the topics.
"I just talked to his agent before I came on the stage and I'm going to talk to him again tomorrow," Tallon said, as he sat with new coach Bob Boughner and CEO Matthew Caldwell on the stage at the Panthers' Summer Summit meeting with fans. "And we'll see how it goes."
When Tallon said that, a few fans started chanting "Jagr! Jagr! Jagr!"
Jagr has still been skating at the team's practice facility, and was there earlier Thursday. Svoboda did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For a team that hasn't won a playoff series in two decades, Jagr brought a certain prestige — both home and on the road. His jersey is easily among the most prevalent ones worn by fans at Florida home games.
"Everybody knows who he is," Caldwell said. "He's got that personality for it, too. You can hear the fans tonight. So excited."
Jagr had 16 goals and 30 assists for Florida last season, appearing in all 82 games. He's No. 2 on the NHL's career points list, and No. 3 in goals, No. 4 in games and No. 5 in assists.
He is the oldest free agent, by far, available this summer — Shane Doan and Matt Cullen are next, both 40. The Panthers lost forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to Vegas as part of the Golden Knights' expansion draft manoeuvrs. Take Marchessault out of the mix, and Jagr would be Florida's third-best returning scorer next season behind Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov.
Jagr was the NHL's MVP in 1999, is a five-time scoring champion and helped Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup back-to-back in 1991 and 1992. He's also helped his native Czech Republic win Olympic gold in 1998 and gold at the world championships in 2005 and 2010.
One more 82-game season would put Jagr at the top of the NHL's career games played list. He currently ranks fourth with 1,711, 56 behind leader Gordie Howe's 1,767.
Seasono of change
It has already been an off-season of change for the Panthers, who turned control of hockey operations fully back to Tallon in April and hired Boughner earlier this month as the franchise's 15th coach in 24 seasons. Boughner was a teammate of Jagr during his playing career, plus faced him as an opponent.
Florida finished with the 22nd-best record in the 30-team NHL, missing the Eastern Conference playoffs by 14 points in a season doomed by injuries and other struggles.
The Panthers expect to be back in the playoff mix this season, with Tallon saying what went wrong last season can be fixed quickly — and that he still believes in a young core that includes Trocheck, Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Nick Bjugstad. Barkov and Huberdeau have both raved about sharing a line with Jagr in the past.
"There's some great pieces in place," Boughner said.
Jagr is still waiting to hear if he's one of the pieces on that list.