Four years ago the Bruins added a forty-something future Hall of Famer to their young core at the NHL trade deadline and a couple of years later that mixture of players brought the Black and Gold a Stanley Cup. This season the Bruins are doing the same thing again by netting 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars in exchange for a couple of forward prospects outside of their top 10 and a conditional second round pick.
That’s a steal for a player that steps into the lineup on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils with 18 years of NHL experience, nearly 700 career goals and 1,000 career assists, and would lead the Bruins in goals scored and power play goals after a vintage season with the Stars.
Then it was Mark Recchi, and now it is Jagr.
“He’s been a really terrific player and a superstar, but I liken this trade to when he dealt for Mark Recchi,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who deserves plaudits for not giving up when he was dashed in attempts to land Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla. “His career speaks for itself. He’s a strong player, protects the puck well. He’s consistent with our style of play in that there’s a cycle element to his game.
“He’s good on the half-wall, really good release, shot. He’s just a really good player.”
Jagr might not be the mullet-headed prodigy he was while winning Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the guy can still generate offense and should help a team sorely in need of just that. He’ll wear No. 68 and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said he’ll be flexible about the roles he’s being asked to play as a forward with top-six ability brought to a team with an ineffective third line.
“He gives us the element of offense,” said Chiarelli. “He gives us an element of size. In this day and age you have to have the strength, fortitude, body, whatever you want to call it…to get to the front of the net.”
Sure there are some down sides.
Jagr is more hired offensive gun than ultra-dependable hockey force at this point in his career, and is playing for his fourth NHL team in the last three seasons. There might be some initial upset at the shifting of the lines that may take place as they find a proper spot in the lineup, and potentially displace a guy like Nathan Horton or Milan Lucic from their longtime forward position. But it also sounded like he might initially start off with a guy like Rich Peverley on the third line while looking for a natural resting spot among the forward combinations.
Jagr also has his own style and method of doing things, and will probably stretch the boundaries of Claude Julien’s disciplined defensive system in order to create offense at the other end of the ice.
But then again that’s exactly why they brought Jagr into the fold. He should team with the offensively gifted David Krejci and ascending rookies like Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton to give the Bruins the kind of creativity and playmaking abilities they haven’t had since Marc Savard suffered a concussion at the hands of Matt Cooke.
The best part about the deal for the Bruins: they gave up very little to rent Jagr for the rest of the season. A second round pick that turns into a first round pick if they make it to the Eastern Conference Finals is a price the Bruins will gladly pay, and would be worth it if Jagr gives the team what they need.
Both Lane MacDermid and Cody Payne are big, rugged forwards, but both players were far from being considered among Boston’s top prospects. MacDermid has a ceiling as a fourth line enforcer without the hands or skating ability advance to a bigger role, and Payne is a raw power forward coming off a promising 25 goal season in the OHL.
But Payne is far from being a sure thing in the NHL, and the Bruins have another similar player in Anthony Camara that just signed an entry level deal with the Bruins.
It remains to be seen if things work out for the Bruins with Jagr as well as they did with Recchi. It doesn’t appear like the Czech Republic legend stays in one NHL destination for too long these days, and the Bruins had to go through difficult playoff losses to the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers with Recchi in tow before they were ready for Cup triumph.
They don’t have that kind of time with an established nucleus and a defined window of time to go for Stanley Cup championships that coincides with Zdeno Chara’s hockey prime. Hence the urgency to land Jagr after swinging and missing with Morrow and Iginla, and continuing to push for an top four offensive defenseman prior to tomorrow’s NHL trade deadline to truly make the roster battle ready for the playoffs looming less than a month away.