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Ivey: Jagr deserves a better ending

| Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Monday, Calgary Flames forward Jaromir Jagr cleared waivers and was assigned to play the rest of the season with a professional hockey team in the Czech Republic, HC Kladno.

The move very likely represents the end of Jagr’s storied 24-year NHL career.

Jagr, who will turn 46 in February, saw a decrease in production this season with the Flames, where he scored seven points in 22 games, but this is only a new occurrence. Just a season ago, he scored 46 points for the Florida Panthers, which was good enough for fourth best on the team. Two seasons ago, he led the Panthers in points with 66 and was selected to his 13th career All-Star Game … as a 43 year old.

Just look at some of his career statistics.

In his 24 NHL seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames, Jagr scored 766 goals (third most all-time) and added 1,155 assists (fifth most all-time) good for 1,921 points (second most all-time, behind only Wayne Gretzky).

He holds the record for most career game-winning goals with 135. He played in 1,733 games, behind only Gordie Howe and Mark Messier for third most all-time. He won the Art Ross Trophy (NHL’s leading scorer) five times and won the Hart Memorial Trophy (league MVP) in 1999.

It’s hard to believe he only won the Stanley Cup twice, during his first two seasons in the NHL back in 1991 and 1992.

By the way, he could’ve padded any of the above stats if he didn’t play three seasons (2008-11) in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

The only goal he scored this season, which could go down as his last ever NHL goal, was assisted by Johnny Gaudreau, who was born three years after Jagr made his NHL debut, and Brett Kulak, who was born four years after Jagr’s debut.

Jagr might go down as the greatest European ice hockey player of all-time.

He’s a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer. More importantly, during the early part of his career he possessed one of the greatest mullets perhaps in the history of mullets (seriously, Google Jagr mullet. It’s something else). He actually inspired a famous collection of hockey fans who call themselves the Traveling Jagr’s, a group of nine guys who wear the jerseys of all nine teams Jagr played for during his NHL career and wear fake mullets.

Jagr’s impact on the game will be felt long after he finally does call it a career, which is what makes this type of send-off feel wrong.

Jagr’s career should end in a similar fashion to how Peyton Manning’s or Ray Lewis’ career ended — helping to lead their team to a championship.

It shouldn’t end as a name left unclaimed on the NHL waiver wire, banished back to his home country of the Czech Republic to play out the rest of his days. It just feels wrong.

But at the same time, no team currently in Stanley Cup contention is interested in a 45 year old winger who is finally showing signs of slowing down, not to mention that Jagr’s $1 million cap hit makes it difficult to fit him into a new, playoff-level team, many of whom are already close to the NHL salary cap ceiling as is.

Still, this ending just doesn’t feel right for someone as legendary as Jagr.

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