Jaromir Jagr is officially back for his 24th NHL season — and it appears as though this time it could be his last.
The NHL’s second-highest scorer of all-time behind only Wayne Gretzky, Jagr will be 45 at the start of this season and 46 by the end of it. He’s 57 games away from breaking Gordie Howe’s all-time games played record of 1,767 and with 21 assists he’ll pass Ray Bourque for fourth in league history.
Jagr has previously stated he wanted to play in the NHL until he was 50 years old, but on Wednesday as the Flames made his one-year contract official, the future Hall of Famer came to the realization that this season very likely will be it.
“The new trend with the NHL is, I understand it, the managers and presidents and teams they want to give opportunity to young guys and I understand that,” Jagr said. “And that’s why it’s so tough for older guys to find a job. I’m glad I did.
“I was pretty lucky.”
In Calgary, Jagr is joining a team that has Stanley Cup on the mind. The Flames upgraded in net with Mike Smith, added to an already stacked blue line with Travis Hamonic, and now Jagr brings depth and a few options for the forward unit. He could play with Sam Bennett on the third line (where the 21-year-old is expected to start on Wednesday) or on the top unit with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Jagr won’t play in the Flames’ season opener so we’ll have to wait to see just where he fits in at first.
Either way, Jagr had been playing with much younger players in Florida alongside Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau the past two years. He enjoys playing with the kids, not that it’s any recent development for him.
“Of course I (like playing with young players),” Jagr said. “Anybody compared to my age is young guy, so last 20 years I’ve played with young guys.
“Last two years in Florida I played with Huberdeau and Barkov, combine their age and they’re still younger than me.”
He stressed that because this off-season was “different” than any other, it may take some time for him to get up to game speed. Jagr missed training camp, so hasn’t had the benefit of pre-season games, nor has he skated with a team in five months. But he pointed to his dedication to practice and said not to worry.
Calgary represents the ninth NHL team and first Canadian team Jagr has played on in his NHL career. He says playing in the Canadian spotlight was something he wanted to do before walking off into the sunset.
“99.9 per cent this might be my last season, so I want to get the experience so I can one day say I played for a Canadian team. So I’m here.”