This weekend, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported that the San Jose Sharks are among a handful of teams interested in former New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk. It made sense, given Kovalchuk’s expressed desire to return to the NHL, as well as his connections to San Jose’s coaching staff.
The Sharks will have some competition for Kovalchuk’s services, though, as Elliotte Friedman told the NHL Network yesterday that the interest Kovalchuk “goes deeper” than previously reported. Couple that with the fact that the pick-strapped Sharks will have to trade for Kovalchuk, and it may be too difficult to work out a reunion with head coach Peter DeBoer.
Reuniting DeBoer with another winger who played for him in New Jersey won’t require the same investment, and might be a more realistic possibility. I’m talking, of course, about pending unrestricted free agent Jaromir Jagr.
I mentioned the 45-year-old Jagr satirically in this week’s edition of #HotSharksTakes, but he makes some sense for San Jose. Beyond the DeBoer connections, Jagr remains a very productive NHL player.
He scored 20 less points this year than his all-star campaign in 2015-16, but Jagr’s 46 points would have been tied with Patrick Marleau for fifth-most on San Jose this season. Jagr’s scored 67, 47, 66, and 46 in each full season in his 40s, in part because he is a noted fitness freak.
Jagr’s age is a downside, but his recent contract history mitigates some of that concern. He’s signed one-year, incentive-heavy contracts each of the last six seasons, and with Patrick Marleau reportedly seeking a deal of at least three years, Jagr represents a shorter-term alternative.
Of course, any potential interest in Jagr depends on what San Jose does with Marleau and Joe Thornton, the team’s other notable expiring contract. In his Off-Season Game Plan piece on the Sharks, TSN Scott Cullen noted as much:
At the same time, if the Sharks kept Thornton as the facilitator – he seems to make everyone around him better – and let Marleau move on, maybe San Jose would get involved in bidding for a sniper like Alex Ovechkin (if that is even possible) or Ilya Kovalchuk. As a fall-back position, maybe they would consider Jaromir Jagr, who doesn’t require as much investment going from one-year deal to one-year deal.
With San Jose’s reported interest in Kovalchuk, I think it’s fair to assume they will aim to contend once again this season. Jagr could fit in alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski on the top line, or making fellow Czech Republic native Tomas Hertl’s dreams come true on a scoring third line.
But if the Sharks do not bring Thornton and Marleau back, Jagr still seems to be a decent fit, given the role he’s played as a mentor and role model for a young Florida Panthers team over the last two-and-a-half seasons. Jagr’s professionalism is a good example for the organization’s younger players, and could fill a veteran leadership void left by potential Thornton and Marleau departures.
Even at his age, the Czech legend will likely have plenty of interest this offseason for what very well could be his final season in the NHL. Given the Sharks’ needs and Jagr’s previous ties to DeBoer, he just might ride off into the California sunset.