The Edmonton Oilers’ roster would appear to be mostly complete, but the team still has some money to play with and arguably room for to add one more offensive weapon. When we discussed the remains of free agency on this site a month ago, the comments section overwhelmingly favoured one player over the rest of the field: Jaromir Jagr.
Would Jagr be a good fit for the Oilers? That’s the question in this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday.
The first thing to consider is the salary cap perspective.
According to NHL Numbers, the Oilers have $10.5 million in total cap space before re-signing Leon Draisaitl. That sounds tight but actually understates the flexibility that Edmonton has, because that total starts with the assumption that all entry-level players will hit all of their bonuses. Connor McDavid probably will, but it’s less likely that someone like Jesse Puljujarvi ($2.5 million in potential bonuses) does. Edmonton thus has some money to play with.
The second item to consider is how Jagr would fit on Edmonton’s forward corps. Your mileage may vary, but at the moment I’d expect something along these lines:
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Patrick Maroon||Connor McDavid||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins|
|Milan Lucic||Leon Draisaitl||Anton Slepyshev|
|Jussi Jokinen||Ryan Strome||Jesse Puljujarvi|
|Drake Caggiula||Mark Letestu||Zack Kassian|
|Jujhar Khaira||Iiro Pakarinen|
Jagr is a left-shooting right wing. Adding him to the roster requires making room in two ways: first, bumping someone off the 23-man roster to make room for him, and second opening up a position among the Oilers’ top nine forwards.
A preseason injury might well make such a decision for the Oilers, but assuming good health there are two likely approaches:
- demote a player who does not require waivers (probably Puljujarvi, maybe Anton Slepyshev)
- demote a bubble player who does need waivers (likely Iiro Pakarinen, unless you’re one of those Ryan Stanton true believers, in which case Stanton)
In all likelihood, Jagr would take over right wing on the second line, where he seems like a logical fit with fellow behemoths Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl. If Puljujarvi is bound for the minors that would leave Slepyshev and Kassian as the right wings for the bottom six; if Pakarinen, then it seems like that Slepyshev and Caggiula would rotate in a fourth-line winger role, potentially also alternating with Puljujarvi.
The specifics here are less important than the general truth: Signing Jagr means taking minutes from Slepyshev and Puljujarvi, something which may or may not be desirable depending on the reader’s specific viewpoint.
Jagr is probably a better bet than either to produce next season. Even at age 45, he’s coming off a 46-point campaign; he had eight power play goals a year ago and his 1.75 points/hour at 5-on-5 would have made him a top-six forward for Edmonton last year. Six years into his NHL return and his teams have always outshot and outscored the opposition with him on the ice at even-strength. There are also undoubtedly intangible benefits to having a legend and fitness freak like Jagr around the team, to say nothing of the general benefits of forcing Slepyshev and Puljujarvi to earn their spots on the roster.
What Jagr isn’t is a long-term fit. Slepyshev might be; Puljujarvi should be. Jagr isn’t fast, on an Oilers team which generally speaking already lacks speed on the wings. He is 45, and even Jagr can’t hold off Father Time forever. It’s also at least conceivable that Jiri Hudler or Cody Franson or someone else is a better use of Edmonton’s remaining cap dollars than Jagr is.
What would you choose?