After a relatively quiet start to NHL free agency, the market has dried up rather quickly for hockey’s grizzled veterans, with longtime regulars like Andrei Markov, Mike Fisher and Jaromir Jagr either pondering retirement, selling themselves to uninterested teams or extending their wait for phone calls into the summer.
One of them, however, got an offer — and a whole lot of added perks — to start this week.
An open invitation to join a team. An option to rest during weekday games. An assurance of an immediate role in the 2017-18 season. An offer, in simpler terms, that could be too good to resist.
It came for the 45-year-old Jagr. And it came from — wait for it — the Florida Everblades, of the ECHL, a minor league a step below the American Hockey League.
The only active player remaining from the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, Jagr has joked via Twitter this offseason that he has been waiting to hear from an interested team to no avail. But the two-time Stanley Cup champion and five-time Art Ross Trophy winner cannot joke any longer.
The Florida Panthers might have replaced him with a younger, albeit still aging, forward in Radim Vrbata for the coming season, but the Everblades made their case Monday for why Jagr, a 13-time NHL All-Star, should stay in the Sunshine State and suit up on prestigious ECHL ice.
Building their roster for a 20th anniversary season, the Everblades went public with their invitation, which they say “will remain open in the event (Jagr) does not reach a deal to play in the NHL for the 2017-18 season” and has been backed with a #WeWantJagr social media campaign. It includes promises to “send an intern to personally pick him up and drive him over” to the Everblades’ arena in Estero, Florida — near Ft. Myers, about two hours away from the Panthers’ home in Sunrise — for games, if necessary.
Give them credit for putting it all on the table and literally listing the reasons Jagr should hold off on a return to the league where he ranks second all-time in regular-season points in the name of joining the 27-team, New Jersey-based ECHL.
Top Reasons for Jaromir Jagr to Join the Everblades
- Opportunity to play against former NHL standout Trevor Gillies.
- #68 jersey is available and has yet to be retired.
- Opportunity to dethrone Allen’s Chad Costello from winning league scoring title…again.
- $2 Wednesday’s! ($2 hot dogs, beer & wine)
- Best fans in hockey!
- ‘Weekend Warrior” playing option.
- Many NHL Players train here in Estero, Florida each year.
- Defending South Division Champs.
- Team has made playoffs in 18 of its 19 seasons.
- “We Got Wings Baby!”
- Sleeper bus for road travel stocked with Diet Coke and muffins.
- Brawling with Orlando option.
- Even our goalies score goals here.
- Might see an alligator in the pond next to the arena.
- 20th Anniversary Season of Everblades Hockey.
- 30th Anniversary Season for the ECHL
Gotta love the alligator sighting and Diet Coke selling points.
Jagr reportedly had discussions with the Panthers about a new contract before NHL free agency kicked off on July 1, but the two sides have since all but confirmed a split. And yet the ageless forward, who appeared in all 82 games in 2016-17 and has said he would like to play until he’s 50, still has his eyes on breaking out the skates this season.
The Everblades are just hoping it’s with them.
Check out the Everblades (and maybe Jaromir Jagr?) for opening weekend on Friday, October 13 & 14 against the Atlanta Gladiators at Germain Arena!