CAMERON: Jagr’s return more than impressive

Christopher Cameron
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The Home Stretch

Christopher Cameron

Sometimes it’s clear that professional athletes need to call it quits.

For the last few years Jaromir Jagr has been signing one-year deals and continuing to play in the NHL. The question was always when, not if, he would ever hang up the skates.

It won’t be until after next season at the soonest as he signed a contract extension with the New Jersey Devils yesterday. He had a cap hit of $2 million this season and although the terms of yesterday’s deal weren’t released it’s expected that number will be double next year.

If you look at his 24 goals and 67 points in 82 games it makes sense, especially since he led the Devils in scoring and finished 27th overall in the NHL. If you look at the fact he’s 42 years old it’s shocking that he continues to play at the level he has.

He isn’t the oldest active player in the NHL right now as Teemu Selanne is a year and 227 days older, but should Selanne retire, which he is expected to, there is a possibility Jagr could pass him on that list. It’s unlikely he’ll reach 52 years old and still be playing like Gordie Howe did in 1980 or make it to 48 years old like Chris Chelios, but it’s definitely clear that his longevity in the sport is something to be admired.

It’s not only the longevity, but as both he and Selanne proved this year, they are both able to make an impact on the teams they plan on.

On the other end of the spectrum Nathan MacKinnon is just 18 years old and has been on a tear in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Colorado Avalanche so far.

He is tied for the lead in both the assist and point categories with eight and 10 respectively.

It has also been the two goals that he has scored that have opened the eyes of analysts and players around the league. When he was in the QMJHL playing for the Halifax Mooseheads it was clear that he was dominant, but for some reason some didn’t trust that he would transition well to the NHL. For instance The Hockey News said that his Mooseheads linemate Jonathan Drouin would win the Calder Trophy (NHL rookie of the year) in their annual season preview. Drouin unfortunately didn’t make the cut in Tampa and had an outstanding year in Halifax, but it just proves that people didn’t think MacKinnon was ready.

In the first game of the Avs series with the Wild, MacKinnon had three assists, which he followed with a goal and three assists in Game 2. It was his goal that wowed the crowd as he had Minnesota defenceman Jared Spurgeon tripping over his feet with his move in the offensive zone before putting the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov’s right arm.

He was held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games before another three-point game. This time his goal had a lot more impact, rather than his Game 2 goal that tied the game 1-1 in the first. MacKinnon became the second youngest player in NHL history to score an overtime goal in the playoffs.  

With this written before Game 7 on Wednesday night there is no way to know what sort of points he will put up, but it can be expected he had a significant presence on the ice.

 

Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at christopher.cameron@ngnews.ca or on Twitter @NGNewsChris. 

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