The Dallas Stars are at it again. After signing 40-year-old forward Ray Whitney on July 1, the first day of NHL free agency and adding former Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome later that day, Dallas traded Steve Ott and Adam Pardy to Buffalo for Derek Roy on Monday. Roy figures to be the No. 2 center for the Stars in the upcoming season.
Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk wasn’t quite done.
On Tuesday afternoon, the club inked 40-year-old forward Jaromir Jagr to the roster with a one-year, $4.55 million deal. It was a nice way to cap a busy last few days for Nieuwendyk and the rest of the organization brass. The retooling process actually began on June 22, the opening night of the NHL Draft when the club traded No. 1 center Mike Ribeiro to Washington in exchange for young center Cody Eakin and a 2012 second-round pick.
Some might be a bit shocked to hear a club that was espousing that the quickest way to return the club to prominence after a four-year playoff dry spell was to build from within. So, if indeed the Stars were going young, why would they add a pair of 40-year-olds like Whitney and Jagr?
Well, the answer is simple. Whitney and Jagr are veteran guys with long, distinguished NHL resumes, which include playing for Stanley Cup championship squads. With the Stars beginning a serious youth movement, forwards like Matt Fraser, Scott Glennie and Reilly Smith, who made their NHL debuts last season and figure to get a serious opportunity to make the roster during training camp, can definitely benefit from seeing how veterans Jagr and Whitney handle their day-to-day business on and off the ice.
The Stars prospects aren’t the only ones who can benefit from being true sponges in the presence of such accomplished veterans. Guys like 2012 All-Star Jamie Benn, 2011 All-Star Loui Eriksson and young forward Tomas Vincour, who got a push of his own last season in the first year of the Glen Gulutzan era in Big D will also benefit from Whitney and Jagr.
Vincour, who like Jagr, is a fellow product of the Czech Republic, could especially see some serious benefits from playing alongside a guy he admits to idolizing when he was growing up. Vincour spent last season as a teammate of another veteran from the Czech Republic in Radek Dvorak and it was clear Vincour learned a lot from being around the man known as “Devo”.
Vincour showed flashes last season of delivering on his immense potential, but as is often the case with many young players, inconsistency was often an issue. Maybe having Jagr around will help Vincour begin to start developing some consistency.
Jagr should help the Dallas power play, which last year ranked as the worst in all the NHL. He was a prominent contributor on the Flyers’ power play last season, finishing the year with eight power-play goals. The Stars clearly expect him to have a similar impact on their new-and-improved power-play group, which will likely feature Whitney, too.
While it looks highly doubtful that the Stars will play Jagr on their first line, it’s uncertain exactly where he’s going to fit until the club starts the preseason in early September. The more realistic role for him might be on the second line, which wouldn’t be a bad role at all for the experienced Czech.
A likely question from skeptics is how much does Jagr truly have left in the tank? The answer won’t be known until the season gets under way.
However, No. 68 still contributed 54 points (20-34-54) while appearing in 73 games for Philadelphia last season. The Flyers were the third-highest scoring team in the NHL last season and Jagr definitely played an important role in the framework of that club’s high-powered offense.
Maybe he can bring some of those offensive principles that worked so well for Peter Laviolette’s Flyers last season to Dallas and help revitalize a club that had its share of problems scoring goals last season. The ranked eighth in the Western Conference with 211 goals scored in 2011-12.
Still, Jagr, who turns 41 in February, is most likely in Dallas for just one season, but he figures to have a measurable impact on the club’s young core. He still has the skills to provide some offense, whether it’s at even strength or on the power play.