What was reported on Monday has now become official today, Jaromir Jagr is the newest forward for the New Jersey Devils. The team has proclaimed the news on their official site, complete with big splash page when entering the site and a transcript of a media conference call with Jagr. While the Devils' website doesn't officially list the terms of the deal, Andrew Gross wrote at Fire & Ice that it is reportedly a one-year deal with a total of $4 million. However, it's not directly $4 million. Jagr will get a base salary of $2 million with the other $2 million coming in bonuses. According to this article at Sportsnet, Chris Johnston's tweets are cited to note that the bonus is in games played. If Jagr plays 45 games in 2013-14, then he gets the whole bonus.
This designation is important because teams are allowed a bonus cushion that's worth 7.5% of the salary cap. This season, that cushion is approximately $4.8 million. As CapGeek explains in this part of their FAQ, the bonuses apply at the end of the season. So the $3.3 million the Devils have set for bonuses - $2 million for Jagr, $1 million for Zidlicky, and $300k for Olesz - would count in April. If this puts the Devils' over the cap, then they pay a penalty in the following season worth how much they went over. What this means right now is that the Devils still have about $7.8 million in cap space left. Adam Henrique remains unsigned but he will sign at some point. There's plenty of space for him under the cap without risking an overage. That's a reason to like how this contract is structured.
There is a crunch with respect to the roster though and it could mean that Henrique's new contract may signal the end of anything major by the Devils this summer. With Jagr signed, the Devils are up to 47 contracts on their reserve list. Henrique and Dan Kelly are RFAs and they'll likely be #48 and #49. All teams are limited to 50. The Devils are expected to be right up against it. They may have some wiggle room, though. Damon Severson and, apparently Stefan Matteau, can slide this year of their entry level contract, which will open up another spot on the reserve list. Still, this may limit them should they want to sign other players or trade for players. Even if you put the reserve list aside, Henrique signing will make 15 forwards up with New Jersey. Everyone can't play so there will be some tough decisions regarding what to do with players. Likely, some will be sent down. But what this means is that I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope for the Devils signing many others with this one.
Let's go back to Jagr. The negatives are apparent. He's 41, he'll turn 42 before Martin Brodeur will, he doesn't really play defense all that well, he's not as fast as he once was, and I wonder how his body will hold up on a schedule featuring 22 back-to-back games. There are positives. He plays right wing, a position the Devils needed help at. Even at his advanced age, Jagr has put up about 0.75 points per game over the last two seasons, which is a good rate of production. He's been in good in possession in those same two seasons according to Behind the Net. While he's received favorable zone starts (as he should), he hasn't faced scrubs either so I don't expect him to be a black hole when he's on the ice. He's averaged over two shots per game in those past two seasons too. Also, the majority of his points have come at even strength in 2011-12 and 2013. He has not just picking his spots on the man advantage. He's only missed a total of 12 games over the last two regular seasons so there's some reason to think that durability won't be a big issue. Lastly, he's a name and that could help a little bit at the box office, the merchandise stand, and for general buzz. It's no accident his face is right on the front page of the Devils' site. I'm sure the j-shirts and jerseys and whatnot are soon to be ready to be sold.
Jagr is essentially a short-term solution and it could turn out to be a good one. On the recent Talking Red, I wasn't all that enthused about possibility of signing him. I'd rather have Brunner and I still feel that way to a point. I'm warming up to the notion of Jagr as a Devil, admittedly. (Aside: I wonder how the Penguins faithful feel about the October 3 game against New Jersey now.) The fact that half of his potential salary can come in bonuses helps me like the signing. It means that he's not really hurting the team much on the cap. I can definitely live with only a guaranteed $2 million to Jagr and if he plays enough, then the bonuses may turn out to be worth it. I'm still concerned as far as how much he'll really bring to the table. Again, Father Time is undefeated and I can't say I'm 100% behind the idea that he'll be a significant scorer over an 82 game season as he turns 42. I'm hoping to be proven foolish if it happens.
Now that it's for real and we know the term, how do you feel about the signing? Let me know in the comments and/or vote in our poll. Thanks for reading.