Jaromir Jagr won't be back with the Boston Bruins, even after he helped them reach the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at the ripe old age of 41. But that doesn't mean he won't be returning for his 20th NHL season.
In fact, it's more than likely that Jagr is back on the ice when the 2013-14 NHL season begins.
ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald helped break the news on Twitter that Jagr's days in Boston were numbered just after the Bruins were bested by the Chicago Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup:
Chiarelli also told Jagr team would not re-sign him.— Joe McDonald (@ESPNJoeyMac) June 26, 2013
As McDonald reported on Friday, the Bruins have signed Jarome Iginla to a one-year, $6 million contract, ending any outside threat of a potential return to the Eastern Conference champions for an encore next season.
According to Jagr's agent Petr Svoboda, several teams are in pursuit of the winger with the NHL's league-wide free-agent chase is in full swing.
Speaking to the Associated Press' Larry Lage, Svoboda revealed that his client "definitely still wants to play" in the league next season and that there are three teams that are "very interested" in making the dream of playing another full season a real possibility.
Svobada declined to comment on which teams are chasing his client.
As noted by Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that lack of candor could mean many things when it comes to the reality of Jagr's situation:
Remember when Petr Svoboda said something like 14 teams wanted to sign Jagr last year? That was awesome.— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) July 6, 2013
Rumors are all we have about those teams right now, but the Montreal Canadiens have once again emerged as a hot-button team contending to bring Jagr north of the border.
TVA Sports' L.A. Lariviere is reporting that the Habs and Jagr are in talks about bringing the winger to Montreal next year:
Jagr 'is in no rush to sign'. Agent speaking to 'a few teams'. Looking for a one-year deal. #Habs— L.A. Lariviere (@L_A_theRiver) July 6, 2013
Josh Rimer quickly refuted that report, leaving us somewhat clouded on whether or not a deal with Montreal is actually in the works:
From what I hear Jagr will not be signing with the Canadiens.— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) July 6, 2013
It's no secret that the Habs have long been after the former first-round draft pick.
This offseason marks the third straight year that Montreal has been chasing Jagr in free agency. Last summer, he was reportedly offered a one-year contract in the neighborhood of $4 million. TSN's Darren Dreger was one of many who substantiated a Jagr-to-Montreal idea in 2012:
@drosennhl @IMadhavji. Jagr wants to play in Mtl, but other teams say he wants $4 mil for 1 year. May take some time.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 2, 2012
He would instead sign with the Dallas Stars, who gave him right around those terms in free agency. Jagr performed well in Dallas, totaling 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) and proving he could help a contender at the trade deadline.
Dallas flipped Jagr to Boston, where his impact for the Bruins helped the franchise come within two wins of the Stanley Cup.
Where will Jagr be when the 2013-14 NHL season begins?
Sean Gentille of Sporting News thinks Jagr is a classic fit with the Habs, noting that the market is drying up and the Canadiens could use help on the wing despite Danny Briere's place on the roster.
It's unclear which other teams are chasing Jagr right now. Lariviere's second tweet about the 41-year-old taking his time in negotiations should lend itself to the idea that his other suitors (if there are any) will come forward in the next few days.
The former NHL MVP is past his prime, but he's also one of the few all-time talents who can play at a high level and be over the hill.
If you buy the latest crop of rumors, it's no longer a matter of if Jagr will return next year. It's now a matter of when.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.