The Montreal Canadiens need to bolster their scoring depth before next season, and one player who general manager Marc Bergevin should sign to strengthen his club is future Hall of Fame winger Jaromir Jagr.
The 41-year-old veteran is one of the top forwards still available on the NHL's free-agent market, and he is generating some interest from a few clubs, according to Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period,.
And Jaromir Jagr's agent has said there are 3 teams in the mix. Not sure if that still includes MTL or not. $$ a factor here.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 7, 2013
How much closer would the Canadiens be to contending for a Stanley Cup with Jagr?
Well, he won't be the final piece of the puzzle, but the veteran would make a positive impact on the club in a few different ways, which would improve its chances of making a deep playoff run.
One of the weaknesses that Montreal should address in the offseason is a lack of size at forward, specifically on the top three lines. Most of Montreal's forwards who are over 6'0" tall and weigh over 200 pounds are bottom-six players.
Physical teams that are equipped to defend forwards with speed and skill are going to be successful against the Canadiens. This was evident in Montreal's first-round series, when the team was dominated by an Ottawa Senators team with more size, grit and toughness up and down the lineup. Ottawa won the majority of the physical battles and wore down the Canadiens over the five games.
At 6'3" and 240 pounds, Jagr protects the puck very well and rarely loses possession when defended by bigger and stronger defensemen. His ability to keep the puck is especially valuable on the power play, where he's also able to display his impressive playmaking skills.
Even though Jagr didn't score in the Boston Bruins' playoff run last season despite taking 58 shots and hitting many posts, he did tally 10 assists, some of which reminded us of his glory days with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s (see video below).
During the regular season, Jagr tallied an impressive 26 points (14 points, 12 assists) in 34 games with the Dallas Stars, then added nine points in 11 games with the Bruins during Boston's late-season slump.
Montreal plays a much more open and offensive style than Boston, which is a better fit for a player like Jagr.
In addition to the offensive skill and size Jagr brings to the ice, he would be a tremendous mentor and teacher for the Canadiens' younger players, including Calder Trophy finalist Brendan Gallagher and 2012 first-round pick Alex Galchenyuk.
Not only does Jagr have plenty of wisdom and knowledge to pass on to these players, he would also set a good example for them to follow with his work ethic and dedication to maintaining peak hockey shape. After many Bruins playoff games, Jagr could be seen skating and doing drills on the TD Garden ice long after players and fans went home.
The Canadiens, for the most part, are a young team without a lot of championship experience.
As a two-time Stanley Cup winner and someone with 202 games of playoff experience, Jagr would be a useful postseason player for Montreal. He played 17:55 minutes per game for Boston during the postseason, and head coach Claude Julien used him in many different situations, including late-game scenarios and special teams.
Signing Jagr to a contract longer than one year would be a mistake. For a single season, though, the veteran winger could have a positive impact on a Montreal team that needs additional skill and depth in the top nine.
The Bruins didn't become a legitimate contender until veteran forward Mark Recchi joined the team in the 2008-09 season to provide leadership and championship experience. Jagr could play a similar role for Montreal as it attempts to build a championship-caliber roster.
He's not going to help the Canadiens make the leap from a first-round team to a Stanley Cup finalist at this stage of his career, but he would aid in the development process.
Jagr has played for six different NHL teams in his legendary career, but he's never signed with a Canadian club. Based on his past success of fitting in quickly with new teams and coaches, Jagr should be able to make a smooth transition to the Canadiens lineup and play an important role in the team's success.
With 22 players already under contract for next year and only $4,086,667 of salary cap space, Bergevin's best option in free agency is a short-term deal for Jagr.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft. Salary information via CapGeek.