Flyers fans may not like him right now, but they can't deny that Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has a flair for the dramatic.
A week after he traded one of the NHL's premier goal scorers in Jeff Carter and a Flyers captain and perennial Selke Candidate in Mike Richards, Holmgren did the unthinkable: He signed Jaromir Jagr. Jagr, the same 39-year-old former Penguin with a notorious knack for torching the Flyers. The same Jagr who has not played a game in the NHL for over three years. The same Jagr who, when he finally hangs up his skates, will be admitted to the Hockey Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Any Flyers fan from the Lindros era will tell you that in his prime, Jaromir Jagr might have been the most dominant winger in the history of the game. He had one of the strongest pairs of legs ever seen on a hockey player. He had a pair of world-class hands. He had the vision to see a play unfold in slow motion. He had the size and speed to simply will himself—along with his trusty puck—to any spot on the ice he wanted to go. And once he got there, it was game over.
Then 10 years passed.
The Jaromir Jagr the Flyers signed does not have those same monstrous legs he once did. He doesn't have the endurance of his younger self. He doesn't have the ability to simply will the puck into the back of the net any longer. All of this begs the question: Why would Paul Holmgren sign a 39-year-old future Hockey Hall of Famer to a one-year, $3.3 million contract?
The answer is rather simple: Paul Holmgren didn't need to sign the Jagr of old.
What he needed to do was acquire a player capable of scoring between 50 and 70 points while playing 16 or so minutes per game. What he needed to do was bring in a player that understands how to properly run a power play from the half boards. What he needed to do was find a player who can mentor über-talented and underperforming youngster Jakub Voracek.
Holmgren found all of that and more in the 39-year-old Jagr.
After the dust from the overpayment party known as Free-Agent Frenzy 2011 settled, Paul Holmgren had to be happy with the acquisition of Jagr. He only committed the Flyers to a one-year deal. The average annual value of the contract was a mere $3.3 million, significantly less than the AAV of contracts signed by comparable players like Ville Leino, Erik Cole and Tomas Fleischmann. All of those aforementioned players also signed deals at least four years in length.
Paul Holmgren has essentially put the Flyers into a low-risk, high-reward situation. The absolute worst that can happen here is the Flyers waive Jagr, pay his salary and get on with their season.
Money isn't an issue for Ed Snider and the Flyers, and the team has more than enough ammunition to make a midseason acquisition should the Jagr experiment fail. The best case scenario is Jagr shows up with that legendary competitive fire burning in his eyes and reminds the NHL world why he is considered to be among the best to ever lace up a pair of skates.
And he teaches Voracek how to be a dominant force on the right wing in his spare time. You know, when he's not hosting the Jaromir Jagr show live from the Flyers dressing room.
Either way, Paul Holmgren and the Flyers won. And that outcome is the hallmark of genius.