NHL Free agency is coming this Saturday, July 1st, and with the crop a little bit thin in the NHL this offseason, there's going to be a lot of teams hunting for an ideal piece in a market that may not have many of them.
It's the kind of market where lateral thinking and creativity might be more important than hitting a home-run. After all, with no marquee free-agents out there, there are no "guaranteed" targets.
So, we're going to go off the beaten track a little here. Thinking a little differently.
After all, that's what the Coyotes management has had to do the past few years and even before then, it's something John Chayka has already become famous for.
Which makes this tweet from one of the greatest NHL players ever very interesting indeed:
Everywhere I look,I read:all FA getting calls from10-12teams. Me0 calls.On the contrary,I'm trying to call them,and no ones picking up.— Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) June 29, 2017
Now, granted, Jaromir Jagr is 45 years old. He is not the player he was in his prime.
He is, however, a player who scored 27 goals and nearly 70 points in the NHL at age 44. Last year he scored nearly 50 points in the NHL with a Florida team that, well, wasn't bad, but certainly wasn't a team he could coast on.
He's still lethal in front of the net, and at age 45, can do things like this:
Why Not Arizona?
Granted, signing Jagr would go against what appears to be the Coyotes strategy next season. It seems strange to let a 41-year-old captain go in Shane Doan because they believe there may no longer be a place for him, and then sign a player who will be 46 by the time the season ends.
Normal logic would say that there is no way a 45-year-old will be able to produce any longer on a young, fast team. Normal logic would say that the last thing the Coyotes should be doing is signing a player who has an excellent chance of being older than the combined age of many of his linemates. Normal logic would say that there is no way on this earth or any other that the Coyotes should be picking up the phone to call Jaromir Jagr this offseason.
So you consider this and then you realize: Jagr is a player who takes normal logic and crumbles it into a pretzel, before taking a huge bite out of it and saluting the universe as he does it. He is not the same as other NHL players.
His physical conditioning is still as good as a player fifteen years younger. At 6'3 and 229 lbs, he's got the size most power forwards can only dream of, even in today's NHL.
His shot is still lethal and he has the kind of puck-handling, even "slowed down by age", that most 18-year-old NHLers watch and weep that they'll never be able to reach.
His skating is powerful, direct, and skillful, more than capable of keeping up with young, fast linemates.
But most importantly for Arizona, perhaps, is his puck protection skill. This is a player who, at 45, can still retain possession of the puck in the offensive zone better than the vast majority of the rest of the league and win board battles for fun. His puck protection and ability to "hold up" play in the offensive zone until support or space can be found by a teammate is almost unsurpassed in the league. His big frame and reach have been lethal enough throughout his career, but with a quarter-of-a-century of NHL experience, it's arguably the Czech's most lethal weapon.
To watch Jagr protect the puck turns the mundane beautiful and the utilitarian into art - like a shovel painted by Picasso, or Francis Ford Coppola filming a building site. It reveals artistic depths in the use of brute strength and body positioning you never suspected could be there.
That artistry is something the Coyotes will need this season as they charge forward into a new era, a player who can provide the power to go with the skill and speed and win the kind of battles that allow the speedsters to do their thing.
Then, there's the mentorship. Imagine players like Clayton Keller and Max Domi being taught playmaking and patience daily from one of the greatest playmakers in the game. Imagine Lawson Crouse and Christian Fischer being taught how to use their big, power-forward frames by a Picasso of puck protection. Imagine Anthony Duclair being coached on his shot by one of the most lethal shooters ever to play the game of hockey.
Signing Jagr in Arizona to play (most likely) for a year with the middle six forwards and on the powerplay would leave ripples in the desert sand far beyond his time here. It would provide far more than the 15-20 goals and 50 points he'd likely leave on the scoresheet.
It would drive several of the Coyotes who have hopes of following in his footsteps forward in their own game and have an impact on them, both on and off the ice - the learning experience would be beyond priceless for a team that is slowly finding its identity - and give the man himself a chance to leave his mark in the desert for several years to come to add to an already glittering legacy.
It makes sense, too. As my colleague Seth pointed out earlier this week, the Coyotes need reinforcements at RW, just where Jagr plays. It's a match that works on every level.
All John Chayka has to do is pick up the phone and dial 68.
We think that has to be a call worth making. What about you?