Jaromir Jagr re-signs with Devils
Right wing Jaromir Jagr, who led the New Jersey Devils in scoring this season, was re-signed to a one-year contract Wednesday.
"I think [Devils general manager] Lou Lamoriello wanted to know what kind of direction he wanted to go, so both sides wanted to do [the contract] quickly," Jagr said on a conference call. "I didn't mind that at all. I was happy here and had no reason to change. If I'm happy somewhere and feel like the other side is interested, there's no reason to change."
The announcement came on the same day Jagr was named one of three finalists for the 2014 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an annual award given to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
The Devils named the 42-year-old right wing the team's most valuable player after he led the club in assists (43), points (67), plus-minus (plus-16), game-winning goals (six) and shots (231). He ranked second on the team with 24 goals.
Jagr said he enjoyed having Peter DeBoer as his coach and is looking forward to an even better season in 2014-15.
"I felt like we didn't have really great superstars or goal scorers, but I think the system we play gives us a chance to compete against anybody and beat anybody," Jagr said. "If you follow the system, you don't have to be great to be able to have success or hope that the team you play against will have to have a bad night in order to win. If we really work hard and follow the system we have a chance, and maybe it's just my feeling, but that system gave me confidence that we can go out there and win the games."
Jagr, who will enter his second season with the Devils in 2014-15, ranks 20th all-time in games played (1,473), seventh in goals (705), eighth in assists (1,050) and is tied for sixth with Steve Yzerman in points (1,755). He is the NHL's all-time leader with 124 game-winning goals, including 18 overtime goals in 20 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and Devils.
A member of the Penguins' 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup championship teams, he has 78 goals, 121 assists and 199 points in 202 career games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Jagr is confident the Devils will be a contender next season. New Jersey failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season in 2013-14.
"We made a lot of mistakes during the season and I felt like we were able to play against the good teams, but lost a lot of points against teams that didn't make the playoffs," he said. "If you're a good enough team, you should grab those points, otherwise it's tough to get them later on in the season. We got in this situation where we had to win almost every game [down the stretch] to get into the playoffs, and it's tough. There's too much pressure and we have to learn from that."
Jagr was a pleasant surprise for the Devils after signing a one-year, $2 million contract last July. He was looked upon to fill the void created when Ilya Kovalchuk decided to return to play in his native Russia during the offseason. Despite playing in 105 games in 2012-13 while splitting time between Europe and the NHL with the Stars and Bruins, Jagr remained an offensive force.
"You don't play into your 40s unless you're really working at it, working at your body, working at your conditioning, taking care of yourself," DeBoer said during the season. "And you have to love the game. It's a grind. People don't realize how tough an NHL season is, night in and night out. You have to have a real passion and love for the game to keep doing that at this high of a level.
"He's a very intelligent guy. He's got a high IQ, and if he can help us score a few more goals by sharing some of that knowledge with our guys, I'm more than open to that."
Jagr's play rejuvenated Travis Zajac, who usually centered the top line with him. In 80 games Zajac has 18 goals and 48 points, his highest total in four seasons. He had 25 goals and 67 points in 82 games during the 2009-10 season.
"I know I play the best hockey when I'm happy, and we had a good group of guys," Jagr said. "I was getting ice time and I like to play a lot. I don't get tired much, so I really enjoy that. It was a loose atmosphere; we work hard, but there's not one bad guy on our team.
"Maybe we need one or two [bad guys] to make the playoffs."