When a superstar athlete from the 1990s is still playing at an elite level well over 20 years later, they are something special. Jaromir Jagr fits that bill to a t. He has been an elite player in this league for decades and is one of the best players of all time.
Jagr first began to skate at the age of 3 and by the age of 16, he was playing at the highest level in the Czech Republic against men much older than him. And his skill was getting him some attention in the west as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins made him the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NHL draft. He was only 18 when drafted and was the youngest player in the league during his rookie year.
Jagr immediately began producing for the Penguins and was an important part of their back to back Stanley Cup winning teams in 1991 and 1992. And over the next couple of years, Jagr quickly became one of the best players in the league and among the top scorers. This would continue until about the 2000-01 season when Jagr began to lose his scoring touch a little bit. He faced criticism and due to his huge salary (which the Pens couldn’t afford anymore), he was traded to the Washington Captials.
The Caps also made Jagr the highest paid player in NHL history and even though he was expected to be great, he failed to live up to expectations. For the better part of 2003, the team was trying to trade him but very few teams were willing to take on his $11 Million per year. Eventually, they found a trade with the Rangers and Jagr was headed to the big apple.
His time in NY was good, but it was clear he was not the player he was in Pittsburgh and as a result, Jagr’s contract was not renewed in NY and thus he became a free agent for the first time in his career. And instead of fielding offers from NHL teams, Jagr went to the KHL where he stayed from 2008-2011, and most thought his NHL career was over.
However, Jagr eventually returned to the NHL in 2011 and played for multiple teams over the last few years but didn’t really impress that much during his stint. However, beginning in early 2015, Jagr was traded to the Florida Panthers and seemed to turn back the clock. He was tremendous for the Panthers in the 2015-16 season and actually led the team in scoring as a 44 year old and in reward for his strong play and amazing leadership qualities, the team signed him to a one year extension.
It will be interesting to see how Jagr does as a 45 year old player in today’s NHL but even if he doesn’t do well, his resume is nothing short of spectacular. He is the best European player in NHL history and has a number of awards and accolades including: 5 Art Ross Trophies, 3 Lester B. Pearson Awards and 1 Hart Trophy as well as being third all-time in NHL points and third in goals.