Michal Beránek (iSport.cz)
The 40 year-old future Hall of Famer will soon make his highly-anticipated Stars debut
Over the years, the Dallas Stars have been no stranger to making a huge splash in free agent waters.
Brett Hull, Ed Belfour, Bill Guerin, and numerous other great NHLers chose Dallas as their free agent destination in the past, and while the results were sometimes mixed, they almost always had an impact on the Stars organization in one way or another.
This summer the Stars, after a few years of being quiet in free agency, once again made some of the biggest waves by signing one of the most legendary hockey players of the modern era, Jaromir Jagr, a man that is guaranteed to have as unique of an impact on the organization as any free agent that came before him.
Jagr's resume, spanning over two decades, is nothing short of staggering: One Hart Memorial Trophy as NHL MVP. Three Lester B. Pearson Trophies as MVP as voted by the NHLPA. Five-time Art Ross winner as the league's leading scorer. 1653 points over 1346 games, good enough for 8th in NHL history. Gold Medal playing for the Czech Republic at the 1998 Olympics, along with a myriad of other international accolades.
Mike Modano is, and will probably always be, the best Dallas Star, the perennial heart and soul of the franchise, but with all due respect to Mo, the minute Jagr takes his first shift here he will be the most accomplished hockey player to ever don a Stars uniform.
There's also no denying the intoxicating aura that still surrounds him: the untamed hair, confident smile and unrelentingly positive attitude have been trademarks of the forward's personality since the early '90s, and they haven't gone anywhere in recent years. It's practically impossible to not fall in love with the guy, so that infectious personality is sure to be as big of a hit in Dallas as it was when Jagr played in Philadelphia last season.
Signed to a one-year contract, possibly the last of his career, there was legitimate worry that the lockout would have deprived the Stars and their fans from seeing Jagr ever actually take to the ice in Dallas, but with the lockout ending as of early Sunday morning the hype surrounding Jagr's debut has been building rapidly.
For such a proud franchise that has fallen on tough times recently, the addition of Jagr is a bold statement that Dallas is just as much of a hockey city as it ever was.
At 40 years of age, Jagr is certainly at the tail end of his career. Although he's long past the days where he was scoring 100 points in a season, the wily veteran is far from finished, and what he brings to the ice will be more than just fond memories. He's determined to show the hockey world that he still has what it takes to be a dominant player in the NHL.
"I'm not going to promise you anything," said Jagr, as reported in this Puck Daddy article from the summer. "I can tell you one thing I'm going to give 100 percent to be the best I can be. I just cannot be average. I cannot do it."
Last season Jagr played alongside Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell on the top line for the Philadelphia Flyers and did not look out of place, scoring 54 points in 73 games. While Dallas' lines for the suddenly upcoming season aren't yet set, Jagr is strongly considered to be in the team's Top 6, and he could possibly even play alongside Jamie Benn on the top line.
While many NHLers haven't seen game action since the end of 2011-2012, Jagr has been keeping himself busy with his hometown HC Kladno, a team that he owns, in the Czech Republic's top league. While the Czech Extraliga isn't at the same level of competition as the KHL or SEL, Jagr's play there over the last few months is impressive nevertheless, with 57 points in 34 games, a solid pace that will hopefully carry back over to the NHL. Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec, for comparison sake, is also playing on HC Kladno and only has 46 points in 32 games.
Here is a video of HC Kladno's fans giving Jagr a loving sendoff after his final game with the team:
Possibly the most intriguing thing about what Jagr brings to Dallas will be what is left when he's gone.
Jagr built a reputation over his career as being a devout fitness fanatic, a player that was the last out of the gym or the last off the ice after a practice, and his commitment to winning is second to none. Giroux, who is coming off of a breakout season and is quickly blossoming into one of the NHL's elite forwards, was full of praise for the mentorship that Jagr provided him. Could playing with Jagr have the same impact on the young Jamie Benn, or other young forwards on the team?
With the lockout-shortened NHL season now set to begin on January 19, the long wait for Jagr's Dallas debut will finally be over. It might only be for as short of a span of 48 games, Jagr's time in Dallas could be one that is remembered, felt and talked about for years to come.