We are a month away from hockey and three aging, veteran offensive players still don’t have teams: Shane Doan, Jerome Iginla, and Jaromir Jagr.
The question on the mind of every hockey analyst: which team is the best fit for each of these veterans? Looking around, it doesn’t appear that most out there believe the Nashville Predators are among the best fitting teams.
Why not? These players should be looking for any opportunity to win a Stanley Cup in the twilight of their careers, and the Predators were a measly two games away from winning it all last year.
Unquestionably, they all deserve a spot somewhere. Just look at their stats from last year...
Shane Doan, 40
Last Season with the Arizona Coyotes: 6G, 21A, 27P, 74GP
Doan has played his entire career with the Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes. In fact, he was with the franchise for one season while they were still the Winnipeg Jets 1.0. Doan will be remembered as the most important player in the first 19 years of Coyotes hockey.
Jarome Iginla, 40
Last Season with the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings: 14G, 13A, 27P, 80GP
Iginla has bounced around the league for several years. However, most memorably, he was a dominant force for the Calgary Flames for many years, nearly leading them to a Stanley Cup in 2004. Iginla is quite possibly the biggest thorn in the side of the Preds in history.
Jaromir Jagr, 45
Last Season with the Florida Panthers: 16G, 30A, 46P, 82GP
Jagr will turn 46 during the 17-18 season, and he played all 82 games last season. He’s a freak of nature.
These three veterans could all be valuable middle six contributors on most NHL rosters, but...
Marleau Made a Mess of Things
Clearly, all three of these players could be key contributors to the 2017-2018 Nashville Predators. However, there’s a simple reason why none of these players are currently on an NHL roster. On July 2nd, Patrick Marleau and the Toronto Maple Leafs priced them out. Marleau signed for three years, 18.75 million. His 46 points last season would have placed him in fifth on the Preds roster, only behind the JOFA line and Roman Josi. While the 6.25M cap hit seems fair considering the leadership and point production Marleau is capable of, the three years is worrying if you’re a Maple Leafs fan. We have no idea where Marleau’s production will be when he turns 40 during the 2019-2020 campaign, but the cap hit remains 6.25M.
At 38, Doan put up 36 points for the Arizona Coyotes. Last season, he put up 27 points.
At 38, Iginla put up 47 points for the Colorado Avalanche. Last season, he put up 27 points.
At 38, Jagr had just returned to the NHL from the KHL, and he put up 54 points for the Philadelphia Flyers. Last season, he put up 46 points.
Jagr is a freak of nature and a complete statistical anomaly. How the man continues to put up those kinds of numbers is astounding. I struggle to think of what kind of contract suits Jagr. There’s no modern precedent for what contract to give a 45-going-on-46-year-old legend who still puts up top six forward numbers. The thought of a balanced second line of Aberg-Bonino-Jagr should make Preds fans salivate. However, the team’s cap room currently sits at about 4.45 M. Jagr’s value might exceed that number.
One year deals for Iginla or Doan will be much less than what the Leafs paid for Marleau. However, what can Iginla or Doan give you that the return of Scott Hartnell can’t already provide? Iginla’s skill set in particular seems fairly redundant after the addition of Hartnell. Also, Hartnell’s age (35) promises more aggression than Doan and more speed than Iginla.
These players should want to play for a Predators team that will be a contender next year, but I just don’t see any of Doan, Iginla, or Jagr fitting with the roster and cap room as they currently stand. If these players continue to sit among the free agency pool as the season begins, either Doan or Iginla could be looking at one year, $1-2 million contracts as stretch run rental players.
Nashville will not likely take a chance on these rentals, unless:
A) Young players like Gaudreau, Aberg, and Sissons do not take the next step in their games.
B) The hockey gods frown upon Nashville in the form of injuries to major players.
With regular season hockey still about two months away, these three veterans seem no closer to signing NHL contracts. These players deserve better, but the Predators would be wise to sit this one out for now.