Published April 05, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired a shocking amount of talent in the days leading up to Wednesday's trade deadline, while the Columbus Blue Jackets certainly pulled off the most stunning deal of the day.
But don't dismiss the move the Boston Bruins made in getting veteran forward Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. The rest of the Eastern Conference certainly should not.
Many have the Penguins ranked as the post-deadline winners, a title they claimed well before the actual zero hour for making trades. Pittsburgh acquired a pair of former captains in forwards Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow in addition to defenseman Douglas Murray in three trades over a span of four days last week.
And Wednesday's actual deadline was shaping up to be a snooze fest until the Blue Jackets went all in on a playoff spot by dealing away three players and a draft pick for slumping forward Marian Gaborik.
But the moves are by no means slam dunks. Pittsburgh now faces the task of blending in three new players in a shortened season that has just 10 games left for the Pens and is doing so without the game's best player in Sidney Crosby, out with a fractured jaw.
The Penguins will only go as far as Crosby can take them. That was true before the trade deadline and remains a fact afterward as well.
And the Blue Jackets? They swung a move in the hopes of reaching the playoffs for just the second time in club history and while that goal is certainly more attainable with Gaborik in the mix, his presence hardly morphs Columbus into Stanley Cup contenders.
The opposite can be said about the Bruins, who merely sliced off just two young players and a conditional draft pick for a talent in Jagr, who doesn't need the spotlight to help Boston in its quest for a Stanley Cup.
The days of Jagr being a dominating force who can pile up 90-point seasons and single-handily take over a game are gone, but what the Bruins did get was an experienced veteran who can take the pressure of some of their young stars.
"Well, of course, I wish I could do that, but I'm not 25 anymore. That's the one thing. Another thing, I don't think this team really needs it," said Jagr of having a big impact on the club. "They won the Cup two years ago and when you look at the top guys, they're still here, so they know they can do that. For me personally, I wish I could somehow help the team to produce better and not play bad."
Head coach Claude Julien said it best after the Bruins acquired Jagr on Tuesday, noting the addition is meant to help the Bruins, not save them.
"That's what people have to understand," Julien said. "He's a great player, and he still is a great player, but at the same time, if we expect to watch him do the work, we're not going to be going anywhere. We need our team to play better and he's certainly going to help our team be better."
Jagr, who can still muscle people off the puck with the best of them, did that in his Boston debut on Thursday, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Ironically, his goal didn't even come off his stick. In fact, his 15th goal of the season came on a deflection off his skate following a centering feed from Brad Marchand as Jagr crashed the net.
Julien said after the game it was a perfect example of what Jagr can teach to his players, displaying what he liked to call net drive.
"It doesn't have to be a highlight goal but he was heading to the net and he wasn't going to get pushed to the side and it went off his skate and in. That's a good example for the rest of the younger guys on the team to take from a guy who's still doing it at that age," noted the coach.
The goal was the 680th of Jagr's career and he also has logged 1,680 points over that time. So, he certainly has some wisdom to share with a Bruins club whose top-six forwards before the trade were all 27 or younger. That includes Patrice Bergeron, who Jagr replaced in the lineup after the former recently suffered a concussion.
In Thursday's win, Jagr skated on a line with the 24-year-old Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, who just hit the legal drinking age on Jan. 31.
"Even at the morning skate, it was a little nerve racking being out there with him," Marchand said following the win. "I just felt like, yeah, you've got to get it to him all the time and watch him do his thing. You grow up watching this guy and he was the best player throughout my childhood and it was an honor to watch him. A little different playing with him now, but a lot of fun."
Boston's playoff chances were already in pretty good shape before Jagr got there and Thursday's win only continued that push. The Bruins enter play on Friday with 52 points, one back of the Montreal Canadiens for both first place in the Northeast Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand. They are also within striking distance of the Crosby-less Penguins, who top the East with 56 points.
Jagr could be the piece that shifts the balance in the conference to Boston. Even with his best days behind him, he has shown he can still handle his own in the NHL.
Following three seasons playing in Russia, Jagr returned to North America for the 2011-12 campaign and had 54 points in 73 games with the Philadelphia Flyers. He led the Stars with 14 goals and 26 points at the time of the trade.
On Thursday, he showed he doesn't even need his stick to score goals.
"Sometimes you have to be lucky to score," Jagr said. "I think that's the first time I scored with my leg. When I was 25, I wouldn't have liked that goal, but at 41 I'll take anything right now."
Maybe even another championship.