Last Wednesday, the Bruins watched Jarome Iginla slip away to Pittsburgh. They were not prepared to allow their secondary target to go elsewhere.
The Bruins acquired Jaromir Jagr from Dallas Tuesday for Lane MacDermid, 2012 fifth-round pick Cody Payne, and a conditional 2013 second-round pick. The second-rounder will become a first-round selection if the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference finals this season.
“There’s no doubt he’s going to help us,” said coach Claude Julien. “He’s coming to help us. He’s not coming to save us. That’s what people have to understand. He’s a great player. He still is a great player. 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. He’s certainly going to help our team be better. I like the acquisition. He’s a big, strong guy. Hard to knock off the puck around the net area and in the corners. He seems to suit our needs and what we’re all about.”
Jagr is scheduled to arrive in Boston Wednesday. He could make his Bruins debut Thursday at TD Garden. Jagr will wear No. 68.
“His career speaks for itself,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “He’s a strong player, protects the puck well. It’s consistent with our style in the sense that there’s a cycle element to his game. He’s good on the half-wall. Really good release, shot. He’s just a really good player.”
The Bruins were desperate for scoring punch, especially after losing out on Iginla. Entering Tuesday night’s match against Ottawa, the Bruins had scored only 16 goals in their last eight games. The Bruins were 3-4-1 during that stretch.
The 41-year-old Jagr, an icon in his native Czech Republic, becomes the Bruins’ leading goal scorer. In 34 games for Dallas this season, the right wing has 14 goals and 12 assists. Brad Marchand entered Tuesday night’s game with 14 goals.
The move strengthens the Bruins’ attack. Jagr most likely will debut on the No. 3 line on Rich Peverley’s right side. Jagr still can control the puck and lug it into scoring areas. He remains one of the NHL’s strongest players on the puck.
“In this day and age, in this game, you have to have the strength, body, fortitude – whatever you want to call it — to get to the net, whether it’s to take a shot, get there, or protect the puck,” Chiarelli said. “Jaromir has that. We’re happy to get him in this rich trade market.”
The third line has been an offensive nonentity. The line has not scored an even-strength goal since Chris Kelly suffered a broken left tibia on March 11. Kelly missed his 12th straight game Tuesday night. If the Bruins are at full health when Kelly returns, Peverley could switch to the left side.
“Obviously there’s a need on the third line,” Chiarelli said. “He’s got a higher-line pedigree. What I said to Jaromir is that we pride ourselves on four strong lines. He’s an important part, but not the part to success. He could be on the third line. There are times when our fourth line’s been our third line and vice versa. It depends on who’s going. We try to even it out. He seemed very receptive to that.”
Jagr also could see shifts alongside countryman David Krejci. The two played together in the 2010 Olympics. Nathan Horton, currently Krejci’s right wing, could slide down to the third line.
Chiarelli acknowledged that prior to the trade, he questioned Krejci and captain Zdeno Chara about whether Jagr would be a good fit on the roster.
“He’s a big name, especially back home,” Krejci said. “I never really thought I would have a chance to play with him on a real team other than a national team. So it’s pretty cool and I’m looking forward to it.”
Jagr’s strength, shot, and creativity should help the power play, No. 24 in the NHL entering Tuesday night’s game. The Bruins haven’t had a left-shot forward as skilled as Jagr since Marc Savard suffered his career-ending concussions. Jagr has scored six of his 14 goals on the power play. Jagr can man the right-side half-boards, the goal line, and the net-front area.
The Bruins have been stacked on the left side of their power-play formation. Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, and Peverley, all right-shot forwards, have shuffled through the left side. Opposing penalty kills have not had to worry about the right side.
With Jagr adding balance on the right side, he could be a cross-ice passing option for Seguin from the left-side half-wall. If Jagr walks the puck off the wall into the slot, drawing penalty killers, he could dish to Chara or Dougie Hamilton at the top of the umbrella.
“He’s a strong half-wall player on the power play,” Chiarelli said. “He can roll off the top of the circle and really fire the wrist shot and make plays. He’ll help us out on the power play.”
In Dallas, Jagr lined up most recently with Jamie Benn and Eric Nystrom on the No. 1 line. Last season in Philadelphia, Jagr scored 19 goals and had 35 assists while skating alongside Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux on the Flyers’ first line.
In 1,380 career NHL games, Jagr has 679 goals and 1,000 assists. Those 1,679 career points are eighth-most in NHL history. The future Hall of Famer won two rings in Pittsburgh.
Jagr is on a one-year, $4.5 million contract. He will be an unrestricted free agent at year’s end.
The Bruins gave up some sandpaper in MacDermid. The 6-foot-3-inch, 205-pound MacDermid is a straight-line player who is quick to shed the mitts when necessary.
The fourth-line left wing appeared in only three games this season (3:34 average ice time per outing). MacDermid was a healthy scratch for 21 straight games before the trade. The 23-year-old MacDermid would have been subject to waivers had the Bruins assigned him to Providence.
After getting the word from Bruins management, MacDermid returned to TD Garden Tuesday afternoon to claim his gear. He wasn’t sure whether he’d be traveling to Anaheim, Calif., to join the Stars or to Dallas.
“It’s kind of cool,” MacDermid said of being dealt for Jagr. “I grew up watching Jaromir play. He’s an amazing player. To be part of that deal is pretty cool.”