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Monday, July 22, 2013
Jagr to Devils: It can't hurt

By Mike Mazzeo

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr won't make up for the stunning departure of Ilya Kovalchuk, but he can help.
Don’t expect Jaromir Jagr to score 35-40 goals next season.

After all, the 41-year-old winger hasn’t produced 30 goals in a season since 2006-07.

But if he lives up to reasonable expectations, Jagr, who agreed to terms with the New Jersey Devils on a one-year contract Monday, should be able to light the lamp somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 times.

And while that production wouldn’t entirely make up for the stunning departure of Ilya Kovalchuk, it would help.

Jagr had a very productive regular season in 2012-13, with 16 goals and 19 assists in 45 games between Dallas and Boston. He did not find the back of the net in 22 playoff games for the Bruins, but did notch 10 assists and had numerous scoring opportunities.

Jagr is no longer the elite player he once was, but he’s still strong on the puck and can help the Devils on the power play.

Here’s what New Jersey’s line combinations could look like next season:

Patrik Elias-Travis Zajac-Michael Ryder

Ryane Clowe-Adam Henrique-Jaromir Jagr

Rostislav Olesz-Andrei Loktionov-Dainius Zubrus

Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier

Again, Jagr can’t and shouldn’t be relied upon to make up for the loss of Kovalchuk by his lonesome.

Elias, 37, fresh off signing a three-year contract to remain a Devil, needs to be as consistent as he was last season, when he recorded 36 points and was a plus-five.

Zajac, 28, needs to bounce back after having a down year in which he scored just seven goals and was a minus-five. New Jersey rewarded Zajac with an eight-year, $46 million deal last offseason, and so far, though it’s still early, he hasn’t lived up to it.

Clowe, 30, and Ryder, 33, need to produce after landing multiyear deals from the Devils in free agency. Clowe had just three goals last season and has a concussion history, while Ryder had a very strong 2012-13 -- netting 16 goals and collecting 35 points -- and needs to carry that over to 2013-14.

Henrique, 23, had a sophomore slump last season after vaulting New Jersey to the Stanley Cup Finals with his overtime-winner against the Rangers as a rookie in 2012. He has a ton of skill and needs to live up to his potential next season.

If the likes of Elias, Zajac, Clowe, Ryder and Henrique actually step up and elevate their games, they’ll be able to soften the blow caused by Kovalchuk’s departure.

It will be interesting to see how GM Lou Lamoriello proceeds from here.

Will he stand pat or make another addition or two to the forward group?