Jaromir, the Everblades, and the Money of Minor League Hockey

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With Jaromir Jagr still unsigned, which some people think is odd for a 45-year-old to be unsigned at this point in the free agency period, the shenanigans have begun. The Florida Everblades of the ECHL have made the first pitch to keep Jagr in North America and keep him in Florida, as well.

This is a kind of minor league gimmick we need, as the last time this has happened– I think– is when the Bakersfield Condors offered a contract to Justin Bieber. Sure, it won’t work, but to get the team some press (especially in the summer months) is a pretty smart marketing idea. Plus, it goes with a trend of Jagr signing in areas that are tax-free places to play during the season.

But….what if it did work?? What if Jagr goes, “You know….the hell with it, I’ll play in the ECHL, stay in America with my adoring fans, and really shove it up the asses of the NHL people who passed me by.” It would be something Jagr has never done, playing in the minors, and it could be something he would want to put on his bucket list and check off…but maybe a Spengler Cup would be one, as well, but that’d require him to go back to Europe for that.

Look, it’s the 30th season of the ECHL, which is a solid milestone for the AA-level league. You’d have to think that they would love to have someone like Jagr in their league for this noteworthy year. Yet, is there anything the league or the Everblades can do to get this done without violating the salary cap. For 2016-17, the ECHL salary cap was $12,600 with a rookie minimum of $445 and returning player minimum of $500. Some elite veteran players can make north of $1,000, but that comes at the expense of their teammates’ wallet.

Plus, you can’t expect the ECHL as a league to help out with Jagr’s contract when other teams don’t get afforded the same ability to get a superstar player or have help from the league to have and keep an elite player on their roster. You can’t expect the league to make an exceptional player clause for every team like the MLS does for one player to not have their salary against the salary cap.

Or can they?? It’s a slippery slope, especially for a league with a lot of independent owners with little to no NHL support coming back the other way…but it’s an interesting concept for a minor league to do in order to attract some players that may have some contract situations in the NHL or AHL or even over in Europe. Yet, you look at the IHL and what had happened to some teams who went the route of signing hold-out NHL talent– and it didn’t end well.

Not only that, but you can’t blame Jagr for balking at this, especially since he still believe he has more value than a minor league contract (no offense) and that he could just go over to the Czech Republic and play for the team he owns and get plenty of bank for returning and getting plenty of the gate receipts that go with it.

All of this depends on what Jagr wants to do with his career, what the ECHL wants to do for publicity, and what people want to do with their dollars should he do something like travel around the bus leagues and see cities he’s only flew over in charter flights.

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