Thursday marked the 18th anniversary of the blockbuster Jaromir Jagr trade that sent the Pittsburgh Penguins legend to the Washington Capitals for prospects Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk. In his final season with Pittsburgh, Jagr racked up his fourth consecutive Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in points. Shortly after the Capitals acquired Jagr, they signed him to a seven-year, $77 million contract – with an option for an eighth – the most ever for a hockey player at that time.
But Jagr’s first year in Washington did not meet expectations. It was a disaster. The future Hall of Famer’s numbers plummeted from 121 to 79 as did the team’s record (96 standings points to 85). The Capitals missed the playoffs, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference. Jagr stayed in Washington for only three seasons total before being dealt to the New York Rangers at the 2004 trade deadline. The Capitals only made the playoffs once during his time in Washington.
Jagr addressed the deal with humor on his Instagram page.
“Caps fans. Sorry it didn’t work out, but I try my best,” Jagr wrote. “After 18 years we should look the positive way. If I would play very good, you would never had a chance to draft OVI. And you would probably didn’t win the cup last year😀👍…….. you welcome😎”
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Caps fans. Sorry it didn’t work out, but I try my best. After 18 years we should look the positive way. If I would play very good , you would never had a chance to draft OVI. And you would probably didn’t win the cup last year😀👍…….. you welcome😎 11.7.2001 jsem byl poprvé trejdovám z Pittsburgu do Washingtonu. Má 1 sezóna za Caps prý byla hrozná 😳, ale i tak jsem byl 5 v bodování a to jsem vynechal 13 utkání 😀💪🇨🇿 ……nevím no, CHVÁLA JE PŘÍJEMNÁ , KRITIKA POTŘEBNÁ – Jaromir Jagr #jagr #caps
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He added in Czech, “July 11, 2001 I was traded for the first time from Pittsburg (sic) to Washington,” Jagr wrote as translated by Alexandra Petáková. “They say my 1 season with the Caps was terrible 😳, but even so I was fifth in scoring, even though I missed 13 games 😀💪🇨🇿……well idk, PRAISE IS NICE, CRITICISM NECESSARY”
During Jagr’s opening press conference in Washington in 2001, he expressed a lot of excitement
“When I came here, I didn’t know what to expect,” Jagr said according to the LA Times. “Then I heard the promise to win the Stanley Cup in five years. Maybe three years now. That’s pretty exciting. This is the place I wanted to be. It’s been a long time since I won the Stanley Cup. I came into the league and won two in a row and thought it was going to be easy. It’s not that easy.”
After averaging 112 points per season, Jagr had 79 and 75 points in his only two full seasons with the Capitals. But the forward’s massive contract, as well as gambling debts and unpaid taxes, proved to be distractions.
“It didn’t sit well with them that they’re there and they’re plugging away and following the game plan and being good soldiers and this guy just waltzes in and gets a seven-year, $77-million contract,” former Capitals assistant coach Tim Hunter said in an interview with the Associated Press in 2017. “They kind of let them rule the roost [in Pittsburgh]. Mario would come out for practice when he wanted and he would leave when he wanted and then Jaromir started to get into that. They didn’t wear their helmet. They didn’t wear their shoulder pads. They just went out there and went through the motions and they did what they wanted.”
“Everyone expected the same number of points that I had in Pittsburgh,” Jagr added in 2017. “It was just a different team, with a different style, different players and different coaches. I was never going to put up as many points as in Pittsburgh.”
“It seems like a simple thing that you could just add a star player to your lineup and the lineup’s going to be better, but you learn it’s more about team construction than quality of the player you’re bringing in,” former Capitals general manager George McPhee said. “I don’t think there’s anyone to fault or blame. It was a good try that didn’t work.”
After the Capitals traded away all their veteran players at the 2004 deadline, they won the NHL draft lottery and took Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick.
And the rest is history.
Maybe we were too hard on Jags.
Players to average more than 1.00 P/GP with @Capitals (min. 150 GP):
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 11, 2019
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