Dale Tallon believes his Panthers are a playoff team, and Thursday he got them some help in their quest by acquiring future Hall of Fame winger Jaromir Jagr from the New Jersey Devils.
Hours before Florida lost 3-0 to the visiting Blackhawks at BB&T Center, Tallon swung a deal bringing the 43-year-old Jagr south for a pair of draft picks.
Jagr, the NHL’s active leader in just about every category, is expected to be in South Florida on Friday and make his Panthers’ debut Saturday against the visiting Sabres.
“We’re committed to winning,’’ said Tallon, whose team has lost four in a row but remains two points back of the final playoff spot.
“We want to win a championship. We’re putting the pieces together, step by step, and we’re hopeful that Jaromir can lead these young guys to the promised land. It’s a win-win for us.”
Thursday’s loss put a spotlight on Florida’s biggest weakness — a lack of scoring. Jagr, obviously, knows a little something about putting the puck in the back of the net.
Jagr broke in with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990 and won a pair of Stanley Cups alongside Mario Lemuiex.
A nine-time All-Star and 15-time 30-goal scorer, Jagr has slowed a bit over the years but should bring the Panthers an added spark on a power play ranked 27th in the league and give them a dangerous scoring option on one of Florida’s top two lines.
Thursday, the Panthers were shut out for the second time in eight games; Florida has been held to two goals or fewer in five consecutive games.
“He’s still got it,’’ Tallon said. “He’s still outstanding, still great to watch.’’
Jagr had 11 goals in 57 games with the Devils and recently complained of diminishing playing time since New Jersey fired former Florida coach Pete DeBoer in December.
In 1,530 NHL games, Jagr has 716 goals and 1,068 assists. Jagr also scored 66 goals in three seasons in the KHL from 2008-11.
“This is a real jolt for a team that’s winning and close to the playoffs,’’ said Chicago television analyst Ed Olczyk, a teammate of Jagr’s for two seasons in Pittsburgh.
“This is a real strong message to the players in that locker room that their management is serious about winning.’’
The price for Jagr wasn’t cheap — but wasn’t all that steep either.
Florida will give up its second-round selection in this upcoming draft (hosted by the Panthers in Sunrise) and a conditional third-round pick in 2016. The Panthers will also pick up around $850,000 in salary.
What Florida gets back is a tireless worker whom the Panthers hope will give the team’s young players invaluable guidance.
Thursday, Tallon said he hoped Jagr would return to play with the Panthers next season — and beyond.
“I’d love to see him play another year or two here,’’ Tallon said. “That’s what his goal is. His fitness level is second to none.’’