Jaromir Jagr wants to stay with Panthers for 24th NHL season

The Florida Panthers tumbled from the top of the Atlantic Division to outside the playoffs this season, having been eliminated in the Eastern Conference race. They were slammed by injuries, they fired coach Gerard Gallant and the optimism of last season turned into frustration in 2017.

But Jaromir Jagr tells the Sun-Sentinel that none of this has soured him on playing next season, and playing with the Florida Panthers if they want him:

“We’re already playing for the future right now,’’ Jagr said. “Nothing will make a difference [on my decision]. I still love the game and still want to get better every day I step on the ice. Nothing has changed for the last 20 years I play hockey, so the drive is still there. In my mind, I still always believe I could get better. No matter I love the game, I’ll have to wait and see what happens.

“This organization was so good to me. They give me a chance; they traded for me. … I love it. I play with very good talented players the last few years here. I love it, I love it and nothing has changed. It doesn’t matter we didn’t make the playoffs, nothing has changed. I’m the one to be blame, too, so … I have to wait until we finish the season.”

Panthers interim head coach and general manager Tom Rowe said he and president of hockey operations Dale Tallon haven’t spoken about Jagr’s future. “We’ll talk about it next week. Sixteen goals, I don’t know how many total points he has, maybe 40-plus. That’s pretty good, so he’s still producing” he told the paper.

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Jagr has 16 goals and 27 assists in 78 games. It’s the lowest points-per-game average in his career. But for everyone writing him off at 45 years old (!), know this: He’s had a respectable 14 points in 27 games since February, the second year in a row where his ancient body finished strong. And the majority of his season totals were posted without having linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov, as both battled injuries.

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Most impressively: He remains a possession beast. Jagr had a 55-2-percent Corsi rating at 5-on-5, and a plus-6.96 Corsi relative to his teammates. That might be an indictment of the Panthers’ depth – Shawn Thornton, Derek MacKenzie, Thomas Vanek and Nick Bjugstad are all under 48 percent Corsi – but also of Jagr’s possession driving.

The Panthers have a call to make here, and Jagr’s made his case rather well.

Besides, if not Florida, then where?

I mean, we all want to see him in Vegas, a.k.a. his natural habitat.

On the plus side, he could probably finally skate beside countryman Tomas Plekanec in the NHL. On the minus side, is there any way George McPhee brings in Jagr after what happened in D.C.? Sure, we’re all a little older and wiser, but there’s still a better chance McPhee signs Martin Erat.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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