Accolades keep piling up for veteran Panthers forward
SUNRISE, Fla. — Jaromir Jagr‘s Florida Panthers teammates have been impressed by the perseverance and dedication that has led to his nomination as their nominee for the Masterton Trophy. But there’s also a level of surprise at how productive Jagr has continued to be during a season when he turned 44 years old.
“I think everybody is [surprised], right? That he can keep such a high level at that age,” goalie Roberto Luongo said after practice Friday at BB&T Center. “The crazy thing is we don’t know when that level is going to drop off. It could go on for another five, six years, hopefully. We’re obviously happy that he’s able to play at that level and we’re hopeful that he can continue for a while.”
In his 23rd NHL season, Jagr leads the Panthers with 61 points and is tied for the lead with Vincent Trocheck with 25 goals.
Jagr’s two assists Thursday in a 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils helped him reach 60 points for the 18th time in his NHL career, third-highest behind Gordie Howe (21 times) and Wayne Gretzky (19).
Jagr also became the oldest player in League history to have 60 points in a season.
With five games left in his first full season with Florida, Jagr has matched the Panthers’ highest point total since 2007-08, achieved by Stephen Weiss in 2008-09 and Tomas Fleischmann in 2011-12, the last time Florida qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“When we got him at the trade deadline last year, Jaromir Jagr, it’s a name you throw out there and people say, ‘Oh wow,'” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “But did I expect him to get 60 points this year and did I expect him to do what he did last year? I knew he was going to be a good player, but I never expected that.”
“You have to love this game if you want to play at age 44 and play like he plays every night,” Barkov, 20, said. “He gives 100 percent. He tries to get ready for every game. He works out at 5 a.m. That means that he loves the game, he wants to get better and he’s 44, it’s unbelievable.
“It’s an amazing thing to be here and follow him and try to see what he does off ice and on ice.”
Jagr has missed 11 games in the past four seasons.
“I’m always learning and I’m trying new, different stuff,” he said. “It’s just me. I’m not planning to retire, so I’m trying to learn every day. This year I started doing my regular stuff, regular normal workout I always did, then for two months I tried to rest a lot more, and the last probably three, four weeks I started working the hardest I ever could, and I just found out I feel the best when I work the hardest.
“My worst feeling was when I was resting. I heard rest is the weapon, but I guess it’s not working for me.
“I feel good when I go to work and I can produce on a high level. When I see some kind of positive result, that’s the most important thing to me.”
The Panthers traded two draft picks to get Jagr from the New Jersey Devils in February 2015. He signed a one-year contract after last season, the fifth consecutive year he signed a one-year deal.
As general manager Dale Tallon had done before, Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu made clear after the first intermission of the game against New Jersey on Thursday that he would love for Jagr to sign again for next season.
“We’ll talk to him at the end of the season; if he wants to be here, he’ll be here,” Cifu said. “It’s hard to say no to a legend who’s got 25 goals. It’s hard to not want to have him come back here. Fans love him. We love him. He’s been a great influence. He’s on our top line. So it’s hard to say no. But, again, it’s going to be entirely up to him. He’s a one-year-contract guy.”
Jagr said Friday his blueprint is to focus strictly on the current season, to “finish one job before you start another one.”
Jagr was one of three finalists for the Masterton Trophy in 2014 when the award was won by Dominic Moore of the New York Rangers.
“He hasn’t overcome adversity, per se, but he’s overcome the adversity of growing old and the aches and pains that go with that,” Cifu said. “And the dedication this guy puts in, I think he’s a very, very deserving person for it.”