Veteran forward says he loves game, won’t speculate on future

SUNRISE, Fla. — Jaromir Jagr, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, declined to speculate about his future Monday but said he still enjoys playing hockey and loves being with the Florida Panthers.

“I first have to finish the season,” Jagr said before the Panthers lost 4-1 to the Montreal Canadiens at BB&T Center. “But the way I look at it, I’m already playing in the future right now.

“I still love the game. I still want to get better every day I step on the ice. Nothing has changed the last 20 years I’ve played hockey. The drive is still there. I still believe I can get better. The main thing is I love the game, so I have to wait what’s going to happen.”

Jagr, 45, is playing on a one-year contract, the sixth straight season he’s done that. He signed his latest one-year contract with the Panthers on May 5.

Panthers coach/general manager Tom Rowe, who acquired Jagr in a trade from the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26, 2015, said management has not had any discussions about Jagr’s future.

Asked about Jagr’s performance this season, Rowe said: “It’s pretty good. He’s still producing.”

Jagr’s power-play goal

Jagr, whose 1,911 points (765 goals, 1,146 assists) are second in NHL history, has 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists) this season and is one of six Panthers to play in their first 79 games.

“I love it here, any minute I was here,” Jagr said. “The organization was so good to me. They gave me a chance. They traded for me. They gave me a great opportunity. I love it. I play with very good and talented players the last few years here. I love it. I love it here and nothing has changed.”

After winning the Atlantic Division last season, the Panthers were defeated by the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Florida (33-35-11) will not make the playoffs this season.

“It doesn’t matter if we lost or we didn’t make the playoffs,” Jagr said. “Nothing has changed. I’m the one to be blamed too.”

“I care a lot. I want to play the best I can play,” he said. “I know it’s not going to be very good, but hopefully in some games I can be better.”

“I always go there to perform at a high level. It’s not about me. It’s about the team and about my teammates. I want to help them. I don’t want to be there just to be there. I want to help them, make them better.”

Wednesday will be Jagr’s 1,712 NHL game, fourth on the League’s all-time list. His 765 NHL goals are third behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801).

“Nobody really cares what you did 20 years ago,” Jagr said when asked about his career accomplishments, which include five NHL scoring titles. “Show me what you can do for us now.”

Jagr’s work ethic has already made an impression on his new teammates.

“Just to see how hard he’s worked in the last week has really impressed a lot of our people, just with the amount of time he puts in on his game,” Gulutzan said. “That leaves a good impression on guys.”

The Flames wanted to make sure Jagr was ready for game action before putting him into the lineup.

“He needed to get up to speed. I mean, it’s not like there was a perfect day. He had no training camp. As much as everyone wanted him to come in and play and just jump in, he needed to skate and play and get up to speed,’ Gulutzan said. “He flew from [the] Czech [Republic] on Wednesday. He’s a great player, but he needed to play and skate and have some practices under his belt with the group.”

The Flames are 2-1-0 after winning 2-0 at the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.

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