It took a little longer than last season, but the end result is the same: Jaromir Jagr is returning to the Florida Panthers for at least another season.
Jagr and the Panthers agreed to a one-year contract on Thursday after the 44-year-old forward led Florida in scoring with 66 points and was second behind linemate Sasha Barkov with 27 goals.
The Panthers did not disclose terms of the deal, but it is thought to give him a slight raise to a $4 million base deal with $1.5 million in performance bonuses. Jagr was paid out almost $2 million in bonuses this season.
“Pavel Bure is probably the last star this organization has, so bringing in Jaromir Jagr was a boon for the Florida Panthers franchise,” general manager Dale Tallon said last month.
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“He’s a star name who gave us credibility in our market. He’s one of those rare guys who don’t come around very often. We’re very fortunate to have him.”
Jagr’s biggest influence — aside from his scoring — was helping Florida’s young players, including Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, who both had career years last season.
“He brings dedication and passion and it has helped our entire organization,” Tallon said.
“Our young guys think they are working hard and then they see what he’s doing. It draws guys in. They’ve made more of a commitment. It’s been nothing but a positive.”
This season, Jagr helped the Panthers win the Atlantic Division and reach the playoffs for just the third time since 2000. Florida lost in the opening round to the New York Islanders, and Jagr ended with no goals and two assists.
Jagr said he looks forward to being a bigger postseason asset to the Panthers in 2017.
“I’m very upset about the playoffs,” said Jagr, who has gone 37 consecutive playoff games without a goal.
“I didn’t play in them for three years and sometimes with the confidence, you don’t score for a couple games and you put pressure on yourself. Even me, at my age, I learn a lot from that. I’m going to be more ready than I was this year.”
Said teammate Vincent Trocheck, who grew up watching Jagr during his days in Pittsburgh: “He’s the seventh wonder of the world. It’s crazy to think I grew up watching him, lived around the corner from him. I had a VHS highlight tape in which half belonged to Jagr. Now I’m playing with him. It’s just incredible.’’
GALLANT UP FOR COACH OF THE YEAR
It’s been quite a year for Gerard Gallant.
Not only did the Panthers coach become a grandfather for the first time, but he also coached Florida to an Atlantic Division title in his second season and was behind the bench at All-Star Weekend.
On Thursday, Gallant was named one of three finalists for the Jack Adams Award, which honors the NHL’s coach of the year.
Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who is a former Florida assistant, and Washington’s Barry Trotz were the other two finalists for the award.
“We’re real close, know we could have done better and next year we will,” Gallant said shortly after Florida’s best season in franchise history ended with 47 wins and 103 points.
“This was a good learning experience for our team. Would I love to be playing? Definitely. But you learn from your mistakes and move forward. Hopefully if we get the opportunity to make the playoffs, we’ll be better.”
The Panthers will be well represented at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 22.
Not only will Gallant be there, but Tallon also is expected to be a finalist for general manager of the year.
Barkov was previously named a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy and Jaromir Jagr is a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
“We finished with 103 points and had the success we had,” Gallant said. “We have a good group of guys here. We have a good mix of veterans and young players. Our team was real successful.”