Florida Panthers

Jagr will wait to decide future; Ekblad, Barkov and Luongo could be done for season

adiaz@miamiherald.com

Jaromir Jagr said on Monday he was going to wait until the official end of this season before he decides what his future plans entail.

For three other prominent members of the Florida Panthers, their immediate future may have already been taken care of.

As Jagr contemplates another NHL season — perhaps with the Panthers — interim head coach Tom Rowe said Aaron Ekblad would likely not play again this season after coming back from a concussion on March 21 and complaining of headaches.

Goalie Roberto Luongo, out since leaving Florida’s loss in Philadelphia on March 1 after one period, is not expected to play again this season either.

Sasha Barkov has missed the past three games with an undisclosed upper body injury and could be finished for the year as well.

The Panthers have four games remaining including Monday’s game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m.; FSFL).

With the Panthers long eliminated from playoff contention, the risk to bring back players doesn’t seem to go with any sort of reward.

“He’s day to day,” Rowe said of Ekblad before putting Luongo and Barkov in the same category, “but it’s unlikely we’re going to play him.”

Jagr brushed off reports out of his native Czech Republic which said he had told teammates he wouldn’t be returning to the Panthers next season.

Both Jagr and the Panthers have not discussed a potential return although that is how the two sides have operated since Jagr joined the Panthers at the end of the 2014-15 season.

In both 2015 and 2016, Jagr and Florida worked out a one-year deal following the season.

Jagr says he’s going to finish this season — his 25th in the NHL — before anything else will happen.

“We’ll wait for the season to end,” Jagr told reporters following Monday’s morning skate in Sunrise.

“The way I look at it, we’re already playing for the future right now. I love the game, still want to be better every day I step on the ice. Nothing has changed in the 20-something years I have played hockey.

“The drive is still there, in my mind, I still believe I can get better. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

As far as wanting to return to Florida, Jagr seems open to the idea. The Panthers are believed to be open to having Jagr return for at least one more season.

“I love it here, every minute,” he said. “The organization was so good to me; gave me a chance, traded for me, put me with good and talented players the past few years here. I love it, love it here. Nothing has changed. Other than not making the playoffs, nothing has changed.”

Although Jagr hasn’t had his most statistically productive season, he has played well on Florida’s top line despite missing line partners Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau for large chunks of the season.

Jagr, 45, is second on most of the NHL’s all-time lists and has 16 goals and 43 points this season.

Going into Monday, Jagr is one of six Florida players to have appeared in all 78 games this season.

Other Florida players to go in all 78 to date: Defensemen Keith Yandle, Mark Pysyk and Jason Demers as well as forwards Vincent Trocheck and Derek MacKenzie.

Being out of the playoffs, Jagr said, is no excuse to give up on the games remaining.

“It wasn’t easy, but we’re professionals and we have to take it as it is,” Jagr said. “It’s our fault. We are the guys to be blamed. Everyone. But hopefully the guys who stay here, who play here next year learn from this. It’s not fun playing in these games and everyone should remember that.

“Even though we’re professional, and you should give 100 percent and have motivation in your own game, you need motivation to make the playoffs. We have nothing to play for, just pride. We have to learn from that. You don’t want that feeling again.”

▪ James Reimer, out since last week after colliding with Brian Boyle in Toronto, could be back in the lineup Thursday against St. Louis.

Reto Berra will start Monday with rookie Adam Wilcox backing up.

▪ Defenseman MacKenzie Weegar was called up from the minors on Saturday night and will make his NHL debut Monday.

Weegar had been recalled by Florida last month when Ekblad suffered his concussion aaginst the Lightning but didn’t play in four games and was sent back to the minors when Ekblad returned for his one game.

On Monday, Weegar said he planned on having a nice group of family (including mom Louise and dad Scott from Ottawa) and friends in the building for his debut game.

“I was happy to get that [earlier] call up because I knew they had faith in me,” Weegar said. “Now I’m getting a game and I’m very excited about it. I’m going to make the most of it.”

▪ Rookie defenseman Ian McCoshen, Mike Matheson’s teammate at Boston College, was also recalled from the minors but will not play Monday.

Rowe said he McCoshen will make his NHL debut Thursday against St. Louis.

Monday: Canadiens at Panthers

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.

Series: Tied 42-42-6.

Scouting report: Montreal has won two of three this season against Florida, including a 6-2 home win Thursday as the Canadiens took a 3-0 first-period lead. … The Canadiens have won four games in a row and clinched a playoff spot by beating the Panthers.

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