Ageless Jagr starts yet another season with Panthers
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — Guy Lafleur turned 65 this week, which is notable in the sense that the Hockey Hall of Famer was still playing in the NHL during Jaromir Jagr’s rookie season.
That was 26 years ago.
Another year goes by, another training camp arrives for Jagr, the 44-year-old who led the Florida Panthers in scoring and helped key their run to an Atlantic Division title last season. He’s not easing into the season either — his after-practice workout regimen Friday lasted nearly as long as his time on the ice.
“Expectations are high,” Jagr said. “But every year’s a different year. Nothing’s a guarantee. There’s a lot of teams that wanted to get better because they didn’t make the playoffs, so we have to get better even though we did make the playoffs.”
That’s why the Panthers changed their roster even after a playoff year, including adding defenseman Keith Yandle on a free agent contract for seven years and $6.35 million per season.
Yandle and Jagr got tangled up during a Day 1 camp scrimmage, and Jagr wound up on the ice.
“He says he slipped,” said Yandle, who tried to help Jagr to his feet.
“I just wanted to give him some confidence,” a smiling Jagr said afterward.
They both laughed about the hit, and Yandle — who’s played against Jagr for years — said seeing how the NHL’s third-ranked career scorer goes about his business is already making an impact on him.
“I think he brings out a little more in everybody,” Yandle said. “Just being around him for a week or so, you want to impress him, you want to put in your best effort whether it’s with him in the gym or on the ice. It’s one of those guys that you know what he’s done in this league and what he’s still doing at 44 years old. He pushes everybody a little bit more.”
Jagr didn’t need much time this offseason before deciding to return to the Panthers on another one-year deal. He raves about linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov — both of whom are about half his age — and says he’s excited about seeing what Florida can do in a year where internal expectations may be higher than ever.
“Of course I am. If not, I wouldn’t be here,” Jagr said. “It’s tough to do any job if you’re not excited about it. You go to work, be miserable, it’s not going to help anybody and especially not going to help you.”
NOTES: The Panthers added forwards Stephen MacAulay, Ryan Horvat and Brady Vail to their training camp roster Friday, pushing the total number of players to 54. That doesn’t include World Cup players Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen and Barkov. ... G Roberto Luongo, who had offseason hip surgery but was fully cleared to participate, said there was more excitement than usual for the first day of camp. “You get a little more jump in your step than usual,” Luongo said.