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Jagr: 'I still want to play hockey'

Panthers forward excited to return next season; unsure about World Cup

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Jaromir Jagr hasn't been in contact with his Florida Panthers teammates since their elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs because he has been busy enjoying vacation time with his girlfriend.

But it'll be back to business as usual soon. Jagr will be preparing for his 23rd NHL season, as he knew all along he would.

Jagr, 44, agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Panthers on Thursday, ending any notion that he might be ready to end his legendary career.

"I talked to my agent; he knows I love it here," Jagr said during a conference call Friday. "I love being around the team and around Florida. We were talking, [and I told him] try to get the deal done. I don't want to go somewhere else. I still want to play hockey, I don't want to go anywhere else at this stage. 

"I would probably have to if nobody wanted me in Florida, but my agent and the organization made a deal. I don't want to wait until July 1 to start everything again."

Video: FLA@OTT: Jagr slams home Barkov's pass in front

Jagr said there was never a moment when he considered retiring, either during the regular season or the playoffs, when he managed two assists in the Panthers' six-game loss to the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round.

"Everybody goes through their ups and downs, it doesn't matter how old you are," Jagr said. "I still love the game. That's the most important thing to keep playing hockey and the other things around that … there's a lot ups and downs in the game and you just have to take [the negative] the same way you take all the good stuff."

Jagr led the Panthers with 66 points and was second with 27 goals, one fewer than linemate Aleksander Barkov. Jagr scored the most goals in the NHL by a player to start a season age 43 or older, and he became the oldest player with at least 60 points in a season.

"I'm happy with the place where I'm playing, everything around in the organization, starting from the first guy to the last guy," Jagr said. "Very young, talented players. The pressure is very high. I feel like we have a chance. I like to play where I am."

Jagr moved past Gordie Howe into third place on the NHL points list (1,868), surpassed Brett Hull for third place on the goals list (749), and became the sixth NHL player with 1,100 assists, the 10th player with 1,600 regular-season games and the fifth with 200 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: BOS@FLA: Jagr collects assist to move past Howe

Jagr trails Howe by 52 goals for second place; his 1,119 assists have him 16 behind Paul Coffey for fifth place; and he needs 20 points to move past Mark Messier into second place behind Wayne Gretzky.

But Jagr said climbing the lists is not his goal as he looks to next season.

"I've got only one thing in my mind," Jagr said, "it's just to get better than I was last year, to learn from the mistakes, make sure I'm coming back next year and be better and sounder than I was this year."

Jagr, who will turn 45 in February, said he felt great physically after the season and rejected the idea that he might benefit from sitting out games during the regular season, particularly when the Panthers have back-to-back sets.

"I'm never sore," he said. "I don't get tired. My body doesn't get tired. … I don't believe if you rest more that you're actually going to play better. If I'm not going to play good, I have to work harder to be better. That's all. I actually feel better the second game than the first game."

One thing Jagr remains unsure about is whether he'll play for the Czech Republic in the World Cup of Hockey in September.

Video: FLA@TOR: Jagr takes selfie with fan during pregame

"I'm not going to answer that," Jagr said. "First I want to talk to the [Czech Republic] GM, Martin Rucinsky. I think we're going to make a decision after that. We have a lot of time to go."

Jagr was not among the first 16 players named to the Czech Republic roster March 2, but there is room to add him with the seven remaining roster spots to be decided by June 1.

"I don't really know what's the deadline to add more players to the World Cup roster," Jagr said.

Jagr continued his trend of signing nothing but one-year contracts after coming back to the NHL from the Kontinental Hockey League in 2011.

He was asked if he would have considered a two- or three-year contract.

"First of all, nobody would offer me that," Jagr said. "I just only do one year. If things don't go well, I'm just not going to play anymore."

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