Report: Panthers told Jaromir Jagr they would offer a new contract, then didn't

Days after one NHL relic was all but abandoned by his team and forced to head overseas, another may be traveling the same road.

No one says Jaromir Jagr, a hockey all-timer who remains a free agent in search of a new team at 45, is bound for the Kontinental Hockey League like ex-Montreal Canadiens veteran Andrei Markov. But Jagr, who is wondering aloud why he hasn't yet found a new home after a 16-goal, 82-game season in his 40s, may have been misled by the Florida Panthers, his last team, before enduring his ongoing stint on the open market.

In a New York Post story suggesting the NHL's increased emphasis on speed has left aging veterans like Jagr without much interest, Larry Brooks reported late Saturday that the Panthers originally told Jagr they would offer him a new contract for 2017-18, then didn't.

We have it on good authority that Jagr was told at the end of the season by Florida management a contract offer would be forthcoming following the expansion draft, but then the pledge evaporated. Perhaps the change of heart followed the hiring of Bob Boughner as head coach.  

Brooks' report aligns with what the NHL itself said early in June, when Jagr and the Panthers were said to be discussing a new deal. And perhaps the arrival of Boughner, who is just 46 himself, did influence a reverse of course in plans, especially if the transition to a new regime coincided with added emphasis on Florida's youth movement.

Plans can and do change quickly, of course, but if the changes the Panthers apparently made regarding Jagr prove to be the start of the league's slow, unceremonious and rather unjustified phasing out of one of its ageless icons (and, more importantly, a still-productive forward), it could be remembered as much more than a mere change of heart.

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