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Penguins Retired No. 68 for Jagr. Florida Panthers Should Be Next

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Jagr
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Jaromir Jagr will eventually be a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

It is a matter of when he decides to stop playing, and based on how he looked practicing with the Pittsburgh Penguins last week, that may be a ways off.

The Penguins did retire the No. 68 worn so famously in Pittsburgh by Jagr on Sunday, and it was time to do so.

Pittsburgh has retired the numbers of two players in its storied history — Mario Lemiuex’s No. 66 and the 68 of Jagr.

The Florida Panthers should put No. 68 in their rafters as well.

There will be pushback to this.

Jagr came to the Panthers in 2015, well after his glory years with the Penguins, and only spent parts of three seasons in Sunrise.

But those were some strong, albeit final years, for Jagr in the NHL.

His time in South Florida was memorable, and his impact on the team continues to be felt.

Jagr’s final full year in the NHL came with the Panthers during the weird 2016-17 season, where he continued to play alongside Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on Florida’s top line.

That’s where Gerard Gallant placed him as soon as Dale Tallon traded for him before the 2015 deadline.

It is where Jagr helped Barkov, and Huberdeau turn from potential to NHL stars.

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Jagr set several NHL milestones with the Panthers, including hitting second on the all-time scoring list by assisting on a Barkov goal against the Bruins.

Jagr also put a spotlight on the Panthers when they seriously needed it.

In parts of three seasons, Jagr played in 181 games with Florida and was named captain of the 2016 All-Star Atlantic team.

He scored 16 goals with 30 assists in 82 games with the Panthers in 2016-17. At the end of that season, Florida decided to move on.

Jagr signed a contract with Calgary, but injuries proved too much.

Jagr and the Flames parted ways during the middle of that 2017-18 season, the 45-year-old playing in just 22 games. He scored a goal and had five assists.

The way Jagr’s NHL career ended should have no bearing on the Panthers retiring his number.

The Panthers have retired three numbers — two designated to represent founding fathers Wayne Huizenga and Bill Torrey.

Roberto Luongo and his No. 1 is the only number retired for a player in the franchise’s history.

There will be more, Barkov’s No. 16 to start.

The Penguins and Jagr had a rough relationship in the years after he left. 

Still, the team held a classy reunion this weekend, including Jagr practicing with his old team and taking warmups Sunday, a little while after his number was raised to the roof.

If the Panthers decide to honor Jagr in the same way, it will take a lot to top that.

But it is time to talk about doing something.

Pittsburgh always should have been the first place Jagr’s number was retired.

It was where he was drafted, where he stole a city’s heart as part of back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.

Jagr and the Penguins kissed and made up.

Now, the Panthers can bring Jags back to South Florida as well.

“There’s no question about it,” Jagr said on Sunday. “When you ask anybody, I think would say in the world, in Czech or in Europe, and when you say Jaromir Jagr, they’re going to say Pittsburgh Penguins no matter where I played after that.”

Well, the Panthers should want to have a say in that.

Jaromir Jagr was here.

And it was outstanding.

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ON DECK

OTTAWA SENATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Ottawa: Panthers 5, Senators 0 (Nov.27); April 4. At Florida: Tuesday; April 9
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Ottawa leads 57-45-5, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Carolina, 7 p.m.

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