Aleksander Barkov

Agitator extraordinaire Ville Nieminen calls it a career

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One of the NHL’s more colorful characters is stepping away from the game.

Ville Nieminen, who appeared in 385 career games with Colorado, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Calgary, San Jose, St. Louis and the New York Rangers, announced his retirement over the weekend after playing his final game in the Finnish League.

Nieminen, 38, made a mark for himself in the vein of former Oilers pest Esa Tikkanen, developing a reputation as a gritty, annoying and yappy forward that could prove important come playoff time. In his first full NHL season, he scored a career-high 14 goals for the Avs during the regular season, then chipped in 10 points in 23 playoff games as Colorado captured the 2001 Stanley Cup.

Three years later, his postseason savvy helped Calgary advance all the way to Game 7 of the ’04 Cup Final, where it would lose to Tampa Bay. Nieminen finished that run with eight points in 24 games and became something of a folk hero in Calgary with his wit and sense of humor (click here for some of his best lines, per the Herald.)

Nieminen’s last NHL season came in St. Louis in 2007. From there, he spent time in the KHL, Swedish and Finnish Leagues before calling it a day. Most recently, he served in a mentor role for Florida’s Aleksander Barkov heading into, and at, the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Jagr optimistic about re-signing with Panthers, potentially for two years

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Jaromir Jagr was seeing his role decline with the New Jersey Devils, but the trade to the Florida Panthers seems to have done him a lot of good. The 43-year-old has gotten regular minutes with 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and 19-year-old Aleksander Barkov and that’s helped Jagr record 14 points in 18 games with the Panthers.

He’s happy there and it sounds like the Panthers are equally pleased with him. There were even reportedly some preliminary talks between his agent and Panthers GM Dale Tallon about the possibility of a contract extension, although at the time the focus was on the playoff race.

With Florida mathematically eliminated though, it’s time for both sides to look towards the future. Jagr, speaking Czech Daily Sport, expressed an interest in inking a two-year deal with Florida, which is a deviation from his policy since returning from the KHL of only signing one-year contracts.

“It’s still too soon to anticipate anything, but there is a pretty big chance we’ll come to an agreement (with Florida). It depends on the club. If they want to sign me for one year, or for two years,” said Jagr, per NHL.com’s translation. “I did, but let’s see what happens now. It’s too soon to say anything now.”

Florida might ultimately be more comfortable signing Jagr for a single season given his age, but the fact that he’s interested in a two-year deal likely reflects both his feelings about the Panthers and his desire to continue to push the boundaries of how long a player can stay competitive in the modern NHL.

Jagr, Panthers focused on playoffs fight, not contract talks

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The Florida Panthers appear to be very interested in re-signing recent trade acquisition Jaromir Jagr, so it wasn’t surprising to hear that Jagr’s agent, Peter Svoboda, was scheduled to meet with Panthers GM Dale Talon. However, while Florida did relay its interest in a contract extension directly to Svoboda, there won’t be a signing in the near future.

After all, the Panthers are still trying to claw their way into the playoffs.

“This is too important a time; we’ll get to it when time is right,” Tallon told the Miami Herald.

“We’ll talk after the season. … He has interest [in staying] but is a free agent on July 1. He’ll make up his mind when he makes up his mind. From what I’ve seen and what has gone on, it would be tremendous to have him back here.”

Jagr has two goals and 10 points in 13 games with the Florida Panthers and has tried to be a mentor for his linemates, 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and 19-year-old Aleksander Barkov.

Florida is four points behind the Boston Bruins in the battle for the second Wild Card seed with seven games remaining in each team’s schedule.

Habs clinch playoff berth with OT win over the Panthers

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Max Pacioretty scored the overtime winner, his team-leading 36th, as the Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff berth with a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

Florida is four points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card seed in the Eastern Conference.

Carey Price made 21 saves for the Habs, who moved one point ahead of the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Roberto Luongo stopped 22 shots in the loss.

Luongo’s biggest save came with 2:46 remaining in the third as he robbed Tomas Plekanec helping the Panthers earn a single point.

Aleksander Barkov scored both of Florida’s goals. Jonthan Huberdeau had a pair of assists.

Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk scored in regulation for Montreal.

Video: Barkov gets the Panthers on the board with a beautiful backhander

Aleksander Barkov finished off a nice passing play by line mates Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau to get the Panthers on the board tonight in Montreal.

The 19-year-old beat Carey Price with a nice backhander for his 13th of the season.