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END OF AN ERA: Florida Panthers to buy out Ed Jovanovski's final year

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
PHILADELPHIA -- The Ed Jovanovski Era with the Florida Panthers is close to ending.
Jovanovski's long NHL career may be over as well.
On Sunday, the Panthers placed their captain on waivers with the intent to buy out the final year of the four-year deal he signed with Florida in 2011.
Jovanovski will get roughly $2.7 million of the $4 million owed to him by the Panthers as buy-out candidates get two-third their contract price per the collective bargaining agreement.
On Friday night, Jovanovski told the Miami Herald he wasn't sure what the Panthers were going to do before Monday's deadline.
The possibility of a buyout, however, was on his mind but still seemed to come as a surprise.
Jovanovski had hoped the Panthers, after he battled back from a serious and painful hip surgery, would allow him to end things on his own terms.
On Sunday, Jovanovski texted he wouldn't be making any public comment.
"This game has been really good to me and has given me everything I've ever needed in my life and my family's life,'' Jovanovski said at the end of last season.
The Panthers don't talk about players until they've cleared waivers. That's expected to come Monday at noon. When asked about Jovanovski on Friday, general manager Dale Tallon said there was no new update.
This was a very difficult decision for Tallon who is one of Jovanovski's biggest supporters.
"He's a leader and God bless him,'' Tallon said when Jovanovski returned in January. "What's he's doing is unbelievable. He's a tough SOB and I really like him. His teammates love him. If anyone would come back from this is Jovo. He's been terrific.''
The defenseman, whom Florida took with the top overall pick in 1994, spent seven of his 18 NHL seasons with the Panthers.
Florida traded him to Vancouver in 1999 as part of the Pavel Bure deal and he spent seven seasons with the Canucks before signing with the Coyotes as a free agent in 2006.
Jovanovski returned to the Panthers in 2011 as a free agent and played in 109 games over the past three years.
Last year, Jovanovski returned from major hip surgery and played in 37 games upon coming back in January.
Jovanovski, who turned 38 last week, became the first known professional athlete to return from hip resurfacing. After being limited to just six games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Jovanovski had the very intrusive surgery and worked his way back to the lineup.
It was a slow, painful process.
"This has been a tough road, no question,'' Jovanovski said in April.
"When I came back and went through the rehab, there was that doubt of the chances of never playing again. .-.-. There were days in which I said 'what am I doing. It's an uphill battle.' There was no data on this, no one had done this before. When you look at the whole procedure, it's pretty wild what I have in my body to be doing what I'm doing. It's great being able to play the game I love.''
Jovanovski had been working out with the thought he would play next year and it's possible although unlikely another team gives him a chance to give it one more try.
If Jovanovski decides to retire, Florida could offer Jovanovski a position within the team something he said in April he would be receptive to. Being bought out by the Panthers, however, could change his feelings toward the team.
"I will do whatever takes off the ice to help a team win,'' he said. "It's something I love to do. I've been in this community so long, I'd love to see this franchise do well. I think the chips are falling in with the new owners. It's going to be an interesting summer. We'll see where that unfolds.''
Last season, Jovanovski said not being around the team during his injury was one of the worst things he's endured.
"It killed me,'' he said. "And it's one of those things I worry about when I am done. The dressing room is a great spot, having the opportunity to come in and shoot the breeze with the guys, hearing the young guys stories, going on the road and having the opportunity to be as a team. At the end of the day, do what you love to do.''

Here are some quotes from Jovanovski, Erik Gudbranson and Peter Horachek from last year.

ED JOVANOVSKI
On the Masterton nomination:
"I appreciate that, it's definitely an honor. For me, anytime you are nominated for something, it's a great honor. This has been a tough road, no question. When I came back and went through the rehab, there was that doubt of the chances of never playing again. Having the passion to come back and get in there and do my work, 35 games or so into it and not missing many practices, it's definitely a treat to be here.''
Where there times during rehab in which you doubted the process?:
"For the most part I tried to remain as upbeat as I could. There were days in which I said 'what am I doing. It's an uphill battle.' There was no data on this, no one had done this before. When you look at the whole procedure, it's pretty wild what I have in my body to be doing what I'm doing. It's great being able to play the game I love.''
Where there family members who said 'what are you doing?'
"Not so much by my wife. A lot of that came from my mom and dad. There were 18. 19 years of grinding. When I got back from my surgery and they saw what I went through that first week ... It wasn't fun. It was miserable. As the days move on, your attitude is, well the sun comes up kind of thing. Everything is moving forward. With the rehab regimen these days, you're right back at it and you start feeling better. That's kind of what happened to me. You have to start somewhere.''
Where do you rank coming back on your list of accomplishments?
"It's got to be up there. We all enjoy the great seasons, the teams. But this one really hits home.''
You're not done yet, right?
"I think working out off the ice, then on the ice and getting into game action for me, it's going to be a really important summer to concentrate on an 82 game schedule. Really work at playing and having success. There is no other way to put it. I have to work hard. When you put your mind to it, anything is a possibility.''
Have you talked to Dale about your future?
"No. I have a year on my contract and I plan on fulfilling it.''
So if it's up to you, you'll be here for training camp?
"Yeah.''
Feel how you've shown the kids how it's done?
"It's not so much showing it. You don't wish anyone to go through what I went to. There are a lot of prevention things today like what [Huberdeau] went through like scoping. This was kind of a last resort kind of thing to first and foremost improve my quality of life, be able to play with my kids, bend over and put my socks on and tie my shoes. I was lost at one point. It was a daily struggle to do a lot of things. But if they can see anything, it's anything is possible. This game has been really good to me and has given me everything I've ever needed in my life and my family's life. The opportunity is through the roof for these guys financially and being able to do what they want to do.''
How much did you miss the game, being around the team?
"It killed me. And it's one of those things I worry about when I am done. The dressing room is a great spot, having the opportunity to come in and shoot the breeze with the guys, hearing the young guys stories, going on the road and having the opportunity to be as a team. At the end of the day, do what you love to do. We play a game. It's hard, a lot of the things that go unnoticed. The travel; yes we do fly on charters, but it's a grind getting in at 2, 3 in the morning and have to get ready in the morning. It tests you that much more. But it killed me not being around the guys and that's something that bothers me when it's all going to be over.''
Want to stick around the game?
"Yeah, that's something that is definitely a possibility. I love the game that much. I will do whatever takes off the ice to help a team win. It's something I love to do. I've been in this community so long, I'd love to see this franchise do well. I think the chips are falling in with the new owners. It's going to be an interesting summer. We'll see where that unfolds.''
ERIK GUDBRANSON
"It was a serious injury to come back from as a hockey player and at his age as well, the passion he's shown and character he's shown to come back, it was for the love of the game. That's really impressive.
"Having him in the dressing room is a huge piece. It's noticeable when he's not here. That battle he's shown, the determination, is something we all need to learn from. Hockey isn't forever and to show that passion is an amazing thing to see. His return has been seamless. He basically took a year off and it's a tough thing to do and come back and play. It's quite the invasive surgery. It's a big deal. For him to come back is amazing to see. I don't think a lot of guys could have done what he's overcome. That's a true testament to what he's all about.
"He's here for the love of the game. That's a passionate man right there. That's something we should all learn from and everyone in this locker room should take note of it.''
PETER HORACHEK
"The perseverance of that is incredible. Where you are in your career and going through a surgery, as we've talked before, no one has ever returned from. I think it's the same surgery Bo Jackson had.
"Playing later in your career is tough, the day-to-day and the travel and the recovery. To come back and work hard enough and have the doctors clear him, give him credit for that.
"They are big kids at heart. He may be late 30s, but they love the game. That's what they love, they are their happiest on the ice. The young guys see that, see that fight through and injury and spend months and months of recovery time. He went through training camp and had the disappointment of the doctor saying it's not healed. He continued to push until he got back in. It's a great story.


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