Hockey / Sports

Florida Panthers put team captain Ed Jovanovski on waivers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Ed Jovanovski Era with the Florida Panthers is close to ending.

Jovanovski's long NHL career might 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 buyout candidates get two-thirds of 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 NHL deadline for buying out contracts.

The possibility of a buyout, however, was on his mind but still seemed to come as a surprise.

Jovanovski 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 at noon Monday. When asked about Jovanovski on Friday, general manager Dale Tallon said there was no new update.

This was a very difficult decision for Tallon, a former defenseman himself 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, it's 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, that 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 it 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 had to endure.

"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."

(c)2014 The Miami Herald

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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