Jaromir Jagr has been a bigger pickup for the Panthers than he was for the Bruins. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Thanks to Shawn Thornton, it’s always a reunion when the Panthers come to town. Yet it’s a pair of other former Bruins that have found new success in their respective careers by going to Florida.
Jaromir Jagr and Steven Kampfer have both turned heads since joining the Panthers. Since being acquired by the Panthers prior to the trade deadline, Jagr has done much more than he did down the stretch with the Bruins in 2013. Kampfer, a former Bruins prospect who played 38 games in their Cup-winning 2010-11 season, has resurfaced in the NHL after years of struggling with injuries and inconsistency in the AHL.
The Bruins traded a conditional second-round pick and prospects Lane MacDermid and Cody Payne to Dallas for Jagr in 2013. The pick became a first-rounder when the B’s reached the Eastern Conference finals, but Jagr did not score a postseason goal for the Bruins. He played well as a third-liner before spelling Tyler Seguin on Patrice Bergeron‘s line, but the team parted with him at season’s end.
Two years later, Jagr was flipped from New Jersey to Florida after the Panthers had moved Sean Bergenheim to Minnesota. Florida gave up a second-round pick in 2015 and a conditional third-rounder in 2016.
If the Panthers make the playoffs, Jagr will be a primary reason as to why. Playing on Florida’s first line, Jagr has four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 14 games. Florida general manager Dale Tallon said recently that the team is interested in re-signing the 43-year-old after the season.
“He’s done everything we expected,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said Tuesday. “He’s [gone] out and played with those two young kids, and the line’s played very well since he’s been here and our team’s played very well since he’s been here, so it’s been real positive.”
The aforementioned kids are 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and 19-year-old Aleksander Barkov, both of whom were top-three picks in their respective drafts.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Huberdeau said Tuesday. “We were saying he won a Stanley Cup when I wasn’t even born.”
Age gaps aside, Jagr has fit with the two youngsters. He still plays keep-away with the puck, and it’s paying off.
“He’s a first-line player, for sure,” Huberdeau said. “Even when we played against him in New Jersey, I thought he was really good. He’s so good at protecting the puck and stuff. Just playing with him, it creates more space [for] me and Barkov. I think we’re just taking advantage of that.”
As for Kampfer, Florida has become a home for the Michigan native (whose parents actually live in Florida, come to think of it) after his 2012 trade from the Bruins to the Wild led to two seasons of AHL play.
Kampfer’s stint in the Wild organization wasn’t ideal. In addition to concussions and knee injuries, he never really got a shot to play NHL games. His only games with the big club came in the 2011-12 season, when he replaced Boston acquisition Greg Zanon.
“It taught me a lot to grow up as a person, more so than anything,” Kampfer said. “It was different because they had their six guys that they were going to roll there, so you knew you were just going to go down, you were going to be a depth guy and play in the minors, but it was good. The coaches down in Houston during the lockout year were awesome. Then last year, it was just trying to play hard and hopefully you get a chance, but they had their six guys that they were just going to keep rolling.”
Kampfer signed with the Rangers in the offseason, but was traded to Florida after Matt Hunwick beat him out for the final spot on Alain Vigneault’s blue line. After starting the season in the AHL, the now-26-year-old has played 23 games for the Panthers, even seeing time at forward Sunday against Ottawa.
It would seem that Kampfer now has a future with the Panthers, as he was given a two-year contract extension earlier this month.
‘I’m feeling good,” he said of his Panthers experience. “Obviously feeling good and our team’s doing well, that’s the most important thing. Good experience, good locker room, great organization.”