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Panthers captain Jovanovski planning to play next season

Apr 4, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

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Ed Jovanovski doesn’t know what the future holds, but one thing is for certain — he isn’t going to just walk away from the game of hockey.

“I have a year on my contract and I plan on fulfilling it,” the Panthers captain said, per the Miami Herald. “It’s going to be a really important summer to concentrate on an 82-game schedule.”

Jovanovski, 37, made an unprecedented comeback in January, returning to the Florida lineup after undergoing hip resurfacing, a procedure consisting of placing a metal cap over the femur and a matching metal cup in the pelvic socket.

It’s less invasive than a complete hip replacement (because more of the femur is left intact), but still a significant procedure.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, returning from said procedure is uncharted territory:

It’s believed that no athlete from any of the four major professional sports has ever come back successfully after this relatively new procedure.

Former Lightning center Tim Taylor underwent hip resurfacing at 37 after the 2007 season and never played another NHL game. Bo Jackson, an NFL and MLB star, had a hip replacement in 1991 and was forced to retire at 29.

“I don’t think it’s ever happened,” said Dr. Audie Rolnick, a Plantation hip replacement surgeon, who doesn’t do resurfacing.

“Hockey of all sports, has a huge amount of stress on the joint and the hips, so I think it’s going to be pretty rough for him at 37 to come back. His skating will be fine, but it’s the crashing into the boards and other players crashing into him. The crashes will loosen up the prosthesis and cause pain.

“I would never let anyone go back to playing a sport like this.”

(Here’s a piece on Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis trying to come back from the same procedure.)

Jovanovski has returned in fine form, amazingly enough, scoring five points in 32 games while averaging over 16 minutes a night. On Mar. 25, he played a season-high 20:19 against Ottawa, firing three shots on goal while registering one hit and a blocked shot.

So why the questions about coming back next year?

Well, Jovanovski will turn 38 in June, for starters. There’s also the possibility of a compliance buyout which, according to CapGeek, could save the Panthers some cash and cap space — next year will be the last of Jovanovski’s four-year, $16.5 million deal with a $4.125 million cap hit; if he was to retire, Florida would be on the hook for the entire amount as he originally signed the deal as a 35-plus player.

All the financial analysis might be moot, though, as JovoCop certainly sounds like someone that wants to keep playing — and Tallon might find it extremely difficult to stop from happening.

“At the end of the day, do what you love to do,” he explained. “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.”

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