The Florida Panthers and general manager Bill Zito are working hard this offseason to make sure that next season does not result in another bust in the playoffs. On June 27, they made one of their first significant moves of the offseason, as they announced that they had extended defenseman Matt Kiersted to a two-year deal. The deal is worth $762,500 annually. The first year of the contract, starting next season, will be a two-way deal and the second year will be a one-way contract beginning in 2023-24.
Kiersted’s Journey to the NHL
Kiersted was the top available college free agent on the market after four years with the University of North Dakota. Through 127 games with the Fighting Hawks, he tallied up 77 points (20 goals, 57 assists). In addition, he was an alternate captain during his junior and senior years, showing he has leadership skills as well. Furthermore, he helped his team take home a National College Hockey Conference (NCHC) title and a Penrose Cup in the 2020-21 season. That same season, he was named an NCHC First Team All-Star as he led all defensemen in that conference for three straight seasons.
On Apr. 1, 2021, he officially became an NHL player by signing his entry-level contract with the Panthers. Two days later, he played in his first NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In addition, he was featured in seven games that season, giving him valuable NHL experience. The following season, he tallied his first NHL point on Oct. 16 against the New York Islanders with an assist. Three months later, he scored his first career goal against the Los Angeles Kings. Overall, he’s played in 17 NHL games, tallying two points.
For most of the 2021-22 season, he was in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Charlotte Checkers. In 65 games, he scored five goals and assisted on 15 others for a total of 20 points. Additionally, he was featured in seven Calder Cup playoff games, finding the back of the net once. This new contract shows that the Panthers are willing to develop his game to the next level.
Kiersted is Learning with Experienced Players and Personnel
Kiersted will have the opportunity to hone his game by learning from players that have countless minutes of experience in the NHL, such as a former Rookie of the Year in Aaron Ekblad and veteran Radko Gudas. He also will have massive playoff experience around him in players like Carter Verhaeghe and Patric Hornqvist.
In addition to all that, he’ll be learning from a new head coach in Paul Maurice, who has the seventh most wins all-time in the NHL and a ton of postseason experience. Kiersted’s team is full of teachers and that should help him soar to new heights by teaching him some valuable lessons.
Kiersted is Committed to the Panthers
With the signing of his new deal, not only does it show that Florida is ready to take him to the next level, but it also shows that Kiersted is committed to the Panthers. General manager Bill Zito even expressed how excited he was to bring him back into the fray for the next two seasons.
“Matt made great strides this year in his first full professional season, showing his skill as an exciting young defenseman,” said Zito. “We are looking forward to his continued growth within our organization.”
Although he was undrafted, Kiersted’s drive and work ethic pushed him to become one of the top players in the NCAA. That effort was enough to land him a brand new NHL contract, and it’s clear he is far from done and wants to make even more strides in his young career in the future.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!