In today’s rendition of Florida Panthers News & Rumors, we will go over the team’s signings on the first day of free agency, how much Sam Reinhart and Aleksander Barkov could receive in their next contracts, and which of the available free agents could make sense to add to Florida’s blueline.
Verhaeghe, Montour, and Mamin Re-Sign
Panthers general manager Bill Zito had one plan heading into free agency: keep the core together. He did just that, re-signing Carter Verhaeghe and Brandon Montour and getting Maxim Mamin to sign a one-year deal after spending the last two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Verhaeghe signed a three-year contract extension worth $4.167 million per season. That contract will come into effect during the 2022-23 season, as he has one year remaining with a cap hit of $1 million. He signed with the Panthers on a two-year deal last offseason and enjoyed a breakout year, scoring 18 goals and 36 points in 41 games while playing alongside Barkov on the top line.
“Carter emerged as one of the best possession forwards in hockey last season,” Zito said when he addressed the media. “Elevating his game to fill an important role on our team, his effort, speed, and creativity are infectious on and off the ice.”
The Panthers also inked defenseman Brandon Montour to a three-year deal worth $3.5 million annually. The Panthers acquired him at the trade deadline after Aaron Ekblad went down with an injury and he shined in Sunrise. Playing 12 games with the Cats, he scored two goals and four points while being a crucial part of their push for the playoffs.
Mamin also returns on a one-year deal worth $975,000 after scoring 15 goals and 35 points in 55 games for the KHL’s CSKA Moskova. In his Panthers career, he has three goals and four points in 33 games. After having time to develop overseas, he returns to Florida a better player than he was when he left in 2019.
Barkov, Reinhart Contract Predictions
With the team looking mostly intact, the Panthers now have $10 million in cap space to re-sign newly acquired restricted free agent Sam Reinhart. They’re also looking to give Barkov a contract extension now so he doesn’t hit the open market next July. With many big-name free agents signing their contracts on Wednesday, it paints a good picture of how much each player could command.
Starting with Barkov, a good comparison to what his extension could look like is Brayden Point’s recently signed deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. After being a crucial piece to two consecutive Stanley Cup runs and scoring 11 more playoff goals than any other player in the league, he signed an eight-year deal with an annual cap hit of $9.5 million. Barkov’s regular-season resume looks better than Point’s, as he scored 24 more points since 2017-18 while winning the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward last season.
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With that being said, Barkov probably won’t cost too much more than Point and could take an eight-year contract worth $10.25 million to edge out Sergei Bobrovsky as the highest-paid member of the team. Said deal wouldn’t come into effect until 2022-23, as Barkov has one year left on his current deal that carries a cap hit of $5.9 million.
Reinhart’s situation is a bit more clear, as David Dwork of ABC News tweeted that his deal will likely be in the $6-7 million range when it’s all said and done. With many wingers of his caliber, such as Jaden Schwartz, receiving north of $6 million, $6.75 million would be a good estimate for where Reinhart’s negotiations could land.
Possible Additions in the UFA Market
With Reinhart’s estimated $6.75 million cap hit, the Panthers would hypothetically have $3.25 million in cap space. With their pool of left-handed defensemen looking weak, who else could they add? As of the writing of this article, there are three options who are left-handed and could sign for around that price: Brendan Smith, Jordie Benn, and Christian Djoos.
Smith is coming off of a campaign that saw him score 10 points in 48 games for the New York Rangers. The 32-year-old blueliner stands at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and can provide physicality to the lineup at a cheap price. Benn split his season between Vancouver and Winnipeg after being traded to the Jets at the deadline, scoring a goal and nine assists in 39 games. Djoos, the youngest of the pack, had two goals and nine assists in 36 games with the Detroit Red Wings. The 26-year-old was not given a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent, hitting unrestricted free agency.
Of those three options, Djoos could be the most interesting option for the team. He could prove to be this year’s Gustav Forsling, another young defenseman who enters the pipeline on a low-risk deal (or in Forsling’s case: via waivers on cheap contract) and could potentially prove to be more than just a depth piece.
Other than those three names as a possible depth defender, the Panthers’ roster looks like it is going to stay as it is heading into the season, and that’s not a bad thing. Adding Reinhart to a roster that had one of its best seasons in franchise history is a huge win for Florida, who looks to be a contender again next season.
Colby Guy is a writer for the Florida Panthers department here at THW. He’s a senior at Florida Atlantic University and currently serves as a football contributor, social media contributor and photographer for FAU Owls Nest.
Previously, Colby has written for FanSided as a New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators writer. He also served as Editor-In-Chief for FAU’s University Press. You can find him on Twitter at @ColbyDGuy.