At the end of the night of the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito decided to drop an unexpected trade before fans and insiders all went to sleep. That trade was to acquire forward Sam Reinhart from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for goaltending prospect Devon Levi and a 2022 first-round pick. If that pick happens to wind up in the top 10, it will be sent over to the 2023 draft instead. With this acquisition, Florida now owns the first (Aaron Ekblad), second (Reinhart), and fourth (Sam Bennett) overall picks from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
The amount of talent Reinhart brings to the lineup will have Panthers fans overfilled with excitement and hope for next season. At only 25 years of age, he comes into a young Panthers squad fresh off of a playoff berth with a high-powered offense.
Reinhart’s Tenure in Buffalo
Since being drafted second overall in the 2014 draft, Reinhart has spent his entire career with the Sabres. His talent alone had him playing on the same line as captain Jack Eichel for a few seasons. In his seven years there, he amassed a total of 295 points (134 goals, 161 points) through 454 career games with Buffalo. Since the 2019-20 season, he has served as one of the team’s alternate captains. As a result, it’s clear he brings a sense of leadership to the locker room.
In five of his last six seasons, he scored 20 or more goals. Additionally, he scored 25 goals last season through the shortened 56-game season. It could be argued that if there was a full season, he could have hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. With 82 games in the plans for next season, he’s got a shot to set a new personal best. Furthermore, in three of his last four seasons, he’s tallied 50 or more assists. This shows how great he is at setting up plays that turn into goals. His talent should help form immediate chemistry among his teammates.
Where Will He Go in the Lineup?
Because of his ability to play two positions at both center and right-wing, his versatility could be used greatly throughout Florida’s offensive core. More than likely, he will be on the top line with Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov due to his great playmaking ability. However, the possibility of playing on a line with Bennett, Jonathan Huberdeau, or Anthony Duclair should not be too farfetched.
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Furthermore, he is an absolute lock for being put on a man-advantage unit, as he was on the top power-play unit with Buffalo in his time there. In addition, he had 10 power-play goals and 16 power-play points last season. As a result, he could be schemed in with players like Owen Tippett and Patric Hornqvist.
Additionally, he could be thrown into a 3-on-3 overtime situation. It would be the perfect opportunity to have three of the top five picks from the 2014 draft all come together for a potential game-winning goal.
Potential Contract Details?
Reinhart enters Sunrise as a restricted free agent (RFA). It is clear with the trade alone that they’re going to sign him to a new deal this offseason. The biggest question mark is for how much and for how long?
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Judging from his one-year deal from last year, he’s more than likely going to get a pay raise as he made $5.2 million in 2020-21. However, Zito is normally not one to overpay his players. In addition, he needs to save some of his cap space to re-sign some key players to new deals such as Bennett and Barkov. With these taken into account, Reinhart more than likely going to get offered a two or three-year deal around the $5.5-$6 million per year range. Of course, this is all pure speculation, but it is a guarantee that Zito is cooking up something special for Reinhart.
The Team Is Poised to Make a Deep Playoff Run
Reinhart’s skillset makes the top six for Florida, on paper, one of the best in the league. In addition to him being acquired, he brings more depth at center without the club having to lose a big piece on the current roster. Some future may have been discarded, but this shows that Florida is in a “win now” state of mind. This piece adds fuel to the fire for a deep playoff run, and the Cats look for something greater after a bitter defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning in their last playoff appearance. With that, the league should see them as a real threat next season.