Panthers’ Negotiations with Sam Reinhart Not Coming Easy

On July 24, Sam Reinhart was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a first-round selection in the 2022 NHL Draft, and goaltending prospect Devon Levi. This trade instantly gave the Panthers one of the most dangerous top-6 forward groups across the league.

The only issue revolves around giving him a new deal. Reinhart entered this offseason as a restricted free agent, and a new deal is taking a bit longer than people have anticipated. While there is no indication of a disagreement, as the contract talks never went through arbitration, the idea is not too far out of mind.

Looking at His Teammates’ New Contracts

Florida recently gave new contracts for forwards Anthony Duclair (three years at $3 million per year), Sam Bennett (four years at $4.5 million per year) and Carter Verhaeghe (three years at $4.2 million per year). In addition, Reinhart’s last deal before he was dealt was worth $5.2 million. So, more than likely, he’s going to want a raise. Hopefully, he can get general manager, Bill Zito on the same page as him.

Related: Panthers Need to Extend Barkov with a Hefty Payday

However, Florida is currently limited in cap space as they only have $7.8 million to work with while still needing to give a new deal to their captain in Aleksander Barkov. It is unknown if Reinhart is willing to negotiate a team-friendly deal or not, though, considering he’s scored 20-or-more goals in five of his last six seasons with Buffalo.

Additionally, his production never dropped off. In fact, if not for a shortened season due to COVID-19, he may have hit a new career high in goals, as he scored 25 in 54 games. A player of his caliber is going to want a decent paycheck, so the only question is if Zito wants to play hardball or not. It looks like his deal could be in the $6-6.5 million range with all things considered, as Zito has not overpaid for someone, with the biggest deal he gave out being Bennett’s.

Other Forwards Across the League Got Massive Paydays

Reinhart might be looking at other cases across the league, such as the Colorado Avalanche‘s Gabriel Landeskog and the Columbus Blue JacketsPatrik Laine, and start licking his chops, as those deals were in the $7-8 million range. While he may not be the same type of player as those two, he could use that as leverage in contract negotiations.

Sam Reinhart Buffalo Sabres
Sam Reinhart, former Buffalo Sabre (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Furthermore, when he was still in Buffalo, his teammate, Jeff Skinner, receives $9 million per season and had nowhere near the same production level as Reinhart did last season. He might still be a little bitter about that situation and look for more incentive for some extra cash during negotiations.

If He Gets Paid, What Will the Future Hold?

Assuming Reinhart gets a massive extension this offseason, the future of the roster could look very different. Due to the massive cap hits from the current roster, Zito may scramble to get things moved around or he may be forced to let big names walk next offseason, such as Barkov and Jonathan Hurberdeau, whose contract expires after the 2022-23 season. In addition, it would also force Zito to slot in young and unproven rookies. Granted, it could be good development for them to be tossed into the fire, but some are not ready for that kind of pressure.

Related: Panthers’ Top 10 Prospects Heading Into the 2021-22 Season

That is ultimately worst case scenario for Florida, but if the previous deals for Bennett and Verhaeghe tell us anything, it’s that Zito is not going to make a mistake with this deal. He knows how to handle business the way he wants to.

When Will This Come to Fruition?

It is still unknown when the announcement will be made for a deal to be struck with Reinhart. With every day passing, fans are getting anxious and praying this deal gets struck soon. As previously mentioned, it seems things are going well as the negotiations haven’t gone towards arbitration. However, unless moves are made, Zito’s hands are tied with his current cap situation and may barely have enough money to give him a solid deal. It’s now a game of wait and see, but given Zito’s track record, things should turn out for the best.