News broke today that the Panthers and Jonathan Huberdeau agreed to a 6-year contract extension worth $35.4 million. The deal is presumed to be one of the final pieces of the puzzle for the Panthers who have been swiftly locking up their core of young talent to long-term contracts over the past several months.
Jonathan Huberdeau’s contract carries with it an average annual value of $5.9 million – which is identical to the 6-year deal that the Panthers doled out to the now 21-year old Aleksander Barkov back in January – a no-move clause in years 3, 4, and 5, and an 8-team no-trade clause in the final year.
The completion of the deal was aided greatly by the Panthers’ ability to move Dave Bolland’s $5.5 million albatross of a contract to the Arizona Coyotes in addition to prospect Lawson Crouse just last week, and the team’s assistant GMs – Steve Werier and Eric Joyce – alluded to making space for extensions in their recent Q&A with the official Panthers’ website. Removing Bolland’s contract from the equation gave the Panthers flexibility to not get something fair done with Huberdeau but also continue to have cap space for other transactions through the next several seasons.
On the ice, the deal keeps the Panthers’ leading scorer over the last 4 seasons with the team for the next 7 years. Huberdeau still has 1 year left on the 2-year deal he signed at the start of training camp last season, so the 6-year extension won’t kick in until after the upcoming season.
The 23-year old Quebec-native is coming off a solid year which saw him achieve a career-high in goals (20) and points (59) while tying a career-high in assists (39) despite playing in 3 fewer games than the 2014-15 season when he tallied 54 points. Huberdeau was tied for 12th in the NHL with Taylor Hall in points per 60 (2.31) and first assists per 60 (0.96), and his assists per 60 rate of 1.58 ranked him 6th in the league.
With Huberdeau’s contract now out of the way, the Panthers have essentially completed their goal of identifying and signing their core players to long-term deals. Not only that, but all of the contracts are relatively cap-friendly, so as the players develop, the deals will appear cheaper compared to the performances on the ice. Ekblad and Huberdeau are signed through the 2022-23 season for a combined annual cap-hit of $13.4 million, Barkov, Trocheck, and Smith are locked in through the 2021-22 season for $15.65 million, and Bjugstad will be here through the 2020-21 season for $4.1 million.
If you look back at the history of the franchise, you’ll notice that the Panthers were rarely able to keep core players with the team for more than a few years, and that was the result of a few things. Ownership didn’t have the necessary funds to commit to winning so the product on the ice was poor and attendance was unsurprisingly low as a result. The Panthers hardly won on a consistent basis and didn’t make the playoffs at all from 2001 until 2012 and that made them irrelevant to players, other teams, fans, and the entire league.
Whether you agree with the moves the front office has made during this off-season, there’s no denying that they’ve turned the Panthers and South Florida into the place to be for not only players, but hockey in general, and we’ve already started to see the fruits of the labor.
Highly-coveted free-agents like Keith Yandle and Jason Demers expressed a desire to play for the Florida Panthers over other teams. Just think about that for a second. The top 2 defensemen on the free-agent market this off-season – one being one of the best offensive blue-liners in the league over the past several years – want to play for the Panthers. When has that ever happened?!
Add in the fact that some of the best young players in the league like Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov have signed on to play here for most, if not the entirety, of their careers, and the rest of the NHL is forced to take notice.
Signing Huberdeau to a long-term deal is just more proof on the already massive mountain of proof that the Panthers are committed to bringing a Stanley Cup to South Florida.