It has now been made official. The Florida Panthers have traded for former Buffalo Sabre Sam Reinhart. With the acquisition of Reinhart, the Panthers have taken another step closer to becoming the powerhouse the fans have always wanted. Now all that is left is to sign him. Well, he and Sam Bennett. Then the team will be ready to go for the start of the 2021-22 NHL season.
Sam Reinhart Boost’s Panthers Forward Group
When it rains, it pours, but in a good way for Panthers fans. Ever since the end of the season, it has been nothing but good news coming out of Sunrise. Signing Anthony Duclair and Gustav Forsling to a modest three-year contract extension, trading for Reinhart and then practically losing nothing at the expansion draft. (Chris Driedger will be missed, but let’s be honest, he was going to leave anyway). Oh, and to top it all off, they were able to rid themselves of an ageing Keith Yandle which frees up space, both in the line-up and against the salary cap.
Of course, there will be no banners hung for a new general manager doing a great job. But, it certainly feels as if one of those things is coming soon. While the Panthers have a long way to go, both on and off the ice, the addition of Sam Reinhart to their top six is impeccable. Gaining a player who scored at least 22 goals in his last four NHL seasons is not something every team is doing. Place him next to either Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe, Bennett, Jonathan Huberdeau, or Duclair. This not only gives you plenty of line-up options but also gives you an incredible top-six group overall. Given that Reinhart has been able to produce in Buffalo of all places these past seasons, he should have no problem at all fitting in with the Panther’s high-powered offence.
Next Season and Beyond!
Looking towards the start of the next season, the Panthers could not find themselves in a better position. Every team has room for improvement. But it is hard to beat where the Panthers currently sit. At the same time though, they could try and find one more deal or free agent to secure the blue-line. This might prove a little tricky especially when we dive into the numbers. So let’s consider who they’ve got to lock up.
The Panthers just acquired a player who averages a little over 19 goals a season. As a 25-year old restricted free agent, do not be surprised if Reinhart asks for at least four million a year. Meanwhile, the team still needs to sign Bennett. He was a pivotal player for them and legitimately played the best hockey of his career during the 2020-21 stretch run and playoffs. It would not shock anyone if he asked for three to four million a year, at least. Put those together, and you’re looking at somewhere between seven to nine million for the two of them. Given the Panthers have just over $11 million in cap space, it is a tough ask to sign someone else worthwhile with the limited space left.
With that said, the Panthers certainly could attempt to move on from Anton Stralman. Though, that would be a monumental task in negotiation. After all, they’d be attempting to dump a 34-year old defenseman making $5.5 million next season who has a modified no-trade clause. You can forget about it unless you’re mortgaging the next couple of draft classes. Of course, the Ryan Suter method could work in this scenario. Buying out Stralman would actually save the Panthers $3 million in cap space for next season. However, his contract would plague the roster for an extra year to fulfill the buyout repayments.
But at the end of the day, the Panthers are entering their prime. With all of their star players entering the best years of their lives, while, in turn, playing the best hockey of their lives; it doesn’t get much better than that.