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Bill Zito: Florida Panthers Want to Keep Sam Reinhart

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Bill Zito told NHL.com that he hopes the Florida Panthers can hold onto Sam Reinhart as he can be a free agent following this season. // Zito photo by AP/Marta Lavandier; Reinhart photo by Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

With every goal Sam Reinhart scores for the Florida Panthers, the price to keep him beyond this season continues to go up.

Yet in speaking with NHL.com this past weekend, Florida general manager Bill Zito said he remains hopeful No. 13 will remain with the Panthers.

Reinhart, 28, pulled into a tie for the NHL lead in goals after scoring the first two in Florida’s 5-0 win over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

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With 15 goals in his first 21 games, Reinhart is on pace to score 59 for the Panthers this season.

His career high of 33 goals came in 2021-22.

Reinhart’s best two scoring seasons (33 and 31 goals, 82 and 67 points) have come since joining the Panthers.

“Sam is a guy we would like to keep around,’’ Zito told NHL.com. “I am thrilled with the production and very happy for him. He works awfully hard and does so many little things for our team.

“He is a great leader and is a great person. It has been fun to see him get off to this start. He’s a pretty good hockey player. Last year he was snake-bitten but he is off to a great start.’’

Reinhart, of course, is not Zito’s only concern when it comes to pending free agents.

Defensemen Brandon Montour and Gus Forsling can both be UFA following this season with center Anton Lundell a restricted free agent.

With the rise in salary cap space coming next season, the Panthers could keep everyone together but it would take players making the decision to take less money to stay.

Zito hinted at that in his NHL.com interview as both Sasha Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk signed below market value — yet got fair contracts from the Panthers.

“It is no secret we have to try and put together a team that wants to be here and understands what we’re trying to build,’’ Zito said.

“It starts with Barkov and Tkachuk as far as our philosophy goes. We could sign a player to a max contract, but then, we would probably tell them not to come because then we won’t be able to win. We’re going to try and get everyone paid fair and put together a winning team with people who want to be here.”

Reinhart has said numerous times that he wants to remain with the Panthers — and they know that.

“Billy (Zito) has given me the longest deal I have had in this league, so this is nothing new,” Reinhart said before the start of training camp at Marlins Park where he was throwing out the first pitch.

“It is not something I stress over or lose sleep over too much. They know I want to be here, I know they want me here. …

“We have both expressed our interests and our desire for me to be here. And that’s exciting.”

Editor’s Note: Florida Hockey Now publisher George Richards is the NHL.com independent correspondent covering the Panthers; he conducted and compiled the Bill Zito interview for NHL.com which was published on Tuesday morning. Florida Hockey Now is an independent media outlet which covers the Florida Panthers without any oversight from the NHL or the organization.

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Local Odds — Maple Leafs Favored: Money Line (-145); Puck line (-1.5, +160); Over/Under 6.5 (-130/+105)
  • This Season (Florida Leads 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 3, Leafs 1 (Oct. 19); April 16. At Toronto: Tuesday; April 1
  • Last Season: Toronto won Regular Season Series 3-1; Florida won Eastern Conference Semifinals 4-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 48-37-7, 7 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Montreal, 7 p.m.

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