South Florida won’t be the most exciting place to be at the start of NHL free agency on Wednesday but that is because most of the work had already been done. Case in point: Carter Verhaeghe, who scored 18 goals for the Panthers last season, will sign a three-year contract extension as GM Bill Zito locked in another key player from the 2021 roster.
“Carter emerged as one of the best possession forwards in hockey last season, elevating his game to fill an important role on our team,” Zito said in a team statement announcing the move. He will speak publicly Wednesday afternoon.
“His effort, speed and creativity are infectious on and off the ice.”
Verhaeghe was a free agent last October after the cap-strapped Lightning could not afford to be taken to arbitration by Verhaeghe and did not make him a qualifying offer.
The Panthers had their fingers crossed this would be the case and pounced, signing a young forward who had been buried on a talented Tampa Bay team with the thought he would break loose with the right opportunity.
Florida, specifically the southeast side of the state, was that place.
Verhaeghe was put up on the top line with Sasha Barkov and took off, scoring five goals with seven points in Florida’s first six games.
He ended up finishing tied for third on the team with 18 goals and 36 points in 43 games.
Not bad for a guy on a two-year contract that pays $1 million per season, eh?
Verhaeghe’s new contract does not kick in until the 2022-23 season meaning he is still quite the bargain for the Panthers.
After this coming season, Verhaeghe again would have been a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
The deal, which reportedly carries a cap hit of $4.2 million, buys two of Verhaeghe’s UFA years.
The Panthers, which has been locking down their own players throughout the offseason, decided to try and get a deal done without any contentiousness.
Obviously Verhaeghe and his camp agreed.