With nine goals and 15 points in 12 games, Sam Reinhart is not only off to his best start to a season with the Florida Panthers but in his career.
It has come at both a good and bad time for the Panthers.
Florida, which is 7-4-1, has certainly needed the offensive firepower Reinhart is bringing.
It also comes in Reinhart’s contract year.
Reinhart was already banking on getting a substantial raise from his $6.5 million annual salary.
The price tag is only going up — especially if he eclipses his career high of 33 goals set in 2021-22 of which he is on pace to absolutely obliterate.
That’s the bad news for the Panthers.
Although the Panthers were never thinking about shortchanging one of their key offensive pieces, the money Reinhart is going to command on the open market next summer may simply be too rich for their blood.
But, it can be done.
Reinhart, 28, will become a free agent for the first time in his career and, with the NHL salary cap expected to make its first real jump since Covid, he will certainly be in demand.
Talk about good timing.
For Reinhart, not necessarily the Panthers.
Florida has a number of key players up for new contracts including defensemen Brandon Montour and Gus Forsling.
Montour is looking at doubling his salary from $3.5 million to the $7 million range — and Forsling could be doubling up (from $2.7) as well.
Yet with the increased salary cap space, the Panthers may not only have room for both of their trusted d-men — but could sign Reinhart to a healthy raise as well.
As things currently stand, Florida has around $59 million committed to contracts for next season — but have only two defensemen (Aaron Ekblad and Niko Mikkola) signed.
Let’s say Florida spends $8 million for Reinhart, $7 million for Montour and $6 million for Forsling — that puts them around $80 million.
At that salary cap number, the Panthers would have around $7-10 million in cap space remaining to fill out the remainder of the roster.
If general manager Bill Zito was able to keep all three of his key pending free agents, the Panthers would be looking for a lot of bargain contracts to fill the remainder of the roster.
With those three returning, the Panthers would need three defensemen, five forwards (Mackie Samoskevich and Justin Sourdif could be two of them) and a No. 3 goalie.
One of those forwards who needs a new deal is Anton Lundell.
That’s a story for another day — as are ways the Panthers could clear more salary cap space moving forward.
The players on the Panthers, right this minute, may not be come the offseason.
Regardless of that, it does appear that Sam Reinhart will not only get a nice raise moving forward but it very well may come from the Panthers.
It sounds like he would be very happy to stay right where he is.
“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 no problems sort of waiting it out so I am just looking forward to the start of the season being here. We have both expressed our interests and our desire for me to be here. And that’s exciting. My focus is solely on the start of camp and the start of the season.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
CAROLINA HURRICANES @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2,WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last Season — Regular Season: Carolina won 2-1; Eastern Conference finals: Florida won 4-0.
- This Season: @Florida Friday; @Carolina Feb. 22, March 14
- All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-46-10, 11 ties
- Postseason History: Florida 1-0 (2023 ECF)
- Up Next for the Panthers: Sunday vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.