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Sasha Barkov says he is ‘happy’ to be with the Florida Panthers

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Florida Panthers center Sasha Barkov celebrates a goal with teammates Ryan Lomberg and Anthony Duclair during the 2021 NHL season. // Photo by Roger Topalian, 21st Century Photography (561) 488-0000

Florida Panthers star center Sasha Barkov said Wednesday morning that talks about a contract extension are ongoing between his representatives and the team, adding the “only thing I think about” is remaining with the team.

Barkov, who is entering his ninth NHL season, was the second overall pick by the Panthers in the 2013 NHL Draft.

The Panthers have been talking with Barkov’s camps since late July about a contract extension.

With Barkov back in Florida after a summer in Finland, however, attention to Barkov’s contractual situation has ramped up.

Barkov, the team captain and centerpiece of the team, is entering the final season of a six-year deal he signed back in 2016. He will be getting a raise over the $5.9 million he made under that contract.

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The Panthers are on the ice for the first time in the 2021-22 season on Thursday.

“I think we’re making some progress,” Barkov said. “But I’m not the guy you want to talk to. I have people who take care of this. We are on good terms. It’s all good. For myself, I’m really excited about getting back on the ice.”

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Barkov is coming off one of his best seasons, one in which he won the franchise’s first Selke Trophy.

He scored 26 goals with 58 points in the pandemic-shortened season so his goals would have been on pace for the career-high of 35 he set two seasons ago.

The Panthers know they cannot afford to let Barkov go — and that does not seem to be the case here.

A deal will get done, perhaps before the season kicks off Oct. 14 against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Right now, the only thing I think about is playing for the Florida Panthers,” Barkov said. “I love playing here, love what we’ve started building here. The team is getting better, the organization is getting better. Hockey in South Florida is getting bigger and better. I am really excited about everything that’s going on here. I haven’t thought about anything else than going into this season.

“Wearing a Panthers jersey is a huge honor for me. I’m really happy where I am right now.”

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