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Amidst career season, Panthers' Reinhart not worried about next contract


Sam Reinhart couldn't have picked a better time to have a career season. 

The Florida Panthers star has netted 52 goals, good enough for second behind Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews for the league lead, and 35 assists for 87 points over 76 games. Reinhart's previous career highs came in his first season with the Panthers in 2021-22 when he scored 33 times with 82 points. 

Reinhart's timing is perfect as the 28-year-old winger is in the final season of a three-year, $19.5 million contract and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Despite the uncertainty of not having a deal in place yet, Reinhart says it has not affected his play on the ice.

“It hasn’t been an issue at all, honestly,” Reinhart told TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic. “I think you get off to a good start, it makes everything easier. You’re able to just put it behind you. I think the relationship that we have, me and [Panthers GM] Billy [Zito], me and the organization, it’s all positive, all mutual.

“I’m very comfortable with it being ongoing. We’ve got bigger things in mind the next couple of months, hopefully. But I’m not losing sleep over it by any means.”

LeBrun notes that the two sides have had "preliminary discussions," but nothing meaningful as of yet. 

“I’ve got all the confidence it’s going to work out,” Reinhart said. “I’m very comfortable with where it is. Billy respects that … he knows there’s bigger things (chasing a Cup) that I’m worried about, too.”

Panthers general manager Bill Zito said that he believes a deal can be reached with Reinhart and that contracts can sometimes take time to get done. 

“Sam has had a wonderful year and I’m proud and happy for him,” Zito told LeBrun. “Wonderful achievement. I think around 100 players all-time have [scored 50 goals in a season]. But I know his focus is on winning. Sometimes the contracts take time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I believe we will find the right contract for Sam and the Panthers. If he wants to be one of the top 100 all-time scorers in the playoffs … that’s OK too!”

Other star pending free agents including Panthers teammate Gustav Forsling, Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, Devon Toews of the Colorado Avalanche and William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs, all signed new deals earlier this season.

Florida currently has just over $1 million in cap space with the likes of Kyle Okposo ($2.5M AAV), Vladimir Tarasenko ($2.5M), Nick Cousins ($1.1M), Steven Lorentz ($1.05M), Kevin Stenlund ($1M), Ryan Lomberg ($800K), Brandon Montour ($3.5M), Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($2.25M), Dmitry Kulikov ($1M) and Anthony Stolarz ($1.1M) all scheduled to become free agents this summer in addition to Reinhart ($6.5M).

Selected second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2014 NHL Draft, Reinhart has tallied 250 goals and 281 assists over 690 career games with the Sabres and Panthers. 

The native of West Vancouver, B.C., is in his third season with the Panthers and has recorded 11 goals and six assists over 31 playoffs games, highlighted by a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. 

The 47-24-5 Panthers sit second in the Atlantic Division and have already clinched a fifth straight appearance in the postseason.