Sam Reinhart agrees to a $69 million, 8-year deal to stay with Cup champion Panthers, AP source says

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Sam Reinhart missed the Florida Panthers’ championship parade. He won’t miss their attempt to defend the title next season.

Reinhart — who scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final — and the Panthers have agreed on an eight-year, $69 million contract, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team did not release the financial details, only the agreement.

“Since coming to South Florida, Sam has demonstrated his ability to be a powerful scoring threat while maintaining strong defensive play,” Panthers president of hockey operations and general manager Bill Zito said. “His versatility and value as a player are only outshined by his premier personality and work ethic, and we are pleased to have him continue on with our group.”

The deal got done Sunday night, which was critical because it kept Reinhart out of unrestricted free agency and allowed Florida to give him the eight-year agreement. It also means the Panthers have forwards Aleksander Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk and Reinhart all under contract together for the next six years.

“It’s a big head start,” Zito said of having much of the core already in place. “If I can twist your question a little bit, ‘If you are not successful in getting every piece that you want to get, is the train still moving forward?’ Before you can build, you have to sustain it. That’s the hope for sure. I think it’s the case, but we’re still trying to get it right. We’ll still never stop trying to get the right pieces and the right people.”

Reinhart — who scored a Panthers-record 67 goals this past season, including 10 in the playoffs — missed Sunday’s parade and rally celebrating the Stanley Cup title because he was attending his best friend’s wedding. He sent a video instead, telling fans he wished he could have been at the events.

“What a week it’s been,” Reinhart said. “Best week of my life.”

Indeed, it was a week like none other.

Reinhart scored Florida’s first goal of the season and, eight months later, had the last goal of the season. His score late in the second period put the Panthers ahead to stay in their 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the title series.

From there, it was a few days of celebrating with teammates, then his friend’s wedding, and now a deal that keeps him in Florida for years to come.

Also staying: defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who agreed to a four-year deal worth about $5 million.

“He has a reasonable number and I suspect he could have a better financial picture somewhere else,” Zito said. “And he said: ‘I’m all in. I’m staying.’ That’s really nice to have a commitment from a guy like that with everything he leaves out on the ice.”

And the Panthers brought back goaltender Chris Driedger — who played 35 games for Florida over a two-season span from 2019 through 2021 — on a one-year deal. Driedger was selected by Seattle in the 2021 expansion draft, and now returns to the Panthers.

Monday also was a day for the Panthers to say farewell to some players, including fan favorite Ryan Lomberg (two years, $4 million to Calgary), defenseman Brandon Montour (seven years, $50 million to Seattle), defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (four years, $14 million to Toronto), backup goalie Anthony Stolarz (two years, $5 million to Toronto) and forward Kevin Stenlund (two years, $4 million to Utah).


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