Florida Panthers, Jonathan Huberdeau

Panthers Must Sign Huberdeau to an Extension This Offseason

The Florida Panthers had an historic season with a 58-18-6 record, 122 points and the best record in the NHL to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy. It was also the best season record in franchise history. However, that fun came to an end in the second round of the playoffs at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who completed the four-game sweep.

The postseason left the team with some questions, especially about their roster. But one thing is certain, they need to find a way to extend their star forward, Jonathan Huberdeau, in some capacity. Next season will be the last year of his $5.9 million deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, but after he had the first 100-point season in Panthers history, general manager Bill Zito should move mountains to keep him in Broward County.

Huberdeau’s Career in Florida

The Saint Jerome native was drafted in 2011. The organization knew immediately they had a superstar as he tallied a goal and two assists in his first game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 19, a shortened season due to the lockout.

Related: Panthers May Need to Make Drastic Moves to Obtain Cap Space

Since then, Huberdeau has hit many career highs that put him on the Mount Rushmore of Panthers. In the history of the franchise, he leads the team in games played with 671, points with 613, and assists with 415. Furthermore, he’s second in goals with 198 and holds the single-season Panther record for most assists and points, along with the most assists by a left-winger in a season in NHL history. Most of those accomplishments he reached in 2021-22.

Jonathan Huberdeau is easily on the Mount Rushmore of Florida Panthers players for the new records he set just this past season alone. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Speaking of last season, he led the team in points with 115 (30 goals, 85 assists) and was second in the NHL behind Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, and first in assists. With that success, he should want to stick around in South Florida.

How Much Will Huberdeau Cost?

As mentioned, next season will be the last of his $5.9 million contract and there are no reports of negotiations. Given his strong season, he might command the same amount of money that Aleksander Barkov got last offseason.

Related: Maple Leafs & Bobrovsky Are a Match for Wrong Reasons

Of course, there’s always the chance he signs a team-friendly deal, which would be the best-case scenario for the organization, considering the number of free agents they want to re-sign for another possible playoff run.

In addition, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is rumored to be made available, which could give the Panthers up to $10 million in extra cap space. That should be more than enough to make any player happy. However, it is ultimately up to Huberdeau where he lands.

Will Zito Make Huberdau an Offer?

A lot of events have happened to the Panthers a month after they were eliminated from the postseason. One of those big events was the firing of assistant coaches Derek MacKenzie and Ulf Samuelsson. The team also found their new head coach in former Winnipeg Jets bench boss, Paul Maurice. This shakeup could play a major role in determining whether Huberdeau wants to stay a Panther or not.

Florida also only has $3 million left to work with in cap space. As a result, the task at hand may seem too difficult to pull off, although Zito has shown time and again that he’s the man for the job with many great signings and acquisitions in the past. He could potentially make a few transactions to free up some cap such as dealing a player that isn’t making much or buying out a current player. All in all, Cats fans should put their trust in Zito and let him work his magic, as he has continued to do since his arrival to the Sunshine State.

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