Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers lock down another key young player to big contract

Florida winger Jonathan Huberdeau warms up before playing the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015.
Florida winger Jonathan Huberdeau warms up before playing the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015. AP

The Florida Panthers offeseason of doling out large contracts and locking down key young pieces of their future continued Tuesday.

Jonathan Huberdeau was the latest — and perhaps final for the foreseeable future — player to “Commit to the Cats” as the billboards say as the 23-year-old winger agreed to a six-year extension worth $35.4 million.

Huberdeau and agent Allan Walsh previously agreed to a two-year bridge deal worth $6.5 million which will run through this upcoming season. Huberdeau’s new contract kicks in during the 2017-18 season and concludes in 2023.

Florida effectively bought up four years of Huberdeau’s free agency period for a cap-hit of $5.9 milion per season.

Playing on Florida’s top line with Sasha Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, Huberdeau (the third-overall pick of the 2011 draft by the Panthers) had a career-high in goals (20), points (59) and tied his career-best with 39 assists last season.

The Panthers spent the offseason not only acquiring new players and signing them to long-term deals (such as defensemen Keith Yandle and Jason Demers) but working to keep the core players they have locked into deals as well.

Florida previously signed centers Nick Bjugstad (2014) and Barkov (2016) to six-year deals before signing Aaron Ekblad (eight years), Reilly Smith (five) and Vincent Trocheck (six) this summer.

All told, the Panthers committed $173.5 million in contract-extensions to their young core; free agent additions of Yandle, Demers and goalie James Reimer getting $84 million over the course of deals signed this offseason.

Florida also extended center Derek MacKenzie for two years and forward Shawn Thornton for one.

According to the salary cap site generalfanager.com, the Panthers have about $9 million under the upcoming salary cap after trading the dead money of Dave Bolland and Marc Savard away.

Florida already has 25 players under contract for the 2017-18 season for around $61 million — about $12 million shy of the current cap ceiling.