Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau agrees to two-year deal in time for training camp

Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau, who agreed to a new two-year deal, will earn $2.5 million this season and $4 million in 2016-17.
Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau, who agreed to a new two-year deal, will earn $2.5 million this season and $4 million in 2016-17. Miami Herald Staff

The Panthers will hold their first practice of the season Friday morning and their leading scorer from last season will be there.

Jonathan Huberdeau agreed to a two-year contract early Thursday morning, ensuring he’ll be part of training camp.

Huberdeau, 22, will be paid $2.5 million this season and $4 million in 2016-17, giving him a cap hit of $3.25 million.

“I think it’s fantastic,” general manager Dale Tallon said. “I’m real happy for Huberdeau and happy for our team. I think it’s good to have everything settled, have a whole unit. Sometimes things take longer than others but I was confident we would get it done.’’

The bridge deal allows the two sides to potentially work on a long-term deal down the road as Florida continues to control Huberdeau’s status for the next four seasons.

Huberdeau will continue to be a restricted free agent when this current contract expires following the 2016-17 season.

If Huberdeau’s numbers continue to rise, his next contract will likely be a big one.

“It’s incentive and there’s still room for improvement,” Tallon said. “I like to have guys hungry. It’s a good bridge contract, very fair.”

Huberdeau is obviously an important part of the Panthers’ youth movement as he had a career-best 15 goals, 39 assists and a plus-10 rating last season.

The third overall pick of the 2011 draft, Huberdeau made his NHL debut following the 2012-13 lockout and won Florida’s first Calder Trophy, which honors the league’s top rookie.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad became the Panthers’ second such winner last season.

“I think there’s a lot of talent on this team, from what I saw last year and what I’ve seen here the past few days,’’ said veteran winger Martin Havlat, who trained with Huberdeau during the offseason and is represented by the same agent. “[Huberdeau] is going to get better and better.”

The Panthers went through medical and fitness testing at the BB&T Center as training camp officially opened Thursday.

Huberdeau agreed to his deal early in the day and flew to South Florida from his native Montreal and did his testing in the afternoon.

On Friday, Huberdeau is expected to be back on Florida’s top line with Jaromir Jagr and Sasha Barkov.

Last year, that trio was one of the highest-producing lines in the league when together for the final 20 games of the season after Florida acquired Jagr in a deal with New Jersey.

On Thursday, Jagr said he was happy to hear that his linemate agreed to terms and that the Panthers would be whole for the opening practice of camp.

Jagr scored six goals with 18 points in 20 games with the Panthers last season. Barkov had seven goals and 15 points during that span and Huberdeau had six goals and 21 points.

“They have all the tools,” Jagr said Thursday. “I can help them with the experience, tell them how to take advantage. If you don’t tell them, maybe they find out, but it won’t be for five, six years down the road.”

The Panthers will have 51 players in camp and will carry 23 on the opening night roster.

Although Tallon told his players all jobs were up for grabs in training camp, realistically, there are just a handful.

“There are a couple of spots open,” coach Gerard Gallant said, “and there are six, seven, eight guys fighting for them. It’s going to be interesting.”

Florida is expected to replace veterans Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall’s spots with youngsters, although free agents David Booth and Havlat being in camp on tryouts will make the competition interesting.

Booth, who spent part of six seasons with the Panthers before traded to Vancouver in 2011, still has a home in northwest Broward and plans on living there this season.

Some of Florida’s talented young players — such as Rocco Grimaldi, Connor Brickley and Lawson Crouse — as well as Havlat, might have a say in whether that transpires.

“When Florida offered me, I just thought it was a great opportunity,” said Booth, who will wear the No. 10 he wore with the Panthers from 2006-11.

“You want to come in, earn a spot. … Nothing is given. You have to earn everything. Being on a tryout here, that really rings true.”

Said Tallon: “We have a lot of guys and a few jobs. Do the math. We want the best players. It’s really starting to come together. There’s no excuse now. It’s time to take it to the next level.”

George Richards: 305-376-4995, @GeorgeRichards


▪ When: Friday/Saturday; 9:45 a.m. (scrimmage 10:45 a.m. both days)

▪ Where: Florida Panthers IceDen, 3299 Sportsplex Drive, Coral Springs.

▪ Admission: Free.

▪ Preseason opener: Sunday at Nashville Predators (doubleheader), 4:30 p.m.