Panthers sign Sam Bennett to 4-year deal; Sam Reinhart next?

Jul 25, 2021, 9:46 PM | Updated: Jul 26, 2021, 3:40 pm

Sam Bennett re-signed with the Florida Panthers on Monday, inking a four-year contract worth $17.7 million with the team that has been a good fit for him since joining at the trade deadline.

Bennett put up six goals and nine assists for 15 points in 10 regular-season games with the Panthers after they acquired him from Calgary. The 25-year-old was a point-a-game player during Florida’s playoff series, too, with a goal and four assists.

“Sam’s impact on our club this past season was seen immediately, injecting physicality, skill and energy into our lineup,” general manager Bill Zito said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have him in our Panthers lineup and look forward to what he can bring to our offense in the upcoming 2021-22 season.”

Bennett will count $4.425 million against the salary cap annually through the 2024-25 season.

The Panthers also re-signed defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Noah Juulsen for next season. Next up could be a new contract for forward Sam Reinhart, whom they got from Buffalo on Saturday.

“That’s all going to get announced and worked on in due time,” Reinhart said of signing with Florida. “I just feel comfortable we’re both excited about the future. I don’t see any issues moving forward.”

Given the price the Panthers paid — goalie prospect Devon Levi and a 2022 first-round pick — and Reinhart’s production, it could be a deal more lucrative than Bennett’s. Reinhart is a five-time 20-goal scorer on a team that never made the playoffs, so the opportunity to be part of a stronger lineup could pay dividends.

In other moves around the NHL, the Boston Bruins did an about-face by not issuing qualifying offers to forwards Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, both of whom now are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday. That’s a switch from last week, when general manager Don Sweeney said he planned on making offers to retain the rights of both players.

A series of concussions limited Kase to playing just nine games for Boston — and just three this season — since being acquired in a trade that sent David Backes to Anaheim in February 2020. Ritchie, acquired in a separate trade with Anaheim days later, scored a career-high 15 goals, and finished with 26 points in 56 games with Boston this season.

The Bruins did issue offers to forward Zach Senyshyn and minor league goalie Callum Booth.

Ducks forward Danton Heinen, who was acquired by Anaheim for Ritchie, did not receive a qualifying offer after scoring seven goals and 14 points in 43 games.

New Jersey acquired defenseman Christian Jaros from San Jose for forward Nick Merkley, Philadelphia re-signed big defenseman Sam Morin, St. Louis re-upped Aussie Nathan Walker and Jake Virtanen cleared unconditional waivers, putting him one step closer to being bought out by Vancouver.

The Devils signed Jaros to a two-way contract worth $800,000 in the NHL and $275,000 in the American Hockey League next season. Merkley is now eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the Sharks did not issue him a qualifying offer. San Jose also didn’t retain the rights to fourth-year forward Ryan Donato.

Morin, 26, got a $750,000, one-year contract from the Flyers. The 2013 first-round pick has been dogged by injuries throughout his career but is valuable depth on defense for Philadelphia.

Walker signed a two-year, two-way deal worth $750,000 annually when he’s in the NHL. Virtanen becomes a free agent just shy of his 25th birthday looking for a fresh start after recording just five points in 38 games last season.

A report from Daily Faceoff surfaced that Vegas was close to re-signing defenseman Alec Martinez, who played through a broken foot in the playoffs, to a three-year deal worth $15 million or more. Martinez, who turned 34 on Monday, is a two-time Stanley Cup winner with Los Angeles and scored the overtime goal to clinch the Kings’ second championship in 2014.

The NHL Player’s Association announced Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson has retired after 14 seasons, the last four in Arizona. Hjalmarsson spent his first 10 NHL seasons in Chicago, where he was a member of three Blackawks’ Stanley Cup champion teams, the last one in 2015.

He was then traded by Chicago to Arizona in June 2017. From Sweden, the 34-year-old Hjalmarsson finishes with 25 goals and 172 points in 821 career games.

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AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Panthers sign Sam Bennett to 4-year deal; Sam Reinhart next?