The Florida Panthers have signed Matt Kiersted to a two-year contract extension, keeping him from restricted free agency. CapFriendly reports the deal will be a two-way contract in 2022-23 worth $750K at the NHL level and a one-way contract in 2023-24 worth $775K. General manager Bill Zito released a short statement:
Matt made great strides this year in his first full professional season, showing his skill as an exciting young defenseman. We are looking forward to his continued growth within our organization.
Kiersted, 24, was an undrafted free agent signing out of the University of North Dakota in 2021, and had a very strong debut season in the Panthers system. Playing mostly for the Charlotte Checkers, he racked up 20 points in 63 AHL games and added two more in ten NHL contests. The puck-moving defenseman is a very nice depth piece for the team to carry, especially given the tight cap situation the team will soon find itself in.
With Ben Chiarot, Robert Hagg, Markus Nutivaara, Chase Priskie, and Petteri Lindbohm all scheduled for unrestricted free agency, much of the team’s defensive depth may be on its way out the door. Bringing Kiersted back as the seventh or eighth option was a no-brainer, especially given he will still be waiver-exempt at the start of next season, able to go up and down between levels without issue.
The two-year deal will walk him directly to Group VI unrestricted free agency if he fails to get a substantial opportunity in Florida, meaning Kiersted is setting himself up nicely for the next few years as well. He even may compete for a full-time role depending on how the rest of the offseason shakes out, or potentially help replace some of the outgoing talent in 2023-24. MacKenzie Weegar and Radko Gudas both only have one year left on their current contracts, and while the former is an obvious candidate for extension, the latter may be getting closer to the end with the club, opening up another roster spot down the line.