ESPN’s Kevin Weekes tweeted today that he expects the Florida Panthers to turn their attention to their pending unrestricted free agents after missing out on signing forward Patrick Kane. The Panthers didn’t have much available cap space to sign the three-time Stanley Cup champion for this season and could face a shortage of it next summer when they try to negotiate long-term extensions with some of the top free agents available.
Sam Reinhart, Brandon Montour, and Gustav Forsling are all set to hit the market on July 1st, 2024, and could take a sizeable chunk of the $28.8MM in cap space the Panthers are projected to have available next summer.
Reinhart has scored at least 22 goals in six consecutive seasons and is coming off back-to-back 30-goal campaigns. He is currently on pace for the first 100-point season of his career, although it is early in the season. But if the 28-year-old can keep up a pace close to that he could be looking at a long-term deal in the range of $8MM-9MM annually.
Montour on the other hand is a difficult projection to make. He had 73 points last season in 80 games but has never topped 40 points in any other season during his eight-year NHL career. He missed the Panthers’ first 16 games of the season and has had a slow start offensively with just a single assist in five games thus far. He will most likely see a sharp increase on his next contract from the $3.5MM cap hit that he currently carries, but much of his future earning potential will be decided by the direction the rest of this season takes.
Forsling is the final high-profile free agent the Panthers will need to sign next summer and after a pair of solid seasons in Florida will be looking to cash in. The 27-year-old plays in all situations and has really seen his offensive game improve over the last couple of years. He is currently carrying a cap hit that is a shade over $2.6MM and could command an additional $3MM-$4MM per season given that he has proved he can be a top-pairing defenseman for the Panthers.
Florida will be hard-pressed to sign all three players as they will have other areas of need to consider going forward. Aaron Ekblad will be a free agent in the summer of 2025 as will Sam Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe.