The Florida Panthers are busy completing their RFA work today. After signing two depth defensemen earlier, the team has now reached a much bigger deal with Sam Bennett. Bennett has signed a four-year contract with the Panthers that Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports will carry an average annual value of $4.4MM. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet provides the full breakdown:
- 2021-22: $1.925MM + $1MM signing bonus
- 2022-23: $3.425MM salary
- 2023-24: $6.35MM salary
- 2024-25: $5.0MM salary
Florida GM Bill Zito released a short statement:
Sam’s impact on our club this past season was seen immediately, injecting physicality, skill and energy into our lineup. 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, 25, is probably the happiest man in the world looking back at his deadline trade to the Panthers. He has recorded just 12 points in 38 games for the Calgary Flames, spending considerable time on the fourth line. Upon arriving in Florida, he was immediately placed in the top-six, given 18 minutes a night and managed 15 points in his final ten games. That was followed by a point-per-game performance in the first round of the playoffs, where Bennett has always excelled.
It shouldn’t be expected that Bennett performs at the level he did in those ten games, scoring at a pace that he’s never come close to in the past, but he doesn’t have to reach quite that level to be a valuable contract for the Panthers. At $4.4MM, as long as he’s a reasonable second-line player that provides physicality and playoff performance, it will work out just fine. A four-year deal buys out three years of unrestricted free agency, but also provides Bennett with the kind of security that wouldn’t have necessarily been available on the open market. Florida figures to be a strong team for the duration of the deal, providing Bennett with plenty of opportunities to show off his offensive skills.
Of course, there is a salary cap, and the Panthers have a big name to sign over the next year. Aleksander Barkov’s deal will expire after the 2021-22 season, a player the team obviously can’t afford to lose. With Bennett now taking up a good chunk and newcomer Sam Reinhart also expected to sign a multi-year deal, the Panthers are betting they’ll still be able to fit everyone in down the road.