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

Sam Bennett has re-signed with the Florida Panthers, inking a four-year contract worth $17.7 million.

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

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, 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 a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

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.

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.


AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.


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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press