Florida Panthers agree to six-year $35.4M extension with Aleksander Barkov

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SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 18: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the Edmonton Oilers at the BB&T Center on January 18, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

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SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 18: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the Edmonton Oilers at the BB&T Center on January 18, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers agreed to a long-term contract with a vital member of their young core Monday.

According to George Richards of the Miami Herald, the team came to terms with 20-year-old center Aleksander Barkov to a six-year contract extension worth $5.9 million per-year. The total comes out to $35.4 million total.

Barkov also thanked Kevin Spacey in a tweet about the deal. If you don't get the inside joke, read here. 

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Florida selected Barkov with the No. 2 overall pick in the talented 2013 NHL Draft. This season, he has taken his game to new heights with the surprising Panthers. Barkov has 30 points in 38 games played, averaging 19:33 of ice-time.

Richards explains why Barkov received a six-year deal instead of a max eight-year contract:

Florida reportedly had tried to get Barkov to sign for the NHL maximum of eight years but was rebuffed, as expected, by his agent. For the Panthers, six years of not having to deal with Barkov’s contract is a win in itself. Barkov would have been a restricted free agent this summer and the six-year deal buys Barkov’s first two years of being eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Recently, coach Gerard Gallant sang the praises of the young pivot, who has teamed up with Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau on Florida’s top line.

 He’s confident. He’s big and strong and that’s the thing. He’s more experienced. His game is hitting another level because he’s more experienced now and he’s a big, strong kid,” Gallant said. “His confidence is second-to-none. That’s what we expect. He’s a high draft pick. The last two years have been pretty good years for young player development, now he’s at a different level and he brings it every night in a consistent game.”

According to War on Ice, Barkov’s 5-on-5 CF% is 47.64 percent and his CF% Rel is plus-0.40. This means other teams possess the puck more when he’s on the ice, but the Panthers hold onto the puck more relative to the rest of the team when Barkov plays.

In Dec. 2014 the Panthers signed center Nick Bjugstad to a six-year, $24.6 million contract extension that kicked in this season. Florida will now have the 23-year-old Bjugstad and Barkov locked up at center through the 2020-21 season, when Bjugstad’s contract is up, giving them a powerful 1-2 punch down the middle. 

Next, the Panthers will have to re-sign cornerstone defenseman Aaron Ekblad, but he has another season left on his entry-level contract.

Florida leads the Atlantic Division with 61 points in 48 games played – five points clear of the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The deal likely sets a template for the Colorado Avalanche and center Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. MacKinnon is also in the final year of his entry-level deal. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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