Jonathan Huberdeau inks 2-year bridge deal with Panthers

Jonathan Huberdeau inks 2-year bridge deal with Panthers

After some offer sheet “tire kicking” earlier in the week, forward Jonathan Huberdeau and the Florida Panthers agreed to a 2-year deal that’ll get the restricted free agent into camp this week.

The deal comes after the Panthers had made their “best offer” to Huberdeau, the team’s leading scorer with 54 points (15 goals, 39 assists) last season. Bob McKenzie of TSN reports that it has an AAV of $3.25 million, with a salary of $2.5 million in the first year and $4 million in the second.

Yes, it’s a bridge deal, and one that’ll open the door for plenty of speculation about the Panthers and Huberdeau.

It’s a deal that’s a tick down from the bridge deal Matt Duchene signed with the Colorado Avalanche in 2012: 2 years, $3.5 million. There was similar concern then over a young star only getting a two-year contract vs. something long-term, but the Avs and Duchene then struck a 5-year deal worth $6 million annually.

Huberdeau will actually have the sixth-highest cap hit on the team this season … among forwards. Less than Reilly Smith, two years older, who’ll make $3.425 million. Within that context, it’s a hell of a deal for GM Dale Tallon, who hung in there with his numbers despite the protracted negotiation.

It’s also a smart bridge deal for both parties because the Panthers’ payroll is going to look dramatically different by 2017, when we have to do this all again. For example: Brian Campbell’s $7 million salary is off the books after this season.

But 2017 also brings us to Aaron Ekblad’s RFA status, so Tallon will have arguably his two most important young stars at the moment up for deals at the same moment.

That’s two years away, through. For now, a Panthers team that’s looking to surprise in the Atlantic Division will have its leading scorer in camp and under contract.