Florida Panthers extend Jonathan Huberdeau for six years


Jonathan Huberdeau may be the last piece of the puzzle that will keep the Florida Panthers a contender in the Eastern Conference—and for the Stanley Cup—for a long time.

The team signed the 23-year-old to a six-year, $35.4 million contract earlier this week, which will kick in next season after his current two-year deal runs through.

“I’m glad we got a deal done so I can just focus on playing hockey with all the guys,’’ Huberdeau said of the extension. “I’m really happy with this.”

Huberdeau had a career-high in goals (20), points (59) and tied his career-best with 39 assists last season playing on a line with fellow youngster Sasha Barkov and NHL veteran Jaromir Jagr.

“This is exciting,” Huberdeau said, “we all know what we can do as a team. Now we have new owners who take care of us, have turned this team around. We’ve added players and they know what to do. That’s fun to see. Last year, we had a real good year and no one expected that but we did. And that’s the most important thing. Now we’re going into the next year and we’re confident in what we can accomplish.”

The Huberdeau signing caps off a flurry of activity for the Panthers, which experienced unprecedented success last season by setting a franchise record for wins with 47, and points with 103, en route to winning the Atlantic Division title. The team spent $173.5 million in contract extensions to its young core this summer, including signing Aaron Ekblad to an eight-year contract, Reilly Smith for five years, and Vincent Trocheck for six years. They had also previously signed centers Nick Bjugstad and Barkov to six-year deals.

“The owners have showed a confidence in the core guys by signing all the young guys,’’ said Huberdeau, who won the Calder Trophy as a rookie in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

“We know we have the right players. We believe in each other.’’

The Panthers also brought in free agents Keith Yandle, Jason Demers and goalie James Reimer with an additional $84 million worth of contractual commitments this summer—deals that will surely help the Panthers improve on last year’s success and put them in a firm position to be playoff contenders for year to come.

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