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NHL Rumor Mill – April 4, 2024

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The latest on Sam Reinhart and some suggested offseason trade targets for the Canadiens in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

REINHART UNCONCERNS AS FREE AGENCY LOOMS

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports Sam Reinhart isn’t concerned about his lack of a contract extension with the Florida Panthers

The 28-year-old winger is completing a three-year deal with an average annual value of $6.5 million. He’s enjoyed a career season in his contract year with 52 goals and a team-leading 87 points. 

Reinhart said the lack of a new contract isn’t an issue. He claimed he has a positive relationship with the club and general manager Bill Zito. Reinhart insisted he’s “very comfortable” with the ongoing situation as he’s focused on the end of this season and the upcoming playoffs. 

I’ve got all the confidence it’s going to work out,” said Reinhart. “I’m very comfortable with where it is.” 

Florida Panthers winger Sam Reinhart (NHL Images).

Zito told LeBrun that he believes the two sides will get a deal done and praised Reinhart’s performance this season. “Sometimes the contracts take time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing”, he said. “I believe we will find the right contract for Sam and the Panthers.” 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart will be the top player in this summer’s unrestricted free-agent class. He will draw plenty of interest if he hits the open market on July 1. 

Reinhart and Zito seem keen to get a contract extension done. The more he scores the more expensive he’ll be to re-sign. Still, he’s in a good situation with the Panthers, a club that has gained respectability by becoming one of the top 10 teams in the league. 

The Panthers have a projected cap space of over $20 million for 2024-25 with 13 active roster players under contract. They must also re-sign restricted free agent Anton Lundell while key defenseman Brandon Montour is UFA-eligible on July 1. 

It’ll be interesting to see how this situation shakes out. There was speculation earlier this season of Reinhart getting $8.5 million per season on his next contract. His 52-goal season raises his asking price. He’ll get over $10 million annually on the free-agent market. With Florida lacking a state tax, he might accept just under $9.5 million per season to stay with the Panthers. 

SUGGESTED TRADE TARGETS FOR THE CANADIENS

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Marco D’Amico proposed three trade options for the Canadiens in their offseason pursuit of a young scoring forward. He noted they have “an overabundance of defensemen, some cap space and a haul of draft picks over the next two drafts” to draw on for trade bait. 

Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras tops D’Amico’s list, believing the 23-year-old winger could be traded this summer. Following a difficult third season with the Ducks, a change in scenery might be in order for Zegras. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: D’Amico observed that the Canadiens have been confirmed to be monitoring Zegras. He also noted that Ducks GM Pat Verbeek has refused to entertain a trade. Nevertheless, he believes that the winger could be in play this summer. 

Verbeek could listen to offers for Zegras this summer but he’ll be an expensive acquisition. The Ducks GM could insist on the Canadiens’ 2024 first-rounder and top prospect Lane Hutson being part of the deal. 

Zegras is signed for two more seasons. The Ducks aren’t facing any pressure to trade him. Verbeek can set a high asking price and wait to see if someone will meet it. He won’t have any problem with a healthy and motivated Zegras as part of his roster for next season. 

Carolina Hurricanes forward Martin Necas could become available this summer. The Hurricanes have several key players eligible for UFA and RFA status this summer with Necas in the latter category. They’re unlikely to sign them all. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Necas could become a trade candidate if the Hurricanes attempt to retain pending UFAs like Jake Guentzel, Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce. He won’t be as expensive to acquire as Zegras but it could cost the Habs a first-rounder or one of their promising defense prospects as part of the return. 

Necas is also close to UFA eligibility. The Canadiens will want to ensure they can sign him to an extension before making this deal. 

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kent Johnson is the least proven on D’Amico’s list but has plenty of potential. The Jackets already have a plethora of young talent coming in and another top-five pick likely this season. 

D’Amico noted that an argument could be made to pursue Patrik Laine given his poor 2023-24 season. However, his $8.7 million cap hit and the baggage that has followed him would make him an expensive risk. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson had a 40-point rookie season in 2022-23 but struggled with consistency before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in February. He could rebound well playing for Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis. However, Johnson seems the least likely target for the Habs. GM Kent Hughes will likely prefer an established scorer in their mid-twenties.

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