While one Florida-based team is stuck trying to trade its top pick from the 2013 NHL draft, the other Florida-based team is locking its top pick from the same year to a long-term contract and making him a key building block for the future.
According to the Miami-Herald's George Richards, the Panthers signed forward Aleksander Barkov to a six-year contract extension that will pay him a total of $35.4 million over the length of the deal.
That comes out to a salary cap hit of $5.9 million per season.
The Panthers have not officially announced the deal, but Barkov made it pretty clear on Twitter (in a Tweet directed at Kevin Spacey, the subject of the team's postgame award) that he has signed a new six-year deal and that a press conference will take place Tuesday.
@KevinSpacey thanks 4 the good luck I'm in for 6 more years noon presser tomorrow @LKomarov your invited...Thanks @FlaPanthers @Dougielarge— Aleksander Barkov (@Barkovsasha95) January 25, 2016
Barkov, 20, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft and has quickly turned into one of the best young two-way players in the league.
As part of a line with Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau, Barkov has 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 38 games and is already an outstanding defensive player. When you combine his all-around play with the fact he is already scoring like a top-line scorer and is likely to get better as he enters his prime, this contract could turn out to be an absolute steal for the Panthers.
Without the new deal Barkov would have been eligible for restricted free agency after this season.
Barkov's line with Jagr and Huberdeau has been one of the best in the NHL since they were brought together by the Panthers' trade for Jagr. As a line, the Jagr-Barkov-Huberdeau trio has outscored its opponents 32-14 during 5-on-5 play and controlled more than 53 percent of the shot attempts. This season alone that line has a 19-6 goals advantage over its opponents and is perhaps the biggest reason the Panthers are in first place (data via Puckalytics).