So far, contract talk is all about term for Panthers, Huberdeau

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Despite missing the playoffs, the Florida Panthers made some nice strides in 2014-15, and Jonathan Huberdeau was a big part of that climb. Now the two sides need to determine how his next contract will go.

At 22, Huberdeau is a restricted free agent. The leverage is largely on Florida’s side, even considering the fact that the young forward led the team in scoring by ten points with a career-high 54.

As the third pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, the belief is that Huberdeau will only get better from here. So what kind of price is right?

It turns out that the biggest issue is actually term, or at least that contract talks won’t really kick off until the two sides agree on that direction. Panthers GM Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald that the team is pretty open-minded when it comes to the length of a deal.

“The biggest thing is agreeing on terms, and once we figure that out we’ll start talking numbers,” Tallon said. “We’re looking at a bridge [contract] or something a little longer or a long-term contract. We’re open to anything. We’ll get something done that’s best for both of us.”

His RFA status limits his leverage, yet at just 22, there are quite a few ways things can go. (A longer deal might not be so bad since he’s so far from unrestricted status.)

Aside from Brian Campbell’s notorious (and soon to expire) $7.14 million cap hit, the Panthers don’t boast a ton of big-money contracts (unless you count Roberto Luongo’s deal, which is more about term). That situation can change as Florida’s young players mature, so Huberdeau’s next contract could very well be the benchmark for other important pieces of the Panthers’ future.