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Long-term or bridge deal for Reinhart?

Sam Reinhart is currently a restricted free agent

July 09, 2018 - 2:17 pm

Joe DiBiase reporting

The Buffalo Sabres and Sam Reinhart have decisions to make this offseason. Reinhart was tendered as a restricted free agent and now he'll either sign a long-term contract with the Sabres or a bridge deal.

Had Reinhart not bounced back last season, we'd almost certainly be looking at a bridge deal. Reinhart's start to the year was one of the reasons the Sabres were out of the playoff race by November. The 22-year-old had 11 points in 38 games going into the new year, but was on fire from the Winter Classic on, scoring 39 points in 44 games. Now, looking back on Reinhart's short career, his point totals are 42, 47, 50. Good, but not great.

There have been a couple of comparable players that have signed contracts as restricted free agents in the last couple weeks.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Miller is a player that has had more offensive production in his career than Reinhart, but is a couple years older. At age 25, Miller just got a contract of five-years, $5.25 million per-year. His point totals throughout his career are 58, 58, 56, and 43 since he became a NHL regular.

The differences here might be that Reinhart was a No. 2 overall pick versus Miller who was a mid-first rounder. Also, Miller has been more of a complementary player throughout his career. Reinhart has been relied upon as one of Buffalo's best scorers. Between that and the differences in production, their contracts could look very similar.

Another comparable is San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl. The 24-year-old is a skilled forward that is also a couple years older than Reinhart. Hertl's numbers are slightly worse than both Miller and Reinhart's, but yet he recently got a four-year deal worth $5.625 million per-year.

It seems that if Reinhart gets a long-term contract, it'll look something like J.T. Miller or Tomas Hertl's deals. At least five-years, and over a $5 million cap hit. There is not a lot of precedence for a player of Reinhart's caliber going the bridge route.

Going back to 2012, P.K. Subban signed a two-year, $2.875 million contract. That was coming off a couple of breakout seasons for Subban, which then set him up for an eight-year deal at $9 million per-year.

A bridge deal would give the Sabres some security. It would be a safety net for the Sabres if Reinhart looks like the player we saw at the beginning of last season, rather than the end of it. However, if he continues to be near a point-per-game player, like he did from January on, signing him to a long-term contract would be a bit of a discount.

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