Matt Kiersted's new contract indicates Florida Panthers believe he's tracking toward full-time NHL duty
The former UND defenseman will be on a two-way contract in 2022-23 and a one-way deal in 2023-24.
SUNRISE, Fla. — Matt Kiersted just completed his first full year as a professional hockey player.
He played 63 games with Charlotte in the American Hockey League and 10 with the Florida Panthers in the NHL.
If Kiersted's new contract is any indication, the Panthers are expecting the former UND defenseman to spend more time in South Florida soon.
Kiersted signed a two-year contract extension Monday, which will take him through the 2023-24 season. Kiersted would have been a restricted free agent next month.
According to CapFriendly , Kiersted's deal is worth $1.525 million.
More important, some benchmarks within his contract make it appear like the Panthers are expecting Kiersted to grow into a full-time NHL player.
Next season, he will make a minimum of $250,000 if he's in the AHL (entry-level minimums are less than $100,000). During the 2023-24 season, Kiersted will be on a one-way contract, which means he will get paid $775,000 whether he's in the NHL or AHL.
Teams usually only sign players to one-year deals if they believe there's a good chance they'll be in the NHL, because they don't want to spend that much on minor-league players.
"Matt made great strides this year in his first full professional season, showing his skill as an exciting young defenseman," Florida general manager Bill Zito. "We are looking forward to his continued growth within our organization."
Kiersted, who played four seasons with the Fighting Hawks, scored his first NHL goal last season against the Los Angeles Kings in December. He had two points in his 10 NHL games.
In Charlotte, Kiersted had five goals and 20 points in 63 games.
Kiersted was not selected in the NHL Draft, but gradually improved during his college career to the point where he became one of college hockey's most highly sought-after free agents.
The Elk River, Minn., product chose to sign with the Panthers after his college career ended in the spring of 2021 and he immediately jumped in to play seven games with Florida that year.
Kiersted started the 2021-22 season with the Panthers and transitioned back-and-forth from the NHL and AHL throughout the year. He had four different stints in Florida this season.
The Panthers won the President's Trophy as the NHL's best team in the regular season, tallying 122 points. They beat Washington in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but got swept by two-time defending champion Tampa Bay in the second round.