Sam Reinhart is back in the fold.
The Buffalo Sabres announced today that they have signed Reinhart, their lone remaining restricted free agent, to a two-year, $7.3 million-contract with a cap hit of $3.65 million.
Reinhart, 22, is coming off a career year on the wing with 25 goals and 50 points in a season that saw him struggle to produce in the first half. But Reinhart took off after scoring a goal Jan. 1 in the Winter Classic at Citi Field against the New York Rangers.
Reinhart had 20 of his 25 goals in the season's final 44 games, and was tied for 12th in the NHL in goals from Jan. 1 to the end of the year. Reinhart ended up tying Jack Eichel for the team lead in goals and finishing third in points, behind only Eichel and the departed Ryan O'Reilly.
The contract negotiations between Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill and Reinhart's agent, Craig Oster, stretched through the summer without a solution and extended into training camp.
When Reinhart arrived in early September at HarborCenter to skate with his teammates, that was perceived to be a good sign for negotiations. Most players without a deal stay away from those informal skates unless they have it on good information that talks are progressing.
"That stuff is all between my agents, myself and Jason and that's the way we've wanted to keep it," said Reinhart. "That's the way it's going to keep going. My focus around here is to be ready for the season and I'm excited to be back with the guys."
Still, no deal was reached and Reinhart was not with the team when it reported for physicals last week. He has missed the first two preseason games, and when the team lined up for Tuesday's home opener against Pittsburgh, Kyle Okposo was in Reinhart's presumed spot at right wing on a line with Eichel and newly acquired left wing Jeff Skinner.
The sides never broke off negotiations, with TSN's Bob McKenzie first reporting Wednesday that a deal was close less than two hours before the club's official announcement of the signing.
Reinhart will earn a salary of $3.55 million this season and $3.75 million next season, thus leading to the $3.65 million cap hit. According to Capfriendly.com, the Sabres will enter the season with about $2.8 million in cap space.
The Sabres were was off Wednesday and return to practice Thursday to prep for a home-and-home set against Toronto that opens Friday night in Scotiabank Arena.
Taken as the No. 2 overall pick at the 2014 draft in Philadelphia, Reinhart and Toronto's William Nylander were the top RFA forwards remaining on the market. The only other unsigned RFAs are forwards Nick Ritchie of Anaheim and Miles Wood of New Jersey and defenseman Shea Theodore of Vegas.
Oddly enough, both Reinhart and Nylander have fathers and brothers who have played in the NHL.
Reinhart's father, Paul, was longtime defenseman in the '80s for Calgary and his brother, Griffin, has played for Edmonton and the New York Islanders. Nylander's father, Michael, played 920 games for six NHL teams and his brother, Alexander, is trying to stick with the Sabres after the club made him its No. 1 pick in 2016.
Reinhart regularly insisted he did not change anything in his playing style last season. The increased numbers were, however, a product of more shots on goal and a better percentage as Reinhart got to the net quite a bit more in 5-on-5 play and on the power play.
He had five goals on 68 shots in the first 38 games of the season, just a 7.4 percent clip. That changed to 20 goals on 120 shots in the final 44 games – pushing the percentage up to 16.7.
Reinhart was at 13.9 percent in 2015-16 when he scored 23 goals. That number dipped to 9.6 in 2016-17 when he scored 17 goals.