Moments after being taken by the Panthers with the second pick in the NHL draft last month, Aleksander 'Sasha' Barkov said his plan was to play in Florida this season.
Barkov took a step toward that on Monday by signing his first contract with the team, a three-year entry level deal.
After scoring 21 goals with 27 assists in 53 games in the Finnish elite league over the past two seasons, there really is nothing left for Barkov to prove in Europe. He's going to get his chance with the Panthers in a few months.
Rookie camp, which Barkov is expected to participate in, will be held Sept. 4. Training camp begins Sept. 11 in Coral Springs.
With Barkov in the fold, the Panthers will be younger than they were at the start of last season.
Barkov is expected to not only join recent top draft picks Jonathan Huberdeau (20-years-old) and Erik Gudbranson (21) in the Panthers' lineup, but Alex Petrovic (21) and Nick Bjugstad (20) as well.
Veterans Ed Jovanovski (hip) and Kris Versteeg (knee) are coming off surgery and expected to miss at least the beginning of the season. Those injuries could open the door for the likes of Vincent Trocheck and Colby Robak.
Barkov is back in his native Finland after attending Florida's developmental camp last week. Although he couldn't participate in on-ice drills after having shoulder surgery last March, Barkov was able to assimilate himself a little better within South Florida and the organization.
Before coming to Panthers camp, Barkov had never visited Florida.
When asked what he had heard about Florida, Barkov mentioned "much sun, good beaches and warm weather.''
Come training camp, Barkov is going to be asked to help a Florida team that ranked tied for last in the league in goals and last in penalty kill percentage. A big forward who is good in the faceoff circle, Barkov is expected to play alongside Huberdeau at least from the start.
Huberdeau was the league's rookie of the year last season despite playing on a last-place team.
Barkov being on the roster will also help Florida's bottom line as his base salary with his signing bonus will be just over $1 million. Because various performance bonuses, however, his cap hit is worth $3.575 million.
With three former top-end draft picks on the roster, Florida will get over $10 million counting against the cap but could pay out as little as $3.025 million. That inflated number would help keep the Panthers above the mandated salary cap floor if veteran players were to be moved in the future.
After signing Barkov, the Panthers' salary cap number is close to $55 million -- including the rookie contracts signed by Barkov, Huberdeau and Gudbranson. Florida's estimated maximum performance bonus number is close to $8 million.
Triggers for performance bonuses include goals scored (20 for forwards, 10 for defensemen) as well as assists (35/25) and ice time averages.
The Panthers, actually, think Barkov is good enough to hit at least some of those bonus numbers. If he does, it will be worth the money.
"We're going to have a big, fast team,'' general manager Dale Tallon said at the draft.
"[Barkov] feels he is ready. He has a quiet confidence. He has size and skill and makes players around him better. He's extremely smart and sees the ice very well. That's what you need.''