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Jonathan Huberdeau happy to look ahead

After signing six-year contract extension, forward focused on helping young Panthers reach next level

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Forward Jonathan Huberdeau watched this summer as one young Florida Panthers teammate after another signed a long-term contract, never worrying too much about when his turn would come.

That finally took place Wednesday, when Huberdeau, 23, signed a six-year, $35.4 million contract extension that will begin next season at an average annual value of $5.9 million.

"There was no nerves," Huberdeau said. "I still had a year to go and there wasn't any pressure to sign now or whatever. Just really happy I got the deal done and now I can think about just going to play hockey and being in Florida with all the guys, and I'm really happy about that."

Video: Jonathan Huberdeau signs long-term contract

Huberdeau joined forwards Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck and defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle this offseason in re-signing a long-term contract with the Panthers, who also signed goaltender James Reimer and defenseman Jason Demers in free agency.

"It seems like this summer a lot of guys signed their contract extension," Huberdeau said. "[You] like to see the young guys get locked up like that. On my part, I really like it in Florida. We have a great organization. I know we have a winning team and I just wanted to stay there and I'm really happy with the extension."

The No. 3 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Huberdeau is a big part of the Panthers' aggressive plans to become Stanley Cup contenders.

He was tied for third in scoring with 59 points (20 goals, 39 assists) for Florida, which set franchise regular-season records with 103 points and 47 wins. Huberdeau set an NHL career high in goals despite failing to score in his first 15 games and having one goal through his first 24 games.

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Huberdeau goes top-shelf while falling

Huberdeau finished with seven goals and four assists in the final nine games of the regular season. He has every intention of picking up where he left off.

"That's what I want to do," Huberdeau said. "I feel after the summer workout, you feel good. Everyone is going to be like this. We're just ready. I'm ready to go and hopefully I can start like I finished last year.

"I can score 30, 40 [goals]. It's all going to depend on how I play, how I shoot. I've got to shoot a little bit more, be a little more gritty in front of the net, probably. You've got to start early, have a better start. We'll see what happens."

Huberdeau said he's looking forward to another season playing on a line with center Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, 44.

"I love playing with these guys," Huberdeau said. "Playing with a legend like Jagr, I feel fortunate. He teaches me a lot of things and I can learn from a guy like this. With Barkov, he's such a good player, such a good two-way player, and it's fun to play with him. He's got great vision, good hands. Every day, I'm lucky to play with these players. We've got to be a good line this year if we play together."

Video: CAR@FLA: Barkov, Jagr and Hubereau connect for goal

No question, there will be high expectations for Huberdeau and his line. He has no issue dealing with that.

"I don't think it's going to change anything," he said. "We all know there's no pressure. You go there and everything is the same … last year with the guys that we had and the young guys getting older and we have more leadership now, and I think with the veterans we added, that's going to be great. It's just [finding] some chemistry inside the room, and that's all you need and on the ice it's going to go well.

"Last year, we had a really good year. Nobody expected that, but we did. That's the most important thing. And now … I think we're confident in what we can accomplish."

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