Reinhart not worried about his next contract

May 29, 2020

The last time the Buffalo Sabres played a hockey game was back on March 9 in a 3-2 shootout win over the Washington Capitals in front of the home fans at KeyBank Center to snap a six-game losing streak. Three days later, the league had suspended the regular season amid the coronavirus pandemic that hit the National Basketball Association the night before.

More than two months later, the National Hockey League officially announced an outline for the 24-team Return To Play format, which ended the 2019-20 Sabres season after finishing just outside of that format in 25th place. Buffalo went 30-31-8 in 69 games this season, which officially marks the ninth-consecutive season without a playoff experience.

Sam Reinhart has been back in Vancouver ever since he was given the green light to go back home. He says that he had been working out and staying ready for a possible return to play. Looking back on how everything transpired since the league shutdown, Reinhart couldn't help but feel weird as to knowing now that his team won't be taking the ice again this season.

"When the NBA suspended [its season], it really came into our minds that it was a possibility. Then obviously the next weeks are a whirlwind. And then you start to be able to digest it, hoping that maybe you can come back, but then as it gets longer, you start thinking of the year more and more," said Reinhart during his end-of-season press conference on Thursday.

"I think at this point, you've got to take a lot of the positives and a lot of things that have gotten better for us this year," Reinhart said. "We know it's not what we ultimately wanted, a disappointing ending, for sure. However, all we can do right now is focus on the things that went well and really try to utilize this long offseason to our advantage. It's all how you handle it and all how you prepare the best way you can, and [the way we] utilize the extended offseason it's going to come back even stronger."

The 24-year-old put up another quietly sound season in Buffalo with 50 points (22+28) in 69 games. At an 82-game pace this season, Reinhart was on the verge of scoring a career-high 26 goals, while also registering 33 assists for 59 points. The overall production may be a step back from the 65-point campaign (22+43) he had in the 2018-19 season, but still some solid stats for the right-hand man on a line with Jack Eichel. He has also been healthy throughout the course of his career, not missing a game in a season since the 2016-17 campaign and playing in 400 of a possible 406 games through this point of his career.

Two years ago, Reinhart was given a two-year bridge contract by general manager Jason Botterill at a team friendly $3.65 million. In those two years, he's produced at a .76 points per-game pace, while also serving a big role as a top-six forward with the team.

Reinhart is now set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, where there's a possibility that he can get a nice pay day and a long-term contract extension. However, there is the chance that he is given another short contract for one or two years, depending on the Sabres' outlook with the salary cap. But Reinhart has got other things on his mind other than his next contract to come this offseason.

"Honestly, it hasn't been in my mind too much," Reinhart said. "I'm a hockey player, right? So my mindset is when my next game is going to be. It's a lot tougher when you find out it's going to be an extra couple of months, as quick as you can channel that into a possible and really start to prepare that much more and be that much smarter about your offseason. It's much more important. In terms of contract stuff, it hasn't been on the mind. It was supposed to all go down in a month or so, but there's so much unknown of when that's going to happen, just like so much in the world. I'm honestly not too worried about it. Whether it's one year or six years or whatever, who knows, it doesn't really affect my next couple of months. So I'm just trying to prepare for my season like I usually would."

While Reinhart is keeping his focus primarily now on the offseason, he has taken the time to look back on the 2019-20 season and how things played out under the direction of first-year head coach Ralph Krueger. While a step up in the standings from 27th place to 25th place may not seem like anything of value, he knows that the team is getting some valuable experience that has not come to them over the past few years.

"When you're reflecting on the year, you're really realizing how many big games we played, and that's been different from most other years," Reinhart said. "At the same time, you look at our win percentage against Boston [Bruins], teams like Tampa [Bay Lightning]; we've played some great games against those teams, and they just have that ability to win on a nightly basis. I think we have to figure out a way to learn how to do that, and at the same time not take nights off when you're not playing a team to the same caliber of a Boston or Tampa. It's a fine line within the games of not making mistakes at the wrong time, and that's what teams like that figure out early and they just run with it."

As for working with Krueger, Reinhart has been very impressed with his head coach and the way he has come in and changed the environment of the locker room. It is not just what Krueger has done in the locker room that has made Reinhart say glowing remarks about his bench boss.

"Even from Zoom calls with him over the past couple of months, he's just got that knack to motivate, especially when times are tough" Reinhart said. "I would be shocked if anyone has said a bad word about him, just because there's nothing bad to say about him. Just the respect that he garners from each individual is something to behold, and he's a leader in our dressing room. I'm really excited to see how he's going to be able to keep us all together in the summer, and really motivate us heading into the fall."

You can listen to Reinhart's entire press conference below: