Speculation swirled for much of the morning that the Panthers were close to signing the number one overall pick from the 2014 NHL Draft, Aaron Ekblad, and now that talk has proven true. Ekblad signed a three-year entry level deal per the team’s website. Now both parties can turn to training camp, where the team can assess where the defenseman belongs for the upcoming hockey season.
“We are very pleased to have signed Aaron,” GM Dale Tallon said via the team’s announcement. “He is a talented, strong, smart and hardworking defenseman who is ready to take the next step in his professional career. We look forward to watching him compete and develop at our prospects camp, throughout our main training camp and in preseason competition.”
Training camp will be the most interesting part of Ekblad’s first year in the Florida organization.
While many lauded Ekblad as being the most pro-ready prospect in the draft, it still might be prudent for the Panthers to hold off for a year and allow Ekblad to return to the Barrie Colts in the OHL for another season.
If Ekblad plays more than nine games in the NHL, the first year of his entry-level deal will kick in, ultimately counting as Ekblad’s first season toward unrestricted free agency.
Aaron Ekblad will hope to give the Panthers no choice though as he already projects to be the team’s best defenseman. If that’s the case throughout the team’s training camp, expect to see the top pick suiting up for Florida when the NHL season begins in October.