RALEIGH — The Hurricanes further bolstered their lineup Friday, signing free agent forward Ryan Dzingel to a two-year contract that will pay him $3.25 million next season and $3.5 million in 2020-21.
Dzingel, 27, had a combined 26 goals and 30 assists last season with Ottawa and Columbus, joining the Blue Jackets at the trade deadline and helping the team to a first-round upset of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Ryan has proven that he can be an impact player offensively, putting up bigger numbers over each of his three full-time NHL seasons,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said in the press release announcing the deal. “His speed, skill and vision make him an excellent fit for our forward group and our style of play. At 27, he’s just entering his prime and certainly had options coming off a 26-goal season, so we’re happy he’s chosen to be a part of the Carolina Hurricanes.”
A seventh-round pick of the Senators in 2011, the Wheaton, Ill., native played three seasons at Ohio State, including being a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2014, before turning pro. Dzingel played 2½ seasons with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton before making the jump to the NHL, and he has 66 goals and 72 assists in 268 career games.
The addition of Dzingel adds more versatility to Carolina’s forward corps — which also added center Erik Haula via trade and is expected to include 2017 first-round pick Martin Necas — and essentially replaces the hole left by Micheal Ferland signing with Vancouver earlier in the week. That said, Dzingel — rather than bringing toughness to the lineup like Ferland — brings more speed and goal-scoring to the team.
“Coach (Rod Brind’Amour) called and talked about his style, his high pace,” Dzingel said in a conference call Friday after the signing was made official. “He likes his wingers to get going and start flying out of the zone, and that’s what I love to do. I love using my speed, it’s one of my best attributes.
“So hearing that and hearing that we want to score goals, we want to be a high-tempo offense. And watching them last season, I thought was a perfect fit for the way I play.”
Dzingel also stated hard work is the foundation of his game — and that certainly aligns with his new coach’s mindset.
“I’m a seventh-rounder, I’ve been cut from a lot of teams as a younger kid,” Dzingel said. “I was doubted my whole life, and that’s the way I run things. I compete and work hard, and that’s what I like to hear from a coach too — you’re going to have to earn your ice time. You never want to come in and guys get or are owed anything. So it’s nice to come in and have to earn it, and that’s what I want to do.”
Dzingel will slot in Carolina’s top nine, and the only question mark there is the status of Justin Williams, a free agent who is mulling retirement. The team’s captain, who will be 38 at the start of the 2019-20 season, is in his second tour of duty with the Hurricanes and had 23 goals and 30 assists last season. Carolina believes Williams is leaning toward returning for a 19th season, and sources said the Dzingel signing does not have anything to do with Williams’ future with the team.
Carolina also has several restricted free agents left to sign, including forwards Brock McGinn and Saku Maenalanen and defenseman Haydn Fleury, all who figure to have roles with the Hurricanes this coming season.
With just slightly over $7 million in salary cap space for next season, according to CapFriendly.com, the glut of forwards — if Williams re-signs, and Maenalanen and Necas both make the NHL roster, Carolina would have 14 forwards projected to be on the opening night roster — indicate the Hurricanes might not be done reshaping their roster for the upcoming season.
Despite trading away defenseman Calvin de Haan to Chicago, the Hurricanes are still deep on defense. Fleury is poised to take a full-time spot in the bottom pairing, while former first-round pick Jake Bean made huge strides in his first pro season and could be close to making the full-time jump to Raleigh. Gustav Forsling, a restricted free agent acquired in the de Haan trade, also provides depth and NHL experience.
That could mean Justin Faulk, who has one year left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted agent, will continue to be a target of teams looking to add a right-handed defenseman. Could Carolina bundle Faulk with a forward to make an upgrade up front? The team could also package a forward with a prospect in an effort to make its top nine even more formidable.