The Florida Panthers signalled their intentions by signing defenceman Aaron Ekblad to an eight-year contract extension worth a reported $60 million. The deal puts Ekblad under contract through the 2024-2025 season.
“I’m really enjoying my summer, and for this kind of thing to happen, it’s really exciting for me,” he said. “It’s really great for the Florida Panthers and the ownership to have shown that kind of commitment toward what I want to do and how I want to be a part of this team. I’ve always expressed my interest to be here for a very long time, and I’m very excited to be here and have this extension.”
The 20-year-old defenceman from Windsor had 36 points in 78 games last season, his second with the Panthers. In 159 career games, Ekblad has 75 points. He emerged in the post-season, averaging over 25 minutes a game and posting a point in six games.
Ekblad was the first overall selection from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and he’s already proven himself as a quality skater with a nose for goal-scoring. He can also quarterback the power play, which is something the Panthers will require of him for years to come.
“We are very excited to sign Aaron to a multi-year contract,” Panthers general manager Tom Rowe said. “He is an exceptionally skilled, intelligent and mature young player that is a difference-maker for our team both on and off the ice. Aaron is an integral part of the foundation of our future, and a cornerstone player who is continuing to develop into a true leader and one of the league’s elite defencemen.”
Ekblad already owns a few franchise records, with eight game-winning goals. He surpassed Ed Jovanovski on April 9 when he secured the winner against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ekblad also won the Calder Trophy in 2014-2015, becoming just the second Panther to do so and the youngest NHL defenceman to do so since Bobby Orr. He set franchise records for most goals, assists and points for a first-year blueliner.
The Panthers also locked up goalie James Reimer and Colton Sceviour and Jonathan Marchessault during Friday’s free agent signing frenzy.