In Ryan Dzingel’s mind, Columbus never happened. He was an Ottawa Senator, breaking out for consecutive 20-goal seasons, flourishing under the up-tempo teachings of coach Guy Boucher. Now, he’s a Carolina Hurricane, excited to play under coach Rod Brind’Amour’s similar system.
“He has a high pace and likes his wingers to get going and start flying out of the zone,” Dzingel said, “and that’s what I like to do. I like to use my speed. It’s one of my best attributes.”
He joined a conference call Friday after the Hurricanes announced he’d signed a two-year contract at a $3.38-million cap hit. When someone mentioned his brief stay with the Blue Jackets, he quickly dismissed it. He never got a look in a significant role under coach John Tortorella, ended up a healthy scratch at one point and managed one playoff goal. Dzingel arrived too late on a team that already “had its go-to guys,” as he put it, and now that time is in the past.
Given the Hurricanes are paying him an AAV fitting of a player averaging 24.5 goals over the past two seasons, they’re throwing out his time as a Blue Jacket, too. They saw a nice fit for the Ottawa version of Dzingel, a left winger who brings good speed and a strong shot. As Brind’Amour explained to Dzingel during their initial conversation, they don’t have a locked-in top-six forward group, instead rolling a true top nine. Dzingel has no idea who he’ll play with, whether he gets a shot with Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Erik Haula or youngster Marin Necas – but simply likes the idea of earning every minute. As he pointed out on the conference call, grinding his way to a job is what he knows. He’s a seventh-round pick who was “cut from a lot of teams as a kid.” So a meritocracy in which he has a chance to climb the depth chart based on his play feels like home.
So does Raleigh. Seeing the Canes reach the conference final added to their hockey appeal, but family future was a large motivator in Dzingel’s decision.
“I loved what I heard from (owner Tom) Dundon and coach and everybody else, that it’s a great place to have a family, as recently I have a fiancée,” he said.
Dzingel’s fiancée, Elise Lobb, is heavily involved in golf, not just playing it but also having co-hosted Fox Sports’ Swing Clinic, so the move from Ottawa and Columbus to Carolina makes a ton of sense climate-wise.
Dzingel obviously feels the Hurricanes will give him what he needs on and off the ice. What does he give them? He’s long been a highly accurate shooter at 15.0 percent across his 268 NHL games, so the finishing ability appears to be sustainable. He’s a strong bet to crest 20 goals again. Among 337 forwards to log at least 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5 over the past two seasons, he’s 107th in points per 60 minutes but just 230th in shots per 60 minutes, so he could really break out if he could find a way to shoot more. The Hurricanes drive possession much better than the lowly Senators have in recent seasons, especially thanks to an elite D-corps moving pucks up quickly, so there’s a path to more shots – and threatening for 30 goals – depending on where Dzingel lands in the lineup. He’s a different player than Micheal Ferland but fills the void he left in the top nine when he signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Based on the fit, it’s entirely possible Dzingel enjoys the best season of his career in 2019-20.
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