On Monday, the Florida Panthers announced that they re-signed defenseman Casey Fitzgerald to a one-year deal, and prospect John Ludvig to a two-year deal, each with a $775,000 AAV.
Fitzgerald, 26, appeared in 6 games for the Panthers last season, including two in the playoffs, after being claimed off waivers in January. With no goals and 9 assists in his 63 games of experience between his time with the Buffalo Sabres and Panthers the past three seasons, re-signing Fitzgerald represents a depth signing to round out the team’s defensive depth.
However, with Aaron Ekblad’s status for the beginning of the season looking doubtful after dislocating both shoulders, breaking a foot, and tearing an oblique in the playoffs, Fitzgerald, one of three right-handed defenders on the team could see playing time early in the season. Although, he will still have to contend with a deep group of left-handed defensemen that can play on their off-side, including Mike Reilly, Dmitry Kulikov, and Josh Mahura.
Ludvig, 22, a former third-round pick of the Panthers in 2019 has been an impressive defensive force at times since joining the AHL in 2021, but in his three season there he has struggled to stay healthy and has not played a full season since his final year in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks in 2020.
This past season with the Charlotte Checkers he recorded 3 goals and 14 assists in 54 games with a +18 rating, which was second best on the team. With a two-year contract in hand, and a little luck staying healthy, Ludvig could see his name called before long to get a chance with the Panthers. But realistically that opportunity might not come till next season given the aforementioned depth of left-handed defenders already on the roster.
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