The Florida Panthers’ intriguing offseason continued late Thursday night.
On the eve of the free agent market opening up, sources within the team confirmed the Panthers and emerging star Aaron Ekblad came to an agreement on an eight-year, $60 million contract extension.
Ekblad, 20, cannot sign a new deal with Florida until the NHL’s new fiscal year begins Friday at noon. Although Ekblad isn’t expected to formally sign anything Friday because of the opening of the free agency period, he will in the coming days.
The new Ekblad deal will not kick in until the 2017-18 season. Ekblad will be in the final year of the three-year entry-level deal signed after he was the top overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft.
Ekblad has turned in two exceptional seasons with the Panthers, winning the Calder Trophy for the league’s top rookie in 2015 and was one of Florida’s top defensemen throughout last season and into the playoffs.
The Panthers, who are expected to sign two forwards when free agency opens Friday, are also in talks with Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau and Reilly Smith regarding contract extensions.