Barely two weeks after signing with the Carolina Hurricanes, Ryan Dzingel learned the shocking news about Max Pacioretty.
Pacioretty, who was traded to the Canes in July, tore his Achilles tendon and could miss up to six months. With the newcomer sidelined, there is a huge gap in the Canes’ squad to fill as they head into the 2022-23 season.
The Canes have signed free agent Ondrej Kase. Jack Drury and Stefan Noesen want to make the leap from the Chicago Wolves to the AHL. Veteran Derek Stepan will come to preseason camp on a professional tryout (PTO) contract and is trying to get back on the team.
Dzingel? He has a two-way contract for a year. He has played 61 NHL games over the past two seasons. He’s had a string of injuries – forearm, wrist, broken toe, high ankle sprain – in recent years which he calls “crazy, unfortunate things”.
He also had a shot with the Hurricanes before that didn’t work. But Dzingel believes he can now.
“Different things happen in life,” Dzingel said on Thursday. “You never want to see anyone hurt, especially someone who’s been in the league as long as (Pacioretty). It creates a place for guys to show up and compete and try to make a difference. I’ve grown in my game and I know I can make a difference no matter what line I’m on.
“I’m just excited. It’s a big surprise to be able to return to Carolina. It’s a really good chance for me to prove myself again. I’m just focused on coming back in the best shape of my life. I’ve had a lot of injuries over the past two or three years and any GM would be reluctant to sign someone who can’t stay on the ice. He needs guys who play and have stamina.”
When announcing the signing, Don Waddell, the Canes’ president and general manager, called Dzingel a “qualified player who can bring an offensive boost to our forward group.”
The Canes anticipated that boost from Dzingel when they signed him to a two-year, $7 million free agent deal in July 2018. Dzingel had 23 goals for the Ottawa Senators in 2017-18 and then combined 26 with the Ottawa and Columbus Blue Jackets the next season.
Waddell then said he could be a “powerful player” whose speed, skill and vision should make him a good complement to the Canes’ fast-paced playstyle under coach Rod Brind’Amour.
But it never clicked on the ice for Dzingel and the Canes. He scored eight goals in 64 games in the 2019-20 season and made 11 appearances for Carolina in 2021 before being traded to Ottawa for forwards Cedric Paquette and Alex Galchenyuk.
“I just think I didn’t play as well as I should have or could have played,” said Dzingel. “I’m a better player than what I’ve shown. I hate to talk about injuries, but I’ve played through five or six that no one knows or talks about. But I absolutely had to get better. It was on me and it’s still on me.”
Last season, Dzingel was with Arizona before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in February. He was picked up from waivers by the San Jose Sharks and was teammates with defenseman Brent Burns, who is now with the Canes after the July trade with the Sharks.
Dzingel and his wife Elise live in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they can often be found on the golf course. They recently appeared in “Playing Around with Rob Riggle,” the YouTube video of the Dzingels and comedian poking fun between swings at Scottsdale National.
Dzingel, 30, said he would soon be heading to Raleigh to work a little early before camp. He trained with the Hurricanes’ head strength and conditioning coach Bill Burniston once during the offseason and says he’s been back in touch with Burniston to talk about conditioning since his signing.
Dzingel’s contract with the Canes pays $750,000 at the NHL level and $150,000 at the AHL level, despite receiving a $200,000 guarantee.
There’s no guarantee he’ll be on the cane list on opening night. He could very well be with the Wolves, the Canes’ AHL offshoot not far from his hometown of Wheaton, Illinois.
However, Dzingel would prefer to be in Raleigh for the entire season.
“A lot of things have to happen from now on to make the team, but I’ll be willing to work my tail off to try,” he said.