Tallon hopes to avoid arbitration with Hayes, ‘not worried’ about signing Ekblad

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Now that the Florida Panthers have inked Dmitry Kulikov to a three-year, $13 million deal, they have six defensemen signed to one-way contracts and another, Alex Petrovic, likely to push hard for a roster spot.

Then there’s Aaron Ekblad. After being taken with the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, it’s safe to say that the 18-year-old is also a serious contender to make the team out of training camp. They have to agree to terms with him first though.

“We’ll wait until rookie camp,” Panthers GM Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald. “He handled himself very well as prospect camp, did a good job. I’m not worried about that. We’ll get him signed when the time comes.”

There is a more immediate matter for Tallon to deal with as forward Jimmy Hayes has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 29. The Panthers general manager is naturally hoping to re-sign Hayes before it gets to that point.

Hayes, 24, was given an opportunity to play in Florida after years of struggling to find a spot on the deep Chicago Blackhawks and finished the 2013-14 campaign with 11 goals and 18 points in 55 games.

He’s the Panthers last restricted free agent, so after they agree to terms with Hayes and lock up Ekblad, Florida will be set for the preseason, barring a trade.