Aaron Ekblad injury: Panthers place star defenseman on LTIR

Aaron Ekblad Panthers
Aaron Ekblad
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers will put star defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) after he suffered a right-leg injury during Friday night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, per Frank Seravalli of the Daily Faceoff Sunday.

While it was initially believed that it would be a season-ending injury, it is believed that he will miss the remainder of the regular season but will be back at some point during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

By placing the star blueliner on LTIR, the Panthers open up enough cap space to bring on Robert Hagg — whom they are acquiring from the Buffalo Sabres for a sixth-round pick — to keep the blue line afloat during the alternate captain’s absence.

Hagg has one goal and seven assists in 48 games this season with the Sabres after he was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers last offseason.

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Ekblad was enjoying one of the best seasons of his pro career on a loaded Florida team — which leads the NHL in goals scored — this season 15 goals and 42 assists (career-high) for 57 points (career-high).

The injury occurred just 1:05 into Friday’s game against Anaheim when the defenseman slid awkwardly into the left boards. Concern immediately grew when he couldn’t put any weight on his right leg. This coming one year after he suffered a season-ending left leg injury in March.

But any notion that Ekblad’s season was done quickly dissipated following the game.

“It’s not as bad as we thought it was going to be,” Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette said. “Sure, you’re worried. I felt bad because, when you see that, you think back to last year. I’m so happy it’s not last year. He’s going to be OK.’’

The 26-year-old will not have time to heal up before the playoffs while his Panthers see out a regular season in which they’ve largely dominated. Their 90 points through 62 games are the most in the Eastern Conference with a six-point lead over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.