Who says you can’t go home? Although Ottawa isn’t quite home for Ryan Dzingel, it may as well be. The Chicago area native was dealt by the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday to the organization that drafted him out of Ohio State in the seventh round of the 2011 Entry Draft.
Dzingel spent parts of three seasons with the Senators’ American League affiliate in Binghamton prior to playing 247 regular season games for Ottawa – compiling 62 goals, 64 assists – with 85 of those 126 points coming in his final 136 games.
While many of the names have changed on the current Senators roster from when the 28-year old was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 2019 February pre-trade deadline swap, Dzingel still holds familiarity with some and never lost touch with the club’s training staff.
“Not many guys are left from when I played two years ago, but the training staff and everybody else, I’m still very close with. So I’m excited to see everybody, get this going in 12 or 13 days when I get of jail here. Four or five guys are left there, I’m still pretty close with (Thomas) Chabot and (Chris) Tierney, and some of the other guys as well,” said Dzingel in his Zoom call availability Tuesday. “The training staff, we’ve kept in touch. I really like those guys. I think every single one of them are still there from when I was there. I think I have pretty solid relationships with all of them. I love goofing off and joking around with most of them. I can’t wait to get back.”
Now in his sixth NHL campaign, Dzingel actually played with 10 players on the Senators 2018-19 team prior to landing in Columbus. However, only Chabot, Tierney, Brady Tkachuk and Colin White were regulars.
An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Dzingel wasn’t surprised that he was being shopped but didn’t have an inkling, the Senators were the club interested in acquiring the speedy forward. He’s just appreciative of getting another shot in Ottawa.
“It was a crazy few days. I thought I could’ve been traded, but I definitely didn’t know it was to Ottawa. It’s been a crazy few days and anytime you get a second chance in anything in life, it’s pretty special. I’m looking at things in a different lens right now. Other than this 14 days stuck in the Brookstreet (Hotel), I’m very excited. I can’t wait to get out of this hotel, get on the ice again. It’s nice to be familiar with everything.”
After a short run 30-game run with the Blue Jackets, the left wing signed a two-year, $6.75 million contract with the Hurricanes in July 2019. For whatever reason. Dzingel never found consistency in Carolina, compiling only 29 points (8 goals, 21 assists) in 64 games in his first year on the deal. They followed up with two goals, two assist in 11 appearances in this current season to date.
Dzingel arrives in Ottawa wanting to start anew and wants to leave his Hurricanes experience behind.
“I don’t really want to hash things up. I want to look forward. My dad always said, “That’s why God put eyes in front of your head, instead of the back.” You don’t want to look back, but I think there were some very good players there. I didn’t have as much opportunity as I would’ve liked – playing here, there. That’s obviously in the past. Now it’s all about me proving it myself. There’s no excuses now. Here there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for me to get the job done and produce. I’m excited for that.”
The six-foot, 190-pound, Dzingel wants to return to the player that garnered two 20-goal plus campaigns out of his three with the Senators.
“Obviously in Carolina, I didn’t have a big as a role I would’ve liked. I want to play quality minutes again. I know what I’m capable of. I feel great physically. I feel the best I’ve ever felt, shape-wise. Just take it day-by-day and give everything I have and try to get some wins here. I’m going to use the same things I’ve always done – use my speed, shoot the puck, try to put some pucks in the back of the net for the Sens – you know, just going to be me.”
Dzingel is under the realization part of his fresh challenge will be to assist mentoring the young Senators’ core, something he’s looking forward to doing.
“There’s a lot of young guys coming in and a lot of high-end talent. When you’re a young a guy, it’s easy to be skilled and do the things you’re good at, but in the NHL you’re playing some top guys on the other side, so it takes awhile for anyone to get used to it. But like I said, these guys are studs. I’m watching mostly on the offensive side and we’ve got some really high-end players. They’re going to have some huge futures. It’s exciting to come in and step in with them. It’s weird to be an old guy and kind of help groom these guys, but we had a few guys in Carolina in (Morgan) Geekie and (Steven) Lorentz that were younger than me, who I got to know. I kind of tried to help out.”
Having played 119 AHL games, Dzingel stresses the best advice he can give younger players is to relax and have fun doing it.
“It’s a stressful time. I don’t think a lot of people see that. They’re guys playing in the NHL making a lot of money. Not many people think of it that way. It’s the biggest year of their life. It’s pretty much a make or break year for most of them unless you’re a first round big pick. That first year is huge for them, show what they have and produce. I’ve been around and like to joke around and keep it light for people, make people happy, make people have fun. I think that’s the most for now what I can bring – doing things the right way,” explained Dzingel.
“I’ve had some success goal scoring. A guy like Bobby Ryan did that for me. One of the quotes I remember him saying, “When I first got the there, I asked “Do you think I can make this team?” He said I had “no chance buddy, just have some fun.” It was because we had 12-13 one-way contracts. At first you’re like, “that’s kind of mean.” But then you look back at it, and you’re like hey, he told me to relax , don’t worry about making the team and just have fun and play the game. Next thing you know a few guys got hurt, and I had my opportunity.”
So for now, Ryan Dzingel is waiting out his quarantine with his wife, Elise at the Brookstreet Hotel. He continues to do pushups, squats, and use his band which travelled with him from North Carolina, biding his time before he’s able to return the ice on February 28. There’s no set target date to play in a game, but Dzingel is hoping it’s sooner than later.