The Ducks have signed first-round draft pick Cam Fowler to a three-year, entry-level contract.
The 18-year-old will make $810,000 in base salary each year, plus a $270,000 signing bonus spread out over the three years. He joins No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall (Edmonton) as the only players to sign with the clubs who drafted them in June.
By signing Fowler so soon, the Ducks appear eager to give the defenseman a shot at making the NHL club in his first professional season. Fowler had an impressive rookie conditioning camp, albeit against NHL rookies, prospects and minor-leaguers. Now he’ll have a chance to see if his skills translate to the Ducks’ main training camp in September.
On paper, there is room for Fowler on the blue line. Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman and Sheldon Brookbank are all signed to one-way contracts. Luca Sbisa and unsigned RFA James Wisniewski are expected to join them in Anaheim, leaving two roster spots open if Randy Carlyle decides to keep seven defensemen. The Ducks would like to add another top-four blueliner via trade, but it’s not certain they’ll be able to do so.
To make the NHL roster out of training camp, Fowler would have to buck history. The list of Anaheim draft picks who went straight to the NHL in their draft year is a short one: Steve Rucchin and Oleg Tverdovsky in 1994-95, Chad Kilger in 1995-96, and (then-26-year-old) Niclas Havelid in 1999-2000.
Add to the fact that Carlyle, a former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, has a notoriously short leash on young defensemen, and the chips are stacked against Fowler.
At least today he is one step closer.