As expected, the Hurricanes announced a broad set of roster cuts to stock the Charlotte Checkers and get a step closer to an opening day lineup. But with 29 players still on a roster likely to land at 22-24 by the end of the weekend, there are still decisions to be made at least partly based on the final two preseason games.
Here is an updated assessment of the situation after today’s cuts.
I am on record from awhile back and again in today’s Daily Cup of Joe as saying that regardless of how competitive the situation looks in camp, the ultimate resolution to the goalie situation continues to be a foregone conclusion from before the start of camp. Alex Nedeljkovic needs to and will get NHL ice time at some point as he gets a chance to stake a claim to a backup slot or more in the near future. But before that occurs, the team needs to at a minimum give James Reimer a run in the NHL to try to rebound from a tough 2018-19 season. Ideal would be that he rebound and become tradeable. Especially if Forsberg clears waivers, I think the team would be willing to go with a combination of Mrazek, Nedeljkovic and Forsberg to fill two NHL slots. I guess the question for some might be why Forsberg stayed and Nedeljkovic left. I think the best bet is that Mrazek and Reimer split the two weekend starts and that the team does not want to put either of them in a position where they have to come in cold. So Forsberg is the extra to have a backup available if needed. But despite Forsberg’s strong play on Wednesday, I would not read much into it in terms of the depth chart.
Decisions to be made: None. As much as looks like a competition especially with all four goalie playing well, I do not think it is. Forsberg ultimately gets risked on waivers hopefully on the way to Charlotte.
Some might be surprised to see Jake Bean among the cuts. In between some good plays with the puck on his stick which is the advanced part of his game, Bean is still a work in process defensively. But more so than anything else, he is waiver exempt and therefore was almost certain to start at the AHL level unless he blew the doors off in preseason action (which he did not).
Of the moves made, I think maybe most surprising is that Roland McKeown is still at the NHL level. He cleared waivers earlier this week, so he can be sent down at any time, but as the only right shot in the tryout group, he could push to fill van Riemsdyk’s slot short-term.
Also still at the NHL and practicing again after a layoff due to injury is Chase Priskie. I would be near shocked if Priskie stuck at the NHL level. As a newcomer, the reason he is still in camp is for management and the coaching staff to see him in action after being injured in the early stages of camp. If he is ready/capable, I would not be surprised if he sees preseason action in one of the two games this weekend before heading to the AHL.
The team has ten defensemen on the roster right now. If you consider Priskie to be destined for the AHL and van Riemsdyk likely out to start the season, I think the team will make at least one more cut to get to eight counting van Riemsdyk. I would be shocked to see Fleury fall lower than #7 because I think he would be claimed on waivers. That leaves McKeown and Forsling battling for one spot. I think McKeown needs to play his way into the third pairing to stay. If he falls to #7, I think the team will exercise the option it has to get McKeown to the AHL without having to clear waivers again and will slot Forsling as the #7 if necessary.
Decisions to be made: Which of Fleury, McKeown or Forsling slots into van Riemsdyk’s slot short-term. If Fleury wins that slot, I think the team uses its option to get McKeown to the AHL and Forsling slots as the healthy extra. If McKeown or Forsling slots into the lineup, I think Fleury stays at #7 to avoid waivers and the other of McKeown or Forsling heads to Charlotte.
I would not say that the forward cuts were a major surprise, but I would have expected Brian Gibbons and Max McCormick to be part of this round of cuts. My early predictions also had Janne Kuokkanen as still part of the process at this point. Kuokkanen has had an okay training camp, but there are two players with much higher ceilings in Gauthier and Necas battling for the same spot or two.
The Hurricanes have 11 forwards certain to stick at the NHL level in some capacity (could be #13/healthy scratch). That includes Aho, Svechnikov, Niederreiter, Staal, Foegele, Teravainen, Haula, Dzingel, Martinook, McGinn and Wallmark.
The result is five players (Gibbons, McCormick, Bishop, Gauthier, Necas) battling for two roster spots. Clark Bishop has had a great training camp and preseason, is a known quantity and is the epitome of what Brind’Amour wants in a forechecking forward. I think he is the default for a #13 slot or if Brind’Amour opts for safe and sound over upside. Upside is represented by both Gauthier and Necas. If training camp is a tryout, I think Gauthier has mostly won this spot. Necas has been somewhat less impressive but still oozes scoring upside which is enticing. As I said in today’s Daily Cup of Joe, why not put both Gauthier and Necas in the lineup at least for a short trial? Foegele has been ‘meh’ at best. Why guarantee him a spot? He has more NHL experience but is really in the same age bracket as the other two players.
Decisions to be made: Does Brind’Amour want another safe and steady option? If so, I consider Bishop as the favorite to win one spot with Gibbons and McCormick also competing. Then the question is which or both of Necas or Gauthier get a chance at the NHL level to start the season. It will likely be one for sure and maybe both.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Did any of Wednesday’s cuts surprise you?
2) Who do you think emerges from the weekend on the opening day roster?