Good evening, Caniacs. Hard to believe this is the third of these I’ve written already, but here we are. There is a lot of Canes news to cover this week, so let’s get started.
Canes finish up preseason
The Canes finished up their preseason schedule this week, falling to the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 in Marquette, Michigan, before beating the Sabres 3-2 in a shootout in Sault Ste Marie (the hometown of Canes GM Ron Francis), then beating the Washington Capitals 3-2 at home in the skills competition to finish with a record of 4-2-1 in the preseason. While these games do not count, I think starting with any kind of positive for a team that did not make the playoffs for seven straight years is a plus.
I did not see either game against Buffalo, but I do know the first one featured very few Canes regulars, so you can pretty much throw that one out. The second featured a few more regulars, and a positive was definitely to see Jeff Skinner continue his preseason success with a goal and an assist. The Canes will need a productive Skinner for the entire season, and he is a notoriously slow starter, so hopefully this is a sign he is ready to go. The two shootout wins is a definite positive. Skinner scored the only goal in the shootout win over Buffalo, and he, Teuvo Teravainen, and Jaccob Slavin, all lineup regulars scored against Washington. The Canes have lost a lot of points due to their shootout woes in this playoff drought, so hopefully this is a sign the infusion of skill into the lineup can help the team win more shootouts and gain those valuable points.
I have two big observations to take from the Washington game. I continue to be impressed by veteran addition Lee Stempniak. He looks like a heady playmaker who can create chances for his linemates. Taken off his line more much of the preseason with Skinner and Victor Rask and paired with Jordan Staal, Stempniak did not miss a beat. He also seems to be in the right place at the right time for scoring opportunities, made evident by his batting a Jordan Staal cross-crease pass out of midair against Washington. I think Stempniak could be a big component of Bill Peters’ offense this season.
The skill on the line of Sebastian Aho, Elias Lindholm, and Teravainen is breathtaking. The trio probably could have combined for three goals Friday, with a couple nice passes for tip chances just going wide, and a beautiful shot by Aho ringing off the crossbar. They seem to have a knack for rushing the puck up the ice with speed, then keeping it and cycling it in the offensive zone. This line has the potential to be deadly for the Canes this year. Matt wrote more about the Washington game here, and I wrote more about Teravainen for the Technician here.
Canes roster continues to take shape
The Canes have continued to make roster cuts this week, and also made two additions Sunday (more on that in a moment). The training camp roster is now down to 29. Some of the more interesting players still in camp are defensemen Trevor Carrick, Haydn Fleury, and Roland McKeown with expected number six defenseman Ryan Muprhy going down with an injury for 3-4 weeks. McKeown has been very impressive so far, making simple, smart plays and just not looking out of place in game action. However, Peters has stated it is more ideal for him to start in Charlotte, and the Canes may have made a move to make that happen Sunday.
At forward, the two most interesting players for me are Lucas Wallmark and Phil Di Giuseppe. Di Giuseppe had a nice rookie season mostly playing with Rask and Skinner last year, but seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of all the new faces this summer. He returned to that spot against the Capitals and was impressive, throwing a monster clean hit on Caps defenseman Taylor Chorney, then answering for it with his first career fight against Matt Niskanen. Di Giuseppe’s biggest asset is his speed and physicality, with the ability to create havoc on the forecheck and create room for skilled players like Skinner and Rask to operate. It will be interesting to see if he edges out an older player such as Bryan Bickell for a spot.
Wallmark lined up in Jay McClement’s normal fourth line center spot and did not look out of place. With McClement declining in terms of mobility and not bringing much offensive production, Wallmark is an interesting option to add more offense to the fourth line.
Busy Sunday sees two roster additions
General manager Ron Francis had a busy Sunday morning, adding two players to the Canes roster. The first was former Detroit Red Wings prospect Martin Frk, who he claimed off waivers. Frk is definitely an interesting flyer for Francis to take. The Red Wings drafted him 49th overall in 2012, and he scored 27 goals in 67 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL last year. For a team needing more offense, this seems like a good virtually no risk, high reward situation to see if Frk can get an opportunity to crack the Hurricanes lineup and add some goals. The team has already had success with another waiver claim from Detroit, Andrej Nestrasil, so it is not hard to see why Francis would make this move.
The Canes also added some depth to their back end, signing Czech free agent defenseman Jakub Nakladal to a one year, one way deal for $600,000. With Murphy injured and the team wanting its promising prospects to start in the AHL, Nakladal seems likely to play as the team’s number six defenseman. He was highly sought after as a free agent out of the Czech Republic last offseason, played 27 games for the Calgary Flames last year and is coming off a strong performance at the World Cup of Hockey for the Czechs. It has been said that Nakladal can run a power-play, and the fancy stats crew seems to like him, so this could potentially be a sneaky good move by Francis. It will be interesting to see what this means for Murphy, as Nakladal is signed to a one way deal, but Murphy would require waivers to be sent to the AHL after he comes back. If Nakladal plays well, it could mean the end for Murphy in Carolina, and free him up for a potential trade.
That’s all for this week, join me next Sunday as we will have actual regular season hockey to discuss!