Today it was announced that the Hurricanes had signed defenseman Jake Chelios (who was qualified yesterday) and forward and captain Patrick Brown to new contracts.
Both players were key veteran components of the team that surged and broke the playoff drought for professional hockey in North Carolina when the Charlotte Checkers surged late and pushed into the playoffs.
Combined with Monday’s Hurricanes’ moves that saw Trevor Carrick re-signed and Daniel Altshuller and Andrej Nestrasil turned loose when they were not qualified, the Charlotte Checkers’ roster is starting to take shape.
I wrote about the set of decisions for Francis for the AHL level back on May 16. I also wrote about the changing of the guard at forward with so many players moving up from the junior ranks on May 8.
When Derek Ryan departed, Patrick Brown took over as the captain of the Charlotte Checkers. He is a solid example of a good fringe AHL/NHL player. He is a good example, strong leader and productive player at the AHL level. And he has enough experience that he can be a serviceable #14 or #15 forward available from the AHL ranks in the event that a rash of injuries hits.
With the Hurricanes forward depth increasing and the fourth line likely to be stocked with more scoring, I do not see Brown being in the mix at the NHL level unless injuries necessitate it.
Like Brown, Jake Chelios was a key part of the Checkers’ 2016-17 success. He is a solid partner for a young player and a good experienced AHL defenseman. Like Brown, I do not see Chelios competing for an NHL slot, but he helps add stability at the AHL level which is important for the young goalies especially but also the team in total.
Roster situation for the Charlotte Checkers
The moves over the past two days have the Checkers roster at 22 players by my estimation (that adjusts for couple players like to play at NHL level).
There are 14 forwards under contract and expected to play at the AHL level. Long-time Checker and fan favorite Brendan Woods and Danny Kristo are still unsigned, as is long-time team leader Kyle Hagel who played on an AHL-level contract last season. With Karlsson and Nestrasil not qualified and Connor Brickley gone to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, there are only a couple decisisions remaining. I think there is a good chance that one of Brendan Woods or Danny Kristo will be signed to add one more veteran to the AHL forward mix.
On defense, only six players are signed, with a good chance that one will be lost to the NHL level. I expect that the Hurricanes will ultimately add another veteran defenseman or two,, but I also think Francis is likely to shop the ranks of free agents with NHL experience but willing to accept a two-way contract with the aim of adding a #9 type defenseman to provide ready depth from Charlotte. Even with that addition, there is still room for one or both of Philip Samuelsson or Dennis Robertson to be retained.
The interesting situation at goalie
When the Hurricanes chose not to qualify Daniel Altshuller as I expected, they reduced their AHL goalie count to two and in the process opened up another slot. My bet continues to be that the plan is to add a veteran AHL goalie to the mix (similar to Michael Leighton and Tom McCollum last year).
But eliminating Altshuller does theoretically create an opening for Eddie Lack if Francis wants to keep Eddie Lack for the final year of his contract and use him as a #3 goalie down in Charlotte.