Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has a quick series of catch up notes on a couple players.
Inside of a week of being demoted to get the NHL roster back down to a more workable two goalies, Curtis McElhinney sustained an injury that required the team to reach to the AHL add another goalie to the NHL roster.
The team recalled Alex Nedeljkovic for the tail end of the West Coast trip which I think says a lot about Scott Darling’s standing within the organization right now. With Petr Mrazek playing well since returning from injury and a nice spacing for the next few games, whoever was recalled seems destined to watch from the bench while Mrazek takes a turn being #1.
The reasons to recall Darling were plentiful:
–Darling is on a one-way deal, so the team is already paying his full salary regardless of where he plays. By instead recalling Nedeljkovic, the team will have to spend an extra chunk of salary bumping Nedeljkovic up to his NHL salary.
–Since the recall was only there for an emergency and unlikely to play, Nedeljkovic would have been better off playing at the AHL level. So the team gave up some ice time for Nedeljkovic by doing it this way.
The situation was headed in that direction anyway, but the backup goalie situation can be interpreted as an even more definitive statement that the team is committed to moving on from Scott Darling and just does not want him back at the NHL level.
Remember that the Hurricanes have no way that makes sense to officially cut ties with Darling right now. If the team just terminated his contract, it would be on the hook for his full salary as scheduled. If instead the team buys him out next summer, the Canes would save about $2.4 million and would be able to spread what it did owe over four years instead of two. So
I continue to be surprised that Janne Kuokkanen has not been the latest forward recall. Kuokkanen pretty much made the NHL roster in 2017-18 and was really close again this year. He is leading the Checkers in scoring and brings a decent two-way game to boot. With the team battling through scoring woes, Kuokkanen would figure to be a no-brainer to try. Kuokkanen could bring a bit more playmaking to the wing on Staal’s line or otherwise be a source of more scoring depth.
Now 28 games into his time with the Hurricanes, Dougie Hamilton has yet to start firing on all cylinders. His play defensively and with the puck on his stick has been a bit erratic. In addition, Hamilton is only on target for about 30 point which would be a significant drop off from his strong 2017-18 season. Finally, Slavin/Hamilton just has not materialized as the elite pairing hoped for.
When one considers each players skill set, they are a bit redundant in terms of advancing the puck. And significantly, Slavin’s greatest strength in my opinion has been his ability to defend 1-on-1 in the neutral zone or at the blue line. Slavin’s game is not as advanced in terms of being a last line of defense behind Hamilton or a similarly offense-minded center. If Brind’Amour swapped Hamilton and Pesce, the second pairing could improve while at the same time putting Hamilton in restart position offensively.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Does anyone else also see Janne Kuokkanen as a potential scoring upgrade from within?
2) What do you make of Hamilton’s ‘meh’ start in a Hurricanes jersey? Is it just taking some time for him to get acclimated and the re-find his higher gear?
3) What are your thoughts on recalling Nedeljkovic instead of Darling to backup Mrazek with McElhinney out?