Yesterday, in part 1 of this series, I evaluated the group of players set to become free agents this summer for whether or not they would stay or go when GM Ron Francis begins building the team for 2016-17.
The starting point for building the lineup is that the Canes have 7-8 forwards (JStaal, Skinner, Nordstrom, Rask, Nestrasil, Lindholm, McClement, Di Giuseppe) pretty much locked in, the core 6 defensemen (Faulk, Slavin, Hainsey, Wisniewski, Pesce, Hanifin) set and 1 goalie (Lack) in tow.
On defense, the Canes are basically just looking for depth and possibly a #7 defenseman if they do not sign a veteran for this role, but at forward there should be at least a couple spots to be won even after Francis adds a couple players this summer.
In part 2, I will look at the prospects who have had try outs this season and could be looking to move up from the AHL and into the NHL lineup.
Trevor Carrick – Stays but likely at the AHL level unless someone is injured in preseason
I was not that impressed with Trevor Carrick in training camp at least as compared to Slavin, Pesce and Hanifin. In hindsight, it might just be that that was a really tough group to be compared against based on what the other 3 have accomplished this season. In his NHL try out which has only been 2 games so far, I would describe his play as quiet in a good way. He has not stood out in terms of making any glaring errors and has generally been decent in his own end. Especially for a depth player who you would want to step into the lineup and just keep things simple, this is a positive. I will continue watch him closely if he gets more games in the NHL.
Likely role next season: He should enter training camp battling for a #7 or #8 slot and to make a strong impression such that he is the first player recalled if the team needs help from Charlotte.
Ryan Murphy – Goes
Ryan Murphy is a restricted free agent this summer. He would stay and possibly end up in Charlotte, if he stay with the Canes, but I put the odds at 60 percent that he is traded this summer. He continues to make progress in terms of his defensive play, but he is about to turn 23 years old and has been passed on the depth chart by Pesce, Slavin and Hanifin who are all younger than him. In addition, he will soon need to clear waivers to go back and forth from Charlotte. I actually think that he has made some progress defensively but maybe not enough. In addition, he has yet to figure out how to convert his skating ability into offense generation.
Likely role next season: If he stays with the team, he could compete for the #7 slot next preseason, but with Carrick still in the mix and a couple more higher-end prospects moving up from juniors, I think he will be traded for a similar age forward prospect.
Brock McGinn – Stays but at the AHL level
I am not as high on Brock McGinn as some. I feel like his game is too many almosts or not enoughs away from translating to the NHL level. His game is that of a banger, but I question whether he has enough size to play that game effectively at the NHL level. And in terms of being a strong forechecker, he seemed to be just a step slow earlier in the season. The toughest stretch of hockey that the Canes fourth line had this season was when McGinn was getting deep into the offensive zone but not fast enough to disrupt the first pass. Once the puck was behind him, Jay McClement was not the best option for a center to quickly adjust and help slow things down in the neutral zone. My measuring point for any future McGinn auditions is his ability to get in soon enough on the forecheck to disrupt opponents. If he is just finishing checks behind the play, it is not good enough.
Likely role next season: If Francis can add enough other forwards, I think McGinn continues his development in the AHL next season.
Brody Sutter – Stays but at AHL level
I do not see Brody Sutter as more than deep NHL depth playing at the AHL level. I think he falls into the category of other Canes players who just do not have enough speed/mobility to be a great fit for Bill Peters’ system at the NHL level.
Likely role next season: I would expect the Canes to re-sign him and for Sutter to provide deep depth from the AHL level but not make the NHL team.
Brendan Woods – Stays but at AHL level
In his 3-game NHL stint, Woods showed a willingness to handle the rough stuff when he dropped the gloves with Chris Neil, but I do not expect that the Canes will dedicate a full-time NHL roster spot to this role next season. Past the rough stuff, Woods did not stand out in his short audition and is another big power forward whose biggest challenge is matching the speed/pace of Peters’ system at the NHL level.
Likely role next season: I would expect the Canes to re-sign Woods to play at the AHL level next season.
Derek Ryan – Could stay at AHL level
In both preseason and a short regular season NHL audition, Derek Ryan has proven capable offensively at the NHL level. In his short 2-game regular season NHL stint, he had some issues defensively in his own zone. At the wing position, that is something that maybe you take some risks with, but defensive acumen is even more important at the center position.
Likely role next season: After a good season in Charlotte, I would expect the Canes to try to re-sign him to another 2-way deal. If that happens, I would be curious to see him get a look at right wing where less is required defensively and just maybe his finishing ability is good enough to produce at the NHL level.
When you net it out, I am not sure that the Canes have anyone currently on the NHL or AHL rosters who are certain NHLers at the forward position past the core 7 plus Phil Di Giuseppe and Riley Nash.