Who would have guessed we would have such an interesting Hurricanes hockey day on August 29?
It started with robe wearer, Cup lifter and old friend Mike Commodore saying on Twitter, “My sources tell me some big news coming out of Carolina in the next day or so”. Then late in the night, late enough that we all have to wake up on Tuesday and wonder if we just dreamed this all up, it was announced that the Carolina Hurricanes had signed Raffi Torres to a player try out (PTO) contract for training camp.
To call the Torres signing a head-scratcher would be an understatement.
He will be 35 years old when the 2016-17 season starts, and he has more or less been out of hockey for 3 seasons now due to injury and suspensions. He has played 11 games at the NHL and AHL level over the past 3 years. Were he an upstanding veteran player trying to find 1 last season, it could be considered a no risk move, but that is not the case with Raffi Torres. I will need to have the CandC legal team review the CBA in more detail, but I am pretty sure even signing Torres to a contract of any kind automatically comes with a fine and meeting the player safety office. His storied history includes 41-game and 21-game NHL suspensions as top head lines in an NHL career that saw many brushes with the law.
At a very basic level, I do not understand why Ron Francis would make a move that enabled Raffi Torres to step back on NHL ice even if it is only for the preseason.
But short on material to get through the last days of summer before training camp finally starts, I will take advantage of the situation and do my best to offer logical explanations for the move.
A policeman for preseason games
In the regular season, it is becoming easier to go without an old school enforcer, but preseason games still have the potential to get a bit dicey with no real win/loss at stake and sometimes fringe players trying to make an impression. With Brad Malone gone, the Canes have very little in the way of nastiness, so I guess it is possible that Torres is signed to fill that role for preseason games. A controlled and purposeful Torres might be able to fill that role, but there is no way to guarantee that anything close to that version of Raffi Torres is the one that arrives. In fact, Torres instigating style of play has the potential to turn a run of the mill preseason game into a dangerous one for everyone involved.
An actual low risk try out ideally with some inside scoop on a changed Raffi Torres
Lost amidst all of the trouble he got into along the was was the fact that Torres was in fact a pretty good hockey player. He played with an intensity level, sandpaper and enough skill to be a good depth forward. Hurricanes fans might not remember, but he was a key player in Edmonton’s half of the 2006 Stanley Cup run. Torres scored 27 goals in the regular season and put up 11 points in the playoffs. That season was the beginning of a long run that saw him play at a 30-35-point pace when in the lineup for 9 years from 2003-04 through the 2012-13 season.
Being 3 years removed from a productive hockey season and now 35 years old, Torres seems like a long shot to ever reach that level of play again. But if not for the other issues, I can see where a PTO could be a no-risk, potential reward bet.
But therein lies the problem. For the risk truly to be low for me, it would take Ron Francis and/or his staff having some kind of inside scoop on Torres mindset and some kind of change for the better. It will be interesting to hear Francis explain this move, and this kind of information would help clarify this more than any kind of ‘ignoring the elephant in the room’ conversation about Torres’ abilities or the team’s needs.
That’s all I got…
If anyone else has a better, or even just interesting explanation for the Torres move, please share in the comments to help us get through 1 of the last days of August on the way to September and training camp.