My schedule has not permitted me to make it out there, but Twitter tells me that the informal skates are underway at Raleigh Center Ice. That means that training camp is FINALLY just around the corner!
Thank goodness because the last 7-10 days have been incredibly quiet on a Hurricanes news front and directly from the pages of ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn.’
That said, I think there are a decent number of stories worth watching over the last couple weeks of the off-season before every day brings a new round of news and things to write about based on practices, scrimmages, line combinations, preseason games, etc.
In no particular order, here is a short list of things that I am tracking right now:
1) The ownership situation
After semi-regular updates that were mostly minus details but still suggested progress, things have quieted down on the team sale front. I actually leaned forward and optimistically voted for ‘before the start of training camp’ in the Coffee Shop poll on August 13. An important starting point is saying that I do not think there is any urgency or need to panic if things stretch out longer, but nevertheless, the story is one well worth tracking.
2) The captaincy
I am on record in my article on July 10 as thinking that Justin Williams is the player most likely to wear the ‘C’ for the 2017-18 season. I would be surprised to see that resolved before the players and coaches assemble officially for training camp, but I do think what happens at the informal skates could start to lay the foundation for such a move.
3) The potential for one more big trade
I think Francis is content to enter training camp and even the regular season with the roster that he currently has. But that said, a couple of the big name playmaking type centers thought to be available and even targeted all the way back in May are still right where they started. I think it is clear that Ron Francis will not offer up a young top 4 defenseman to win any of Alex Galchenyuk, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Matt Duchene, but I also think there is a chance that one or more of these players become available for less than that. If I am correct, the game suddenly enters an area where Francis could play.
4) The potential to add a depth defenseman with NHL experience
Also on the trade front but on a significantly smaller scale, I continue to think that Francis might add one more defenseman with some NHL experience. I have yet to hear any kind of signal from Ron Francis in this direction which makes me think that I am wrong, but I am stubbornly holding to my original ‘better safe than sorry’ logic that suggests one more defenseman could be a small but smart investment.
5) Clues on line combinations from Coach Bill Peters
Things will change many times before the end of the season and maybe even a few times just during training camp, but if Peters makes a stop on local or North American sports/hockey radio, I will be curious to hear clues as to what the starting point is for building forward lines and defense pairings to start the 2017-18 season. I included the potential for Sebastian Aho to at least get a short trial at the center position ahead of the original schedule in my August 13 article entitled, “I think…”
6) A first read on potential dark horses at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament
As I have said a couple times, the Carolina Hurricanes organization has a storied history of young players rising up at prospect tourneys just prior to the start of training camp and then riding the momentum all the way to the opening day lineup. Young centers Josef Vasicek and Victor Rask are probably the two most notable cases of players rising up from way off the NHL depth chart after using a prospect tourney as a spring board, but other players including Eric Staal, Erik Cole and Chad LaRose have made impressions as well. If you missed it, I discussed the Traverse City roster in more detail earlier this week.
What say you Canes fans?
The Thursday Coffee Shop is already up and running with the Traverse City roster as the primary discussion topic, so just maybe we can muster up a separate conversation here on the other topics listed above here.
1) What other Carolina Hurricanes news situations of significance did I miss?
2) Which of the situations above have the greatest potential for something to happen before training camp and what will it be?