I took a break yesterday to talk about Joakim Nordstrom’s new contract. Prior to that, I wrote first ‘stay or go’ for the Canes veteran impending free agents and then about the AHL try outs from March/April.
The upshot is that I voted to keep only Riley Nash from the collection of older free agents and did not slot any of the AHL try outs into the NHL roster for 2016-17. To be clear, I love the idea of a forward or 2 rising up from Charlotte and seizing an NHL roster spot, but I would not build my team assuming this will happen.
When you add Riley Nash to the collection of players already under contract, I slot the Canes forwards like this:
The first thing that will probably jump out to many people is Jeff Skinner slotted on what is theoretically a third line. My slotting is not so much a statement about where Skinner or even Lindholm slot but rather a statement about the Canes need to add a top 6-capable forward or ideally 2. At that point, training camp sorts out who goes where and it is more about chemistry than ranking. Regardless of what line Skinner plays on he should get a healthy helping of shifts favorable to scoring and his fair share of power play time. It is also possible that Phil Di Giuseppe plays his way up into the top 9. He showed flashes of chemistry with Skinner and Rask. And I am all for someone like Sebastian Aho lighting the NHL on fire and seizing a roster spot ahead of schedule, but that is something that should be earned in training camp not granted during the summer.
My ideal set of moves has the Canes adding a top 6-capable playmaking center who can lead a scoring leaning line that complements Jordan Staal’s line. My second move would be a wing who can finish, ideally with size but also enough offensive skill and with a preference toward a player who can either side equally effectively to add flexibility.
Past adding 2 higher-end players, it might make sense to also shop from the bargain bin for an additional depth player. Again, I am fine with someone like Aho stealing a roster spot but not thrilled with just anointing them into it during the summer (like Lindholm a couple years back). Adding a depth player with a $1 millionish salary works okay for just pushing the newly signed player farther down the depth chart if that is what training camp warrants.
On defense, we can debate who plays with whom, pecking order and the top 4 but regardless of how the pieces fit together things are more set. My wild guess for how it sorts out at least starting the season is something like:
More because of the Canes depth on defense and need for forwards than his play, I continue to think Murphy is a candidate to be traded as part of a deal to land more help at forward, but if that does not happen, I see him as a #7 next season. If Murphy is traded, I think the Canes would want to add an inexpensive veteran depth defenseman. If someone like Carrick, Fleury or McKeown wins a top 6 slot in training camp, there would be a need to adjust, but I would not slot any of these still developing players in the #7 slot that mostly sits in the press box.
Eddie Lack is half of the equation. The other half needs to be a #1-capable goalie not a pure backup. I am on record as saying that what Francis does with this slot could decide the fate of the 2016-17 season.
Eddie Lack / ________
What say you Canes fans? Do you think Francis will somehow be able to add 2 top 6-capable forwards, or am I dreaming?