Upon returning home to Raleigh on Thursday after a three-game preseason road trip, the Hurricanes announced another round of roster cuts. Six players were either sent to the AHL or placed on waivers with the intent of being returned to Charlotte. Cut were Nicolas Roy, Valentin Zykov and Aleksi Saarela who are waiver-exempt and will report to the Checkers. Also cut were Jeremy Smith, Jake Chelios and Trevor Carrick who must first clear waivers before being assigned to Charlotte.
Of the bunch, two things surprise me to some degree. First, among the cuts, I am on record as thinking that Trevor Carrick has played well enough to become a waiver claim risk and that because of that risk, the Hurricanes would start the season with eight defensemen on the roster. At the end of the day, Carrick is still a fringe AHL/NHL defenseman with only a few games of NHL experience, so I guess Francis was willing to take the risk.
The other moderate surprise is the fact that the Hurricanes still have 27 players in tow. It will be interesting to see if that is simply to have a few more players available for Friday night’s preseason finale such that Saturday will see a phase two of the final cuts.
Who is left?
Right now, the roster includes all 22 players who are on one-way contracts plus five more players.
Let’s take a look at the other five players…
Jake Bean: I am on record about a week back as thinking that Jake Bean would stay until the end not because he is competing for an NHL position for 2017-18 but simply because experiencing as much NHL-ish competition as possible is beneficial to his development before he returns for another year in juniors. I detailed what I thought was a tough outing for him on Wednesday which even more so convinces me that he is here for the experience not battling for a roster spot.
Phil Di Giuseppe: Whereas Trevor Carrick was the player who lost the most in the most recent set of cuts, Di Giuseppe might have gained the most. He has not had a spectacular preseason, but he is serviceable in a fourth or possibly higher line role. With Necas not clicking on Ryan and Skinner’s wing, could Di Giuseppe get a chance on that line on Friday? Remember that he road shotgun on Jeff Skinner’s line for nearly half of the 2015-16 season and was effective in that role. He brings the ability to skate at something close to Skinner’s pace and also a forechecking presence that could free up a few more pucks in the offensive zone. My hunch is that Di Giuseppe will still find himself in Charlotte come opening night, but just maybe he has played himself up to just needing one huge game to change minds.
Janne Kuokkanen: Kuokkanen seeing time on the wing is interesting. Just like with Di Giuseppe, the fact that Lee Stempniak is still on the shelf and Necas did not immediately click with Skinner and Ryan leaves an as of yet unfilled opening. Could it be Kuokkanen who gets a try on that line on Friday?
Martin Necas: I wrote his situation up in multiple levels of detail for Thursday’s Daily Cup of Joe, so I will not reiterate it here. He continues to look capable but did not click at right wing. He continues to show flashes of offense, but not much has registered on the score sheet. Interestingly, Carrick’s cut could be the move that makes room for Necas to start the season at the NHL level at least for a short trial. Even if Stempniak is healthy, the team now has one open slot.
Lucas Wallmark: He is a bit of a head scratcher. He has had a strong preseason overall, but as a center only, I just do not see where he could fit in the lineup. I have to figure that he is ultimately destined for Charlotte, but I guess we will know for sure in a few days.
Bill Peters’ decision point
I like the idea of trying Kuokkanen with Skinner and Ryan on Friday. Kuokkanen’s ceiling might be a little bit lower than Necas’ ceiling, but Kuokkanen is also a little farther along in his development and also has more experience playing wing.
I do not see a fit for Bean or Wallmark in the opening day lineup. I think Peter’s decision if Stempniak is still on the shelf will be to select the third right wing from:
-Brock McGinn: He is on a one-way contract, brings every shift intensity and has a good amount of NHL experience.
-Phil Di Giuseppe: He is somewhat similar to McGinn as a know quantity with NHL experience.
-Martin Necas: Is his potential upside high enough that warrants a short exploratory try out?
-Janne Kuokkanen: He is sort of a middle ground between raw talent and a little bit more maturity as a player.
If Stempniak is indeed on the shelf, I like the idea of trying Kuokkanen in this slot first. I think the potential is there for an offensive upgrade on what needs to be a scoring line.
What say you Caniacs?
1) What are your thoughts on Thursdays cuts and stays?
2) Who do you like for a next try out and/or ultimate winner if Stempniak’s slot is open at least temporarily?