Today the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had recalled Ryan Murphy and Phil Di Giuseppe from Charlotte. The Di Giuseppe recall was expected. He was sent down to play a couple more games and help the Checkers out during the NHL all-star break with the plan all along to have him rejoin the team after the all-star break.
Ryan Murphy’s recall was not expected. If the Canes had assured a position in the draft lottery by now, possible explanations could include a desire to showcase him before the trade deadline and/or that more NHL team was the best thing right now for his development. But the Canes are still very much playing for the 2015-16 season coming out of the all-star break which would suggest that this is a roster move with the aim of icing the best team possible for the upcoming games.
My interpretation of Ryan Murphy recall
Against that backdrop, my interpretation of Ryan Murphy’s recall is twofold:
1) Someone, namely Brett Pesce, is dinged up and either will not or might not be able to play this week. Because of this, the Canes need to have a seventh defenseman ready. With the next 2 games out in western Canada, the team needs the insurance policy to be with the club. If the Canes were at home, it might be possible to recall someone from Charlotte on shorter notice.
2) Michal Jordan is not the guy for seventh defenseman role anymore. I was early on this bus when I hollered for Brett Pesce to be recalled and inserted into James Wisniewsk’s slot 1 day after Wisniewski’s injury and about a week before Pesce actually saw the lineup. If the opening is in fact Pesce’s slot, I think Murphy is a pretty good fit. First, Jaccob Slavin has been playing most of the top 4 minutes next to Ron Hainsey, so the opening is on the third pairing on the right side of Noah Hanifin. Murphy and Hanifin were paired together to start the season and looked decent. Hanifin has settled in since then, so I think it is reasonably to think that the duo is even better than they were in October.
Possible unintended effects
Interestingly, though I believe that Murphy’s recall is focused on icing the best team possible for the here and now, I still think the timing could be interesting and have other consequences. I am on record as thinking that the fast emergence of 3 young Canes defensemen to go with Justin Faulk who is also young both pushes Francis to expedite the build out of the forward lines and also makes a blue line prospect or 2 expendable to make this happen. The key caveat is that the deal must be for a similar age/similar quality forward not to just unload a defense prospect and not to add a short-term fix in the form of a marginal veteran. If Murphy hops into the lineup for a short stretch of games and looks good, it could be perfect timing to showcase him unintentionally just before the trade deadline.
Another interesting possibility is if the Hanifin/Murphy pairing plays well and looks to be a good option for the rest of this season. With John-Michael Liles on the list of Canes who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this summer, is it possible that the Canes go younger yet again on defense and trade Liles. I actually think that Liles could be a decent fit for a depth role past this season if the price is right. But the general plan going forward is that his top 4 slot is to be won by 1 of the kids, so especially if the Canes slip in the standings, just maybe Francis moves on that at the trade deadline.
So while I think that Ryan Murphy’s recall is aimed about filling the here and now roster, the situation has the potential to lead to completely different things.
Another measure of Murphy’s NHL readiness and longer-term role
I am also to get another read on Murphy’s long-term potential. I thought he looked much-improved defensively in his NHL stint earlier this season and that he also continues to make progress using his skating to move the puck within the confines of the NHL game. But the missing element is that he has yet to translate his ability with the puck into creating offense at even strength or on the power play. That is the step that makes him at least a viable third pairing defenseman. Without that, he is at best a depth defenseman who can skate and pairs well with a stay-home type but really does not bring enough to be more than serviceable in a third pairing role. Murphy is on the fence of being a prospect who requires patience and a prospect who is past his time at 22-years old, so another run at NHL ice time will have me watching him closely.