In recent years, the majority of Hurricanes depth players who have departed in the offseason have found lesser roles for their next jobs. Players like Patrick Dwyer, Chad LaRose, Jay Harrison, Manny Malhotra, Brett Bellemore, Jiri Tlusty and others who held fairly significant roles with the Hurricanes found lesser roles with other teams, and many even disappeared from the NHL altogether a few years later.
On the flip side, the Hurricanes have been active on the trade and waiver wire claiming players who were not good enough to make other teams’ roster but proved good enough to play for the Hurricanes Andrej Nestrasil (waivers from Detroit) and Joakim Nordstrom (addition Kris Versteeg deal with Chicago because he was just a #12-14 depth forward with the Blackhawks).
The situation where Canes depth players cannot find regular roles with other teams, and other teams’ extras step right into the Hurricanes lineup is tough commentary about the lack of NHL-ready roster depth for the Hurricanes.
Now about 15 games into the 2016-17 NHL season for most teams, here is a quick look at where the departures from the 2015-16 Hurricanes lineup landed and what their current roles are:
The biggest name of the bunch is long-time captain Eric Staal. After a brief stint with the Rangers, Staal landed in Minnesota where he is playing very well centering a top line. He leads the Wild with 5 goals and 8 assists in 14 games and has helped the Wild to third place (with multiple games in hand) in the Central Division at this early juncture of the season. It is still early in the season, but needless to say the change of scenery has benefited Eric Staal so far.
Kris Versteeg had an interesting offseason. First, he signed to play in Switzerland seemingly after nothing materialized early in the NHL free agent market. Then that contract was voided. He next did a try out with the Edmonton Oilers but was released before signing a 1-year deal with the Calgary Flames. Versteeg is off to a modest start with 2 goals and 2 assists in 12 games averaging 12:12 of ice time in those games.
Liles was traded to Boston for the playoff push and then re-signed there this summer. With the Canes blue line battling inconsistency and trying to find a combination that works for the third pairing, I think Liles is the kind of non-flashy veteran depth and presence that is missed right now. Liles is playing primarily in the third pairing depth slot that the Hurricanes are struggling to fill right now. He has 0 goals and 4 assists in 16 games and is averaging 16:27 of ice time.
When you net it out, the top half of the roster players lost from the Hurricanes 2015-16 are faring reasonably well on average with Staal as the standout and maybe Versteeg ranking lowest of the 3 players.
But the story is not as good for the collection of Canes depth players from 2015-16.
He was signed to a 2-way deal by the Montreal Canadiens but did not make the opening day roster. He was just recalled, so he should see NHL action soon.
He was signed to a 2-way deal by the Washington Capitals but did not make the opening day roster. Thus far, he has spent the entirety of the 2016-17 season at the AHL level.
Gerbe was signed by the New York Rangers but did not make the opening night NHL roster and was subsequently released to play in Switzerland.
He was signed to an inexpensive deal to be a depth forward for the Boston Bruins, and that is exactly what he is doing right now. He is currently centering a third line and averaging 13:41 of ice time through 16 games. Nash has 1 goal and 2 assists thus far.
Jordan played for the Czech Republic in the World Cup of Hockey but has not been signed to an NHL contract. He is still an unrestricted free agent. (Update for correction per Nancy Staten on Twitter: Jordan is playing in the KHL. It is not clear if he has an NHL out in that contract like some players do.)
Three of the 4 most Hurricanes wings who most regularly filled the fourth line for the 2015-16 season and also a depth defenseman have been unable to stick at the NHL level for the 2016-17 season.
One sign that the Hurricanes are finally turning the corner in terms of building NHL-ready depth will be when a higher percentage of depth players from the Carolina Hurricanes leave and are able to find similar or better roles with other teams.