After an interim round of cuts on Saturday and the potential to wait as late as Tuesday to finalize the final roster, Sunday figured to be a potentially quiet day hockey-wise in Raleigh. But I guess with the Carolina Panthers not playing until Monday night, Hurricanes general manager decided to take center stage.
Saturday’s Carolina Hurricanes roster cuts and injury updates
First, in case anyone was understandably away from Hockey on Saturday with the crazy weather, let me take a minute to recap Saturday’s roster cuts. The Hurricanes cut Derek Ryan, Patrick Brown and Brock McGinn. McGinn and Brown head straight to Charlotte with Ryan also expected to arrive there pending his trip across the waiver wire.
The upshot in terms of who is left is that Lucas Wallmark is still in the mix. He was the only player on the outside looking in for the expected roster who saw action on Friday. He did not do anything Earth-shattering, but he continues to be solid defensively with more offensive upside than a typical fourth-liner. Also still in Raleigh are Sergey Tolchinsky and upstart Warren Foegele who has outlasted any over/under on his time in Raleigh by at least a week by now. When you net it out, the Hurricanes have 13 players either on 1-way NHL contracts or assumed to be starting the season at the NHL level despite being on a 2-way contract with Wallmark, Tolchinsky and Foegele trying to shake things up and/or waiting in the wings to fill a slot in the event of an injury.
My wild guess is that Tolchinsky is receiving more training in the Hurricanes system and a longer look from the coaching staff but is really being set up to be 1 of the first call ups in the event that the Hurricanes have an injury to a scoring line wing and/or are looking for a scoring boost later.
Foegele continues to be an interesting case and 1 of the best off-the-radar stories of training camp. He is still is not officially under contract with the Hurricanes. As a player who was drafted in 2015 originally as an NCAA player, the Canes still have his rights past 2 years despite the fact that he is a third-year Canadian juniors player. He could sign a contract and do a short NHL stint before returning to Canadian juniors or I believe is also eligible to make the jump to the AHL.
By virtue of playing and doing fairly well on Friday, Wallmark is obviously on everyone’s radar now. My impression of him is that he looks very much like Victor Rask when he broke in. He is not flashy or high in flair like Tolchinsky, but his game is incredibly mature in terms of positioning and puck support in all 3 zones and both offensively and defensively. That is a great recipe for “won’t kill you defensively” at which point any offense is gravy if he plays on the fourth line. I could see the Bill Peters choosing to go with what he expected to start the season with McClement centering a fourth line that could be better simply because of the upgrade on the wings, but I like the idea of building a fourth line that hopes for better than just staying out of trouble.
On defense, Roland McKeown was the ‘which one of these does not look like the others’ in Friday’s lineup with the 5 players who are locks to be on the opening day roster. I think McKeown is capable but question whether his long-term development is better-served playing huge minutes in all situations in Charlotte and also if Noah Hanifin’s next step of development is better-served by providing a more experienced and stable partner on his right side.
Justin Faulk and Phil Di Giuseppe who both left Friday’s game were held out of practice on Saturday. The report on both seems to be favorable. Faulk had a minor lower body injury described as Coach Peters as “soreness” and was hoping to practice on Sunday. Phil Di Giuseppe busted up a finger to a nice yellowish/purplish color with a mangled fingernail from punching Matt Niskanen’s helmet and/or visor in a fight in Friday’s game. Though he did not practice on Saturday, his injury is not thought to be serious either. That leaves Ryan Murphy who is out 3-4 weeks with an upper body injury as the only injury casualty coming out of the final preseason game.
Signing of Jakub Nakladal
Today, the Hurricanes announced the signing of defenseman Jakub Nakludal to a 1-year contract for $600,000. Nakladal is a right shot defenseman who I view as a replacement for Matt Tennyson who was theoretically signed to be a #7 defenseman with some NHL experience. With 27 games of NHL experience last season, Nakladal is another possibility to grow into being an ‘expansion draft shield’ at the defense position. He would need to play 43 games at the NHL level in 2016-17 and would also need to have his contract extended to cover 2017-18, so that is obviously not the primary motivation.
At least per the press release, Nakladal’s contract appears to be a 1-way deal which would imply that Francis’ intent is to play him at the NHL level. The big question to be answered over the next few days is whether Francis and Peters see Nakladal as a #6 to step into Murphy’s slot which was filled by McKeown on Friday or whether he slots as a #7.
Nakladal is a bit like Niclas Wallin from years back when the Hurricanes used a fourth round pick to draft Wallin who was 25 years old at the time. Similarly, Nakladal made the jump to the NHL as a 27-year old after a long career in the Czech Republic. He has only 1 season and 27 games as an NHL player, but he is not a run of the mill baby-faced rookie. Instead, he is a player with about 10 years of professional hockey experience.
Claiming Martin Frk off waivers
A couple years back, the Hurricanes stole from the Detroit Red Wings depth at the forward position when the team claimed Andrej Nestrasil off waivers. That move to add a forward without having to trade to get him has obviously paid dividends. Today the Hurricanes returned to the Detroit forward well claiming right wing Martin Frk. Frk is an interesting acquisition. He is a fairly high pedigree prospect as a second round draft pick in 2012 but is now 23 years old and yet to see NHL action. I view Frk as more of a trial than a sure thing. He has a 2-way contract, so if the Hurricanes do not like what they see, they can place him on waivers to either be reclaimed by Detroit, claimed by another team if Detroit passes or otherwise head to Charlotte to play for the AHL salary on his contract. Obviously, the Hurricanes scouting team sees something in Frk worth taking a closer look at.