This afternoon the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had recalled Ryan Murphy from Charlotte and returned Jaccob Slavin to the Checkers.
I think this move was more of less scheduled/what makes sense and should not be interpreted as any kind of grade on Jaccob Slavin’s stint in Raleigh.
Rather, I think it comes down to:
- Ryan Murphy never really lost his slot in Raleigh. He was playing well and on an upward trajectory when injured. I think of the time in Charlotte as a short rehab stint to get back up to speed. (Since Murphy is on a 2-way contract and waiver exempt, the Canes could actually just send him to the AHL, save a few $ triggering his AHL salary and not risk losing him.)
- Murphy is also on a more expedited schedule in terms of development and Ron Francis’ determination of where he fits long-term. He is 23 years old and is in the last year of his entry-level contract. With the Canes quickly becoming deeper on the blue line, Francis needs to figure out where Murphy fits in the puzzle. Slavin, Pesce and Hanifin are all younger (21, 21, 18) and also only in the first year of their 3-year entry-level contracts.
Thoughts on Jaccob Slavin’s first run in the NHL
I would easily call Slavin’s 5-game stint in the NHL a success. His exit from the preseason was a rough game in which he struggled against a few good Caps forwards (Ovechkin most notably) and seemed to let a bad shift or 2 snowball. The thing that stood out for me most in Slavin’s run was how he hit the ground playing his style of play. He did not dial down his propensity to play with the puck on his stick and try to make things happen offensively. He did have a few miscues here and there defensively, but he did not look to be in over his head, and he did not let a single bad play or shift grow into a longer slide. In a recent post I asked, “Is Jaccob Slavin the greatest harbinger of the Hurricanes future?” The basic premise was that of the 3 young D playing at the NHL level, he was the 1 most pushing pace and playing the kind of game that creates offense from the back end and that this was the path for the Hurricanes to be better offensively in the near future.
All in all, I would rate his short audition in Raleigh as favorable. His return to Charlotte is simply a matter of using the NHL ice time to push Ryan Murphy forward and also the fact that Slavin’s development can be served about equally well by playing 20-25 minutes in the AHL in a broad role as it can be in the NHL in a limited role.
Thoughts on Ryan Murphy’s next run in the NHL
It is important to note that Murphy was not demoted to Charlotte because of his play. He was playing pretty good hockey, starting to push pace more and generally on an uptrend when a concussion sidelined him. His time in Charlotte was more of a rehab stint to get back up to game speed after about 10 days off.
Per my comments above about Ryan Murphy’s development status, I think the next 50ish games could prove to be the ultimate fork in the road for Murphy’s career. He is not old at 23, especially for a defenseman. But with 2 years of juniors, 2 years of mixed NHL/AHL experience and a good combination of a 106 NHL and 52 AHL games, he is on the fence of being a prospect who has time versus being a player who needs to get there. Especially with the volume and quality of young Canes defensemen moving up quickly below him, his time is now. I wrote about this in some detail when profiling him in my ‘7D in 7 days.’
My assessment of Ryan Murphy so far in the 2015-16 season is that he has improved defensively. He has made strides adjusting his skating/puck-carrying game for the NHL. But he has yet to successfully convert his ability to carry the puck into much in terms of scoring (0 goals and 4 assists through 17 games). That is the holy grail for the strongest part of his game that made him a mid-first round draft pick. If he can continue to make strides defensively (where continues to improve) and convert puck-carrying into offense, he becomes at least a very good #5 defenseman with the skill set to be an offensive catalyst. Even if the youth below him continue to rise up, there could be a long-term place for him in that role in today’s skating NHL.
Alternatively, if Ron Francis does not project him as fairly quickly growing into at least a solid third pairing defenseman, he could become trade bait in a hurry.
Hurricanes blue line math
Justin Faulk is established. Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce are quickly settling in as NHLers. Jaccob Slavin looked to be on the right track in his short debut. All of Trevor Carrick (in Charlotte), Roland McKeown (juniors), and Haydn Fleury (juniors) are progressing on schedule. Today’s ‘The Pipeline’ report featured McKeown and Fleury who were both invited to Canada’s WJHC camp. It is not certain that all of these players will ultimately work out, but the Canes are MUCH deeper prospect-wise on defense than at forward. If Francis sees Murphy’s long-term role as likely limited, he could go the route of showcasing him and then trying to trade him for a comparable age/comparable skill forward as a step to try to balance out the prospect pool and near-term roster.
If I had to take a wild guess…
I actually like Murphy’s progress so far this season. Theoretically, that should boost his standing on the future of the Hurricanes blue line. But paired with Murphy’s progress has been Brett Pesce rising up way early on the right side, Noah Hanifin proving capable of growing at the NHL level and now a short run that suggests Slavin is also either there or close. I think that Murphy could quickly become a combination of marketable with value to other teams along with somewhat expendable for the Hurricanes. I think either Murphy plays so well that it becomes too risky to let his upside go or otherwise he is traded sometime between now and next summer to add help at forward. The part of me that loved to watch him rush up the ice at full speed when he first entered the NHL hopes he quickly plays himself into the ‘too risky to trade his upside’ category. The numbers-oriented part of me counts 4 right side defensemen not counting Murphy for the 2016-17 roster (Faulk, Wisniewski, Pesce and Slavin who is a left shot but is so far playing on the right side) and thinks the timing could be right to showcase Murphy in favorable situations and then use it to improve at forward.
What say you about Ryan Murphy’s future?