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Andrej Nestrasil’s starting point for the 2016-17 season
After being claimed off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings early in the 2014-15 season and holding at the NHL level for the rest of the season, Nestrasil entered the 2015-16 in a cluster of players fighting for 3-4 depth slots among the Hurricanes’ forward ranks. Early in the 2015=16 season, he bounced around and in and out of the lineup never really sticking. But an early December shake up that saw three AHL call ups and new lines found Andrej Nestrasil paired with Jordan Staal and Joakim Nordstrom. The line clicked defensively right out of the gate. Playing a brand of hockey built on puck possession, cycling, strong loose puck retrieval and two-way play as a last resort, the line quickly became Coach Bill Peters’ go-to line for checking the opponents’ best scorers on home ice. The line was the team’s best during a winter surge from early December through late February when Nestrasil was injured. An awkward fall into the boards saw Nestrasil sidelined for the remainder of the season and well into the offseason with a serious back injury. His scoring production in 2015-16 was not earth-shattering at 23 points in 55 games, but he had seized a role in the top half of the roster. But he also entered the summer with uncertainty around his health and ability to be ready for the start of the 2016-17 season.
Andrej Nestrasil’s 2016-17 season with the Carolina Hurricanes
Despite some uncertainty because of the seriousness of Nestrasil’s injury, he returned during training camp and got on schedule to be ready for opening night. But he started slow and quickly found himself out of the lineup for the third game of the 2016-17 season. He would spend the rest of the first half of the season bouncing in and out of the lineup and across different lines never really finding his game or seizing a permanent slot in the lineup. In early January, Nestrasil was sent to the AHL to try to regain his form. He was a regular at the AHL but never really found a significantly higher gear. He finished the 2016-17 season with 5 points in 19 games at the NHL level, and only a marginally better 14 points in 39 games in the AHL. I think it is fair to say that Nestrasil exited the 2016-17 season very much a fringe AHL/NHL player.
Grading Andrej Nestrasil
Graded as: Graded as a two-way top 9 forward.
Grade: C-. At least in part to his disjointed offseason and recovery from a significant injury, Nestrasil never really got going at the NHL level in 2016-17.
Looking forward to 2017-18
Very likely Andrej Nestrasil will part ways with the Carolina Hurricanes organization this summer largely because of contractual circumstances. He is scheduled to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights on July 1. To retain his rights, Ron Francis would have to make a qualifying offer in the form of a one-way contract at about $1 million. Given that Nestrasil finished the 2016-17 season in the NHL, I do not think Francis will be willing to commit to a one-way contract. That more or less makes Nestrasil an unrestricted free agent who could still negotiate a deal with the Hurricanes but could also just wait things out when the qualifying offer does not materialize and then test the open market starting on July 1. Given comments in a Czech newspaper that suggested Nestrasil was not happy with the opportunity given (or I guess not given) to him, best guess is that Nestrasil will choose to move on.
If I am wrong and Nestrasil does return to the fold, he would be a growing group of players many with NHL experience who are fighting for the last 2-3 forward slots at the NHL level.
What say you Canes fans?
If you were Ron Francis, would you commit a one-way deal in the qualifying offer to retain Nestrasil or are you content to let him walk?
Do you think there is a chance that a more normal offseason to train and a fresh start in 2017-18 could see Nestrasil refind a higher gear and return to the NHL in 2017-18?
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