The biggest news today happened first, when the Hurricanes announced that they had re-signed unrestricted free agent Derek Ryan to a one-year $1.425 million one-way contract. I wrote up the Derek Ryan signing in the usual couple layers of detail HERE.
Of the restricted free agents at both the NHL and AHL level, here is the tally:
From the routine/was certain to happen category
* Trevor Carrick was re-signed to a one-year, two-way deal.
* Brock McGinn was qualified which sets the stage for his deal to ultimately be negotiated during the summer with no real deadline or concern.
* Phil Di Giuseppe was qualified like McGinn and will be signed during the summer.
* Maybe not routine but definitely likely was qualifying AHLer Jake Chelios who provided solid veteran play in Charlotte and will be asked to do so again in 2017-18 once he is signed.
From the actual decisions to be made by Ron Francis
I previewed today’s decisions and others this week in today’s Daily Cup of Joe and had the biggest ‘no’ (Andrej Nestrasil) right and unlike most had Daniel Altshuller as potentially on the way out of the Hurricanes organization.
I am not sure everyone saw it that way, but I saw Nestrasil non-qualifying as nearly a sure thing. At a depth and player level, there could be a case for keeping Nestrasil but a combination of two significant risks easily made him a no-go. First, at a player level, he will actually represent good AHL/NHL depth for another team if signed to a two-way contract which I think will be the case. The risk ata contract level was that Nestrasil had arbitration rights and would likely have filed for arbitration and pushed for a one-way deal in the process. After spending the vast majority of the 2016-17 season in the AHL, he would have been unlikely to win a one-way deal, but the arbitration process turns out head-scratchers fairly regularly.
But bigger than the contractual risk was his extracurricular activities during the 2016-17 season. Frustrated a bit with his lot in hockey life with the Hurricanes, Nestrasil grumbled harshly to a Czech newspaper during the season. I have not idea if things were taken out of context a bit, if he and the team have talked about it since or any other details. But what I do know are two things. The risk of him being an AHL veteran with a less than happy demeanor increased significantly. This increase coincides with a significant influx of fresh, new, important prospects into Charlotte.
Whatever upside Nestrasil might have as a player does not offset the risk of having a bad effect on a locker room full of young Hurricanes prospects who are still very much in learning mode.
I identified Daniel Altshuller as a key decision for Francis back on May 16 when I worked through the AHL contract situations.
With Altshuller it is simply a matter of numbers and also situation.
With Callum Booth moving up to the AHL level this year, the Hurricanes have who I would consider to be their two highest ranked goalie prospects in Alex Nedeljkovic and Daniel Altshuller slotted to play at the AHL level. Rough math says that the Hurricanes have three slots for minor-league goalies with two slots at the AHL level and also the ability to get a goalie starts at the ECHL level like Nedeljkovic did last season.
The decision for Francis was whether he wanted to spend the third and final slot on Altshuller. In terms of considering only developing as many prospects as possible, it would have made sense to keep Altshuller. But the other element in play is having someone who is safe, sound and stable and ideally a mentor on board in Charlotte. That helps in multiple key regards. First, it creates a more stable playing environment for all of the non-goalie prospects on the team. Second, it bossts the chance to push for the playoffs.
In 2016-17, Michael Leighton served this role, and when he was injured, the Hurricanes went out and added veteran AHL goalie Tom McCollum who was one of the two or three most significant contributors to the Checkers’ playoff push.
Being direct, Nedeljkovic very much had a learning year in his first professional season in the AHL. By no means would I consider him a safe bet to be a solid #1 at the AHL level. He will get his starts. The hope is that he progresses. But the schedule is uncertain. Booth enters the mix after a strong 2016-17 season in juniors but will be brand new to professional hockey just like Nedeljkovic was last season.
So with Altshuller also being more of an unproven prospect too, going with that set of three has the potential to be really dicey.
In addition, with Francis annually buying a goalie lottery ticket every draft (two in 2016 even), the Hurricanes goalie prospect ranks now numbers five even without Altshuller. For whatever reason, I do not get the impression that Altshuller really did enough to get Francis’ and his team’s attention.
So in the end, parting ways with Altshuller is a small loss for the organizational depth chart at the position, and probably more significantly, it was a necessity to open up a slot for a veteran AHL netminder to boost the stability at the position in Charlotte for the 2017-18 season.
Could this be the first domino?
My expectation continues to be that the Hurricanes will buy out Eddie Lack this week if unable to include him as part of another deal that. And in Altshuller’s place, I expect the Hurricanes to sign a veteran AHL netminder.
My reasoning is that Francis can save about $1 million by parting ways with Lack (only pay two-thirds of remaining contract for buy out), and that one is better spent at the NHL level rather than on keeping a #3 goalie.
That said, the departure of Altshuller would in fact be the first domino toward making room to keep Eddie Lack and play him at the NHL level. It is just my guess based on what I have seen from Lack at the NHL level, but I think if he went to Charlotte in good spirits and with the right attitude that he could be a great addition to that locker room.
So though I still think the odds are higher for my original (before Darling was traded for even) assertion on Lack, not qualifying Altshuller does slightly increase the probability that Francis is willing to keep him and his contract for the 2017-18 season.
What say you Hurricanes fans?
Are you surprised by either Andrej Nestrasil or Daniel Altshuller’s non-qualification?
Do you think there is a chance that Altshuller’s slot is being cleared for Eddie Lack?
Does anyone else hope that Trevor Carrick gets traded simply because he has paid his dues and is deserving of an NHL chance somewhere?