Cary, NC — It’s been a couple of weeks since the Canes got bounced out of the playoffs by the Bruins, and while there’s still about 3 weeks left before the Stanley Cup is hoisted, activities within the Canes organization are still in full swing with more to come.
Chicago Wolves Are In, Charlotte Checkers Out
The Canes agreement with the Charlotte Checkers expired at the end of the AHL season and just this week, all the rumors turned out to be true when the Canes announced they entered a 3-year agreement with the Chicago Wolves. Previously the Wolves were affiliated with the Vegas Golden Knights who ironically lost to the Checkers in 2019 for the Calder Cup.
Personally, I liked the idea of the farm team being in NC, but as GM Don Waddell pointed out, prior to the pandemic there were 13 or 14 direct flights per day between RDU and Chicago. Also, knowing some situations during the season when a call up is needed right away, if the Canes are on the road when the emergency occurs, getting to a NHL city destination is probably easier directly from Chicago than Charlotte.
Keeping an Eye on the Roster
The big question Caniacs have on their minds is what changes will happen during this offseason. (It’s taking a little getting used to saying offseason rather than summer).
On defense, the Canes have 5 players still under contract:
- Jake Gardiner
- Dougie Hamilton
- Brett Pesce
- Brady Skjei
- Jaccob Slavin
The Free Agents
Joel Edmundson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Sami Vatanen are all unrestricted free agents. Haydn Fleury is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. I’m not sure the Canes will sign any UFA, and I do expect Fleury will have some sort of agreement.
On top of these, the Canes have Jake Bean on their AHL team that is ready to make the jump to the NHL. Add all those up and that’s 10 NHL qualified d-men, so that’s why I think the UFAs will be playing elsewhere next season.
Possible Extensions for Hamilton and Svech
Dougie Hamilton’s contract expires after next season and Waddell would like to get an extension signed during this offseason. Waddell is a craftsman at contracts along with pleasant surprises and may pull some deal that involves a defenseman for a power forward.
Upfront, the biggest question is will Waddell sign Andrei Svechnikov to an extension?
Svech is a superstar in the making. His skill set has never graced the Canes ice and there were some very impressive players in the past. If he stays healthy, he is going to rewrite records. He’s nicer than he is good. This is a young man whose character is stellar and is respectful both on and off the ice. He plays a physical game which makes watching him all that more enjoyable.
Trades, New Deals and Retirement Rumors
As of right now, Justin Williams is a UFA with Warren Foegele a RFA. There’s a good chance Foegs will sign a new deal and Willie can do whatever he wants. The Canes will always find a home for him but I’ll gamble with Jim Kelly’s money (meaning a huge gamble) and say he’s going to announce retirement and possibly find some job within the Canes organization.
As for others, Ryan Dzingel and Nino Niederreiter have had their names linked to trade rumors. Both players had off years and hardly justified their salaries from a production standpoint. I would think both want to return and get a bounce back as Dzingel has just 1 year left on his contract while El Niño has 2 years remaining. Smart money probably has those 2 staying and if they just meet their career averages, it would be a huge help offensively.
GM Might Seek Improvements in the Net
In the crease, both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer have a year remaining under contract and have Alex Nedeljkovic with a year remaining on his contract. While all 3 goalies, maybe I should include David Ayres, have had moments of greatness, Waddell’s position is, and should be, that if an opportunity exists to improve a position at a reasonable cost, he will.
That’s any GM’s job and his record with the Canes has been very good.
I do hope the Canes get some extra scoring and grit upfront. I had a coach once that said ‘gentlemen don’t play soccer’. That may or not be true for soccer or any other sport including hockey.
The Canes do have several gentlemen both on and off the ice but still play a hard game. Jordan Staal is the first that comes to mind. The man is huge, covers a puck like a papa bear protecting its cubs. Like a true papa bear, he’d run to the aid of a cub in trouble and just his presence alone can make a threat go away.
Getting a Grip on Penalties
One thing I believe Rod Brind’Amour wants to correct for next season is penalties.
The Canes took far more than a normal Canes team and early in the season, the PK was weak. The Canes don’t need an agitator that takes senseless penalties but at the same time, the Canes need that force that just skating by sends a message. Edmundson was the message sender and was very effective. With him more than likely being somewhere else next season, someone has to step up or be acquired.
Brock McGinn has never turned down an invitation to dance but he’s more like a jackal, maybe not the biggest guy on the ice but is hard as nails in any scuffle.
NHL Draft Just Weeks Away
The NHL draft is now less than a month away, set to be held virtually on October 6 and 7.
Waddell is in his glory during the draft and who knows what he has up his sleeve for this draft. No word yet on when next season will start or even if it will be a full 82 games. I’m sure if Commissioner Gary Bettman has his way, it would be an 82 game schedule.
We all have to keep social distancing, wearing masks and continue to wash hands to permanently put this virus in the penalty box so fans can attend games. One of the best thing’s I’ve seen regarding the virus said, “Now that we’ve got hand washing down, how about we work on turn signals next?”
My modification would be: “continue to get hand washing down so we can watch hockey at the PNC Arena.” Stay safe.
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