Cary, NC — Wow! I could probably leave it there as that describes what the past 14 days have been for the Carolina Hurricanes.
First, there was the expansion draft in which former Hurricane GM now Seattle Kraken GM, Ron Francis took Morgan Geekie who the Canes had signed to a new contract just days earlier.
Current GM Don Waddell left a few key players “exposed” like Nino Niederreiter (who had a great rebound year) while protecting Alex Nedelkovic and Warren Foegele only to trade them less than a week later. Geekie has some strong upside potential and going to the Kraken will allow him more playing time earlier than he would with the Canes.
“The Magical Waddell”
If there was ever a signal Waddell would be full of surprises, it happened the day before the draft when he traded Ned for Detroit Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier. The Wings were absolutely awful last season but would have been even worse off if it wasn’t for Bernier, who won 3 games against the Canes last season. That alone is impressive since the Wings defense was comparable to Swiss cheese.
Then, after waiting for over 3 hours on draft day for the Canes to get their first pick at #27, which had a few players still available that were ranked by various “experts” to go in the top 15, Waddell pulled another surprise. He opted to trade that pick for 2 in later rounds, one in the second round. Brilliant, or what were you thinking?
First Pick: Scott Morrow, 40th Overall
Turned out to be brilliant as the Canes picked Defenseman Scott Morrow on the 40th selection. Morrow just graduated high school and will be attending UMass in the fall. He has great size already, will only get stronger, and having him available was pure luck.
Canes Select Two Finns: Heimosalmi & Koivunen
Just 4 picks later the Canes selected Aleksi Heimosalmi from Finland. The book on him is his ice smarts are off the charts, he’s a great skater and showed his mettle in the U-18 World Championship. He’s a tad on the smaller size for a defenseman, 5’10”, 170 lb, but will add on a few pounds of muscle and could get a bit taller.
The Canes’ third pick in the second round was another Finn, Ville Koivunen who played for the team which Sebastian Aho’s father is the GM. Talk about insider information! He is the first forward taken by the Canes and his scoring at every level he’s been on has been better than a point per game.
Steal After Steal in Rounds 3-7
Round 3 had Czech Republic goalie, Patrik Hamrla selected who will play in the Quebec Major Junior league next season. He’s 6’3″, 194 lb, and is very athletic.
The next steal was the 94th pick, Aidan Hreschuk who was an alternate captain on the USA U-18 team and will play at Boston College next season.
Forward Jackson Blake was selected in the 4th round, 109th pick (4/109) whose father played in the NHL. Bloodlines help but everything rests with the player and while on the small side, his hockey sense, especially his 5-on-5 play is what impressed Canes Assistant GM in charge of scouting, Darren Yorke.
Robert Orr, 5/136, is super fast, and with the surname he has is great on defense. Justin Robidas, 5/147 was the next pick and is the third player in a row whose father played in the NHL. Word has it, his hands are slick and he is another speedster who is like so many, highly competitive. Bryce Montgomery, 6/170, is a huge defenseman, 6’4”, 215 lb who skates exceptionally well for a big guy.
Nikita Quapp, 6/187 was the second goalie chosen by the Canes. He was on the German U-18 team that had some tough times as the overall talent out of Germany has always been a surprise; it isn’t a strong talent pool. In the last round, the Canes had 2 picks: Goalie Yegor Naumov, 7/200, from Russia, is another athletic keeper who also reads the game so well.
Joel Nystrom, 7/219, from Sweden is another smallish defenseman but very fast. Speed and ice sense were common attributes. No player will make the jump to the big team next season and frankly doubt any of the ones that can by the age factor, will make the Canes AHL team, the Chicago Wolves.
Overall, the Canes were given an A+ on this draft for the second year in a row. Their prospect pool is one of the most impressive in all of the NHL and having those prospects just makes Waddell’s bag of tricks that much bigger.
Free Agency, Lose 4, Gain 6
On to free agency. There wasn’t much doubt that Dougie Hamilton was going to leave. Personally, I would have rather him stayed with the Canes but a few of the Caniac blogs had more fans wanting him to leave. Like all players, he had great moments and what were you thinking moments but overall, he was a great player for the Canes.
Hamilton, Foegele and Andrei Svechnikov were tight friends but all know hockey is a business.
Word had it that Foegs wanted a bigger role on the team which easily means more ice time and possibly playing on a higher line. It’s great to think that but as much as I and other Caniacs like him, the role he had was best for the Canes so good luck to him in Edmonton.
Andersen & Raanta Chosen to Goaltend
The Canes have made an offer sheet to Svech which the guesses are it’s a bridge contract rather than an 8-year deal, but Svech hasn’t accepted it yet. Waddell was super busy on the first day of the draft, signing 6 new players. The biggest landing was goalie Frederik Andersen from Toronto who ironically signed Petr Mrazek. Hated to see Mrazek go, and James Reimer for that matter, but Andersen is a top keeper.
The backup goalie will be Antti Raanta from the Arizona Coyotes who has a very respectable .921 career save percentage. You don’t replace a player like Hamilton with just one player unless it’s a Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, or a similar top player, so it’s somewhat “by committee.”
That committee now includes Ian Cole, a 2-time Cup winner with an already impressive career. I always thought he had the Canes’ number as he was always good against our top lines.
Controversial Singing of Tony DeAngelo
The biggest news came from signing Tony DeAngelo.
DeAngelo has had a storied background, most of which aren’t good. He’s had various issues at all levels of play. Without even knowing all the details of every incident, was he wrong? the answer is yes. Were they avoidable? Again, the answer is yes.
Were all deserving of suspensions? My answer is I’m sure some yes and not sure of all as some facts are just not known. Were some of his actions a result of so much junk being exposed throughout sports and these young athletes seeing this on TV for years? My personal answer is quite probably.
Look at just the college coaches in every sport yelling every vile word at refs in clear view of cameras. It’s down to the high school level and even to the so-called rec levels. But, is it acceptable? Never.
DeAngelo said he’s been counseled and is “a changed man.” Rod Brind’Amour, who has been known to use some strong language, is one of the most respected coaches not only in the NHL but I’d say in all sports. His bar is set high and every player strives to clear the bar. Brind’Amour has 3 great leaders on the team along with his friend, Justin Williams, who will explain the Canes way of life on and off the ice.
No one has said DeAngelo will have a short leash, but it’s not only assumed, DeAngelo himself said he knows what’s expected and will not disrespect the Canes or any NHL player and wants to make the Caniacs root for a winner, meaning both the team and him.
Waddell traded Foegs to the Oilers for defenseman Ethan Bear. Bear is just 24 with 132 NHL games under his belt and is a solid stay-at-home defenseman.
Not flashy but an excellent skater and is a physical presence in front of the net. Waddell also added former first-round pick, defenseman Brendan Smith who has played 526 NHL games, most recently with the Rangers. He’s a hard-nosed player whose punishing style makes it difficult for a forward to play above the crease.
Canes Strengthen Prospect Pool, Few Veterans
The Canes need to replace 4 forwards and while there are some excellent prospects, Waddell added 2 on the first day of free agency—Josh Leivo and CJ Smith. Leivo comes from the Flames and has 8 years in the NHL but not a tremendous number of games at just 207.
He’ll more than likely be a 4th line left-wing who may also be used on the PK. Smith comes from the Sabres and only has 14 NHL games under his belt. He is signed to a two-way contract and there’s a fair chance he’ll start with the AHL Wolves but he has to have the huge incentive, after living in Buffalo last year to find a way to stay in the Cary suburb of Raleigh.
A few days later, Waddell signed defenseman Jaden Chatfield, who played 18 games for Vancouver last season to a two-way contract. I have a call into my Vancouver hockey buddy for the real low down on Chatfield but odds are he’ll start in Chicago. Waddell was a busy man also signing Sam Miletic, a forward to a two-way deal solidifying the Wolves upfront.
Later that day, Waddell signed forward Maxim Letunov to a two-way deal. The 6’4″ Letunov will also most likely start the season in Chicago. Shoring up the goalie position, the Canes inked Alex Lyon who has 22 NHL games under his belt, most recently with The Flyers and will be in Chicago this season as an option in case either Andersen or Raanta get injured.
Another player to be signed may be another great steal for the Canes when they signed veteran Derek Stepan to a one-year deal. The versatile forward has played 759 NHL games and had his season cut short last year with a shoulder injury that required surgery. That type of surgery may have been similar to what Brett Pesce had a year ago and his season last year was the best of his career. Stepan, and more importantly the team doctors, say he’s 100% and could be the biggest, most pleasant surprise for the Canes.
The lastest player to be signed is Stefan Noesen who was a former first-rounder, 21st overall, with 205 NHL games played. Waddell calls him a high-energy player, read into that 4th line, and with the two-way deal, will probably start in Chicago but should be an early call-up when an injury occurs.
Jordan Martinook signed a new 3-year contract which gives the Canes a very loud and comical locker room and pregame hallway atmosphere with his daily chant in 110 decibels of “Mista Svechhhhniiikov” while pounding the young superstar on the shoulder pads.
Concentration Now On Signing Svechnikov
It’s been a busy off-season so far and, in all likelihood, is not finished. The prospect pool is stacked, really stacked deep which is prime for working a trade. The biggest question still unanswered is getting Andrei Svechnikov under contract.
The Canes made an offer sheet but it’s still not accepted. Call me nervous, but that’s not a good sign.
Svech started last season hot as a pistol but quickly cooled off. Partly by the coverage he had by other teams, but it appeared a lot was just his confidence level which is mind-boggling as this player is the most talented player the Canes have ever had. These players are normal human beings and even knowing hockey is a business and being a player is a job, losing close friends to others takes getting used to and could (but shouldn’t) affect these professionals.
Svech is the full package—huge offense potential, skates hard and fast, loves a physical game, enjoys every minute on the ice and has made good strides in controlling, but not eliminating, avoidable penalties.
There’s also the possibility a prospect, like a Ryan Suzuki, could earn a spot on the Canes out of camp. That could only come at the cost of an existing roster player being the odd man out which makes Brind’Amour’s job that much more difficult.
Roddy has made those decisions in the past and will do whatever is necessary to win.
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