I don’t often talk much about NHL on here, simply because there are other people who I believe do a much better job than I can. But yesterday gave Hurricanes fans a pretty nice treat, with three re-signings that I doubt anyone will be disappointed in. So I wanted to talk a little about what I’m hoping for in the new season.
Standard disclaimer applies: I’m not an expert in this field, but I know what my heart wants from the team.
Talking to a fellow ‘Canes fan before the signings were announced, I mentioned specifically that I wanted to make sure that Chris Terry and Zach Boychuk got a proper chance in the big show this season. In my eyes, they both more than proved themselves, both in the Hurricanes AHL Affiliate, Charlotte Checkers, and on the occasions when they came up to cover injuries. With Terry’s new one-year, two-way contract, I believe that this is the start of a mostly NHL-filled season for him. Boychuk is still RFA, but I’m keeping everything crossed that this changes in the next few days.
The second and third re-signings yesterday made me equally happy. Ron Hainsey and Nathan Gerbe both came in last season on one year contracts, and both slotted into the team fantastically. Hainsey provides a steady, dependable force on the blue line, and Gerbe is an underestimated forward who brought us moments like this:
We still have a lot of UFA and RFA players on the roster, both in Charlotte and Raleigh, and I’m not naive enough to believe that they’ll all get signed. Sadly, I don’t think that Joni Pitkanen will be coming back, but the rest of them, I don’t know about yet. I’d like to see Manny Malhotra re-signed. He’s a solid forward who works well with some of the younger players, and he’s the kind of person who seems to make everyone around him want to work harder. I’m also hoping that Andrei Loktionov is re-signed. We didn’t get to see a huge amount from him, but what we did see, I liked.
Down in Charlotte, the ones I’m most hoping are re-signed (other than Boychuk, of course) are Michal Jordan (who proved his worth in the World Championships when he played for Czech), Nic Blanchard and Brett Sutter. I would have added Mike Murphy to that list, but he’s already signed in Austria for the new season.
Which brings us onto the major issue that’s been plaguing the Hurricanes for months – Netminders.
Charlotte have John Muse under contract (he’s not contracted to the Hurricanes), and Raleigh now has four netminders; rookie Daniel Altshuller, Justin Peters, Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward. I strongly suspect that at least one of them won’t be with us in October. I don’t know a lot about Altshuller, but I can’t imagine him heading straight into the NHL, even as a backup. It’s more likely that he’ll be the backup for whoever starts in Charlotte. Which leaves us exactly where we have been since all three of our NHL level goalies became healthy. One of them will have to go.
Peters is UFA this season. Khudobin only just signed for 2 years. And Ward has two more years left on his contract. While my heart hates me for saying this, I believe that Ward is the one we need to lose. Khudobin has proven himself as a starter, and I can’t see the point in paying two goalies as much money as we would be if the starting position was shared between him and Ward. Peters has come up through the Hurricanes system, and to lose him now would almost be a waste of the development that has been put into getting him where he is. He’s not ready to be a starter in the NHL yet, but I’d be more than happy with him as the backup for Khudobin. I think the two of them work very well together and would make a good netminding team.
Cam Ward’s contract is a painfully high one. I can’t see any other team taking him on at that amount. The options to me seem to be that we retain a portion of his salary, or we buyout him out. While I love Cam as a person, and I realise how important he is to the heart of the team, I also know that as a netminder, he’s not as good as he used to be, and not as good anymore as we need him to be. He’s been injured too many times, and each time it seems to take him longer to get back.
The biggest change this season, though, will be behind the bench. Our new head coach, Bill Peters, has already impressed quite a few fans and I believe that he can push the guys on the ice in a way that they need. We have a good position in the draft (as everyone points out, the last time we had a #7 pick, we did pretty well!), with a lot of prospects out there who would fit in well. We have some amazingly talented younger guys on the team – Ryan Murphy, Elias Lindholm, Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner – and a good core, centered around the Staal brothers.
I know people say this every year about their teams, but I believe this year is going to be a good one for us. Last year, when things were going well, they were going very well. But when they weren’t, it was heartbreaking. Hopefully, with the new coaching team, and a new general manager, those issues we faced will be resolved, and we’ll have a lot more of the good times than the bad.