As the Checkers reconvened for their exit interviews on Monday, most spoke of taking several weeks to decompress, forget about hockey for a while and enjoy the North Carolina weather that’s still considerably nicer than back home.
Michal Jordan won’t get much of a break at all, but that’s OK with him.
Charlotte’s most reliable defenseman for much of his four years with the club was absent when the rest of the team met with coaches and media on Monday. Instead, he was preparing to catch a plane home to Europe, where he’ll suit up for a pair of exhibition games for his native Czech Republic starting Friday.
Jordan is no stranger to the national team setup at the youth level, having played in three World Junior championships, among other competitions. This would be his first foray into representing his country on the senior circuit as it prepares for the upcoming World Championship in Belarus.
“I’m going for camp and nothing is guaranteed yet, but it’s nice to know that the coaches know about me,” said Jordan, 23. “I’ll at least play the Swiss on Friday and Sunday. We’ll see how I play and hopefully I can stay longer.”
As he alluded to, Jordan’s chances of making the team depend heavily on his exhibition performances, but also on how many players the team might add as time goes on. Most countries name their initial rosters with those who might become available by losing in the early stages of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in mind. This year could be different, with many Olympians having already turned down, or are likely to turn down, invitations.
Based on that, Jordan said he had some idea that he could be in the mix this season, even though European teams tend to first turn to European leagues after exhausting all available options from the NHL.
“I was surprised a little bit because they don’t really watch the AHL as closely,” he said. “There are a lot of good leagues in Europe and the coaches see more of those leagues. The last year I had a good season and got a few games in the NHL, and that got me noticed back home.”
That was part of the reason Jordan decided to sign on for another season with Carolina upon the expiration of his entry-level deal last summer. That second contract is now set to expire, leading to another big decision.
Many players in Jordan’s situation elect to play closer to home if they feel their immediate NHL options might be limited. Another Checkers defenseman in Rasmus Rissanen, who did not play a game for Carolina in three seasons, said Monday that signing an overseas deal as a restricted free agent was “an option,” though nothing has been determined this early.
Jordan, who weighed such offers one year ago, is likely to do so again.
“I would like to stay with the Canes if there’s going to be a good offer and a good opportunity, but if not there are other places I can go,” said Jordan, who turned down interest from the KHL and other European leagues last season. “When I signed last year they told me there would be a good chance to make the team and it didn’t happen, but they had lots of players. It was pretty disappointing that I didn’t get a chance.”
The Hurricanes did recall Jordan once as insurance in case they didn’t have enough players to play a game on March 10. As it turned out, they did, and Jordan’s ice time was limited to warm-ups before jumping on another plane.
Despite not being able to build on his first five games with Carolina last season, Jordan said there were no hard feelings.
“If I feel like there’s a chance in Carolina I would come back, because I’ve been playing in North America for seven years,” he said. “If not, then I don’t feel bad about it.”
If Jordan does sign overseas, the Hurricanes could retain his rights by making him a qualifying offer, something they did with Oskar Osala, Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Murphy, to name a few players in similar situations. Based on his end-of-season conversation with Checkers coach Jeff Daniels, Jordan said that he expected Ron Francis, who could very well be the Hurricanes’ new general manager in a few weeks’ time, to be in touch.
Until then, Jordan’s focus will be on his new opportunity on the world stage, where he joins Justin Krueger (Germany) as the only player to ever head straight to a World Championship setup following the AHL season. The tournament is set to begin May 9 in Minsk.