Though the first few hours of free agency saw more players depart than arrive as far as the Checkers are concerned, reinforcements appear to be on the way.
At a press conference with the Raleigh media on Monday
afternoon, Hurricanes General Manager Ron Francis outlined specific areas to address in terms of organizational depth - in other words, players he hoped to bring in on two-way contracts that are likely to start the season in Charlotte.
“We’ll take a look and see what’s out there,” said Francis. “There are a couple of spots for Charlotte, kind of a depth centerman and third goaltender for the organization. There are some things we’re looking for there – a depth right-winger as well.
“There’s a lot of big money being thrown around today, so we’ll probably sit and see when the dust settles a little bit where things are left and kind of go from there.”
The new center would likely fill the role previously held by team captain Brett Sutter, who signed a two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild
early in the free agent period. Similarly, the goaltender would essentially be a new Justin Peters – someone who can carry the heavy workload in Charlotte while having the kind of experience to fill in with the big club when necessary. As of Monday, Peters was a Washington Capital.
Update: the Hurricanes signed goaltender Drew MacIntyre, a two-time AHL All-Star, two a two-way contract later Monday.
The winger-to-be-named later could help offset the loss of Zach Boychuk, Chris Terry and Aaron Palushaj, or perhaps all three. Palushaj, who the Hurricanes chose not to qualify as a restricted free agent
, is on the open market and unlikely to return. Boychuk and Terry may not be Checkers either, albeit for a different reason.
“We looked at things and thought there were a couple of guys that played in Charlotte that might get the opportunity this year to come up and play,” said Francis, explaining his decision not to qualify Andrei Loktionov, who he called a “similar” player. “They’ve earned that.”
Terry, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent, had already signed a new deal with the Hurricanes
. Though it’s of the two-way variety, the AHL end of the deal (a Carolina record of $300,000) suggests that they’re prepared for him to play much, if not all, of the season in the NHL.
Meanwhile, Boychuk still needs a contract as a restricted free agent, though that sounds like a formality at this point.
“He scored 36 goals and led the American League in goal scoring,” said Francis. “He’s a guy that we feel has earned the opportunity. When he came up every game last year I thought he played extremely well, so he’ll be given every opportunity in training camp to take one of those spots.”
Francis’ shopping list could expand depending on his ability to re-sign some of the team’s other restricted free agents, especially on defense, where longtime Checkers Michal Jordan
and Rasmus Rissanen
were thought to be considering options in Europe following last season. Veteran Mark Flood has already signed in the KHL
, while Matt Corrente is currently on the open market.
To Francis’ point, the urgency to sign players to two-way contracts pales in comparison to the frenzy surrounding the start of the free agent period, one that saw 52 official signings in the first four hours. Last season’s Checkers free agent class of Palushaj, Corrente and Flood signed between July 10 and 11.