CAROLINAThe Hurricanes made a pretty sizeable splash with their additions up front in free agency. Most notably is Justin Williams, a member of Carolina’s Cup-winning team who can slide into a scoring role for the Canes. They also acquired Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger, a pair of solid pieces that will likely help solidify the team’s bottom six. With those additions, Carolina now has 13 NHL forwards under contract, with restricted free agent Phil Di Giuseppe still unsigned.
On defense, Carolina’s lone move was a trade that sent Ryan Murphy to Calgary, clearing up the blue line a bit to leave six NHL defensemen currently under contract.
Included in that deal with Calgary was Eddie Lack, with his departure clearing the way for Scott Darling and Cam Ward to be Carolina’s one-two punch between the pipes.
With those moves in mind, here is how the Checkers are shaping up.
FORWARDSThe Checkers added two more pieces up front in Zack Stortini and Nick Schilkey via AHL deals. Stortini is a 12-year veteran with an abundance of AHL and NHL experience. After wearing a letter in three of his last four seasons and racking up over 1,700 career penalty minutes, Stortini could fill the gritty leadership role left by Kris Newbury – who recently signed a contract to play in Germany – and Kyle Hagel – who remains an unrestricted free agent, meaning the Checkers or any other team could still sign him.
The other addition is undrafted forward Nick Schilkey. The 23-year-old participated in Carolina’s Development Camp last week as an invite after a standout senior season at Ohio State that saw him rank third in the nation in scoring.
With those two on board, the Checkers’ group of forwards who are either rookies or finished last season in Charlotte now sits at 16. With the NHL spots in Carolina likely close to being filled, it appears that Charlotte could at least start the season with a full group up front. And given the current logjam of bodies, a handful of the younger or AHL-contracted players could start in the ECHL with Florida, where they would be afforded more ice time.
Potential Forward GroupBishop
DEFENSEMENThe forwards weren’t the only group that were addressed over the past week. Carolina brought Dennis Robertson back into the mix with a new two-way contract, then inked former Manitoba Moose Brenden Kichton to a two-way deal.
Including those two, the Checkers now have a stable of seven blue liners who have strong AHL experience – Trevor Carrick, Jake Chelios, Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown, Philip Samuelsson, Robertson and Kichton – as well three strong options that could push their way into the lineup or develop in the ECHL – Tyler Ganly, Keegan Kanzig and Josh Wesley.
The wrinkle here could be whether one of those skaters impresses in camp enough to stick up top, as there could be spots open for the taking in Carolina. In fact, it appears as though the Hurricanes anticipate Fleury making that jump to the NHL. The good news though is that the stockpile of young blue liners seems to be deep enough to alleviate that loss in Charlotte.
Potential Defense GroupCarrick
GOALTENDINGFollowing through on their initial plan, the Hurricanes added a veteran presence to the goalie slate, signing Jeremy Smith to a two-way deal. The 28-year-old has eight pro seasons under his belt, with the majority of his time coming in the AHL. Smith likely projects to at least split time in Charlotte and serve as the organization’s number three should something happen to Darling or Ward.
The Checkers added one more piece to this mix this week when they signed Martin Ouellette to an AHL deal. The 25-year-old has spent most of his three pro seasons in the ECHL with Reading while also logging 25 AHL games over that span.
That leaves four goalies vying for the two spots in Charlotte. Prior to signing Ouelette and Smith, Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis projected that one of Nedeljkovic or Booth will stay in the AHL with a veteran presence while the other picks up playing time in the ECHL.
POTENTIAL GOALIE GROUPBooth