September 11, 2012 3:15 PM
Not only did the Carolina Hurricanes get center Jeremy Welsh signed, they did so in a way that could benefit the Checkers.
Welsh, a 24-year-old rookie who was the last restricted free agent in the organization, inked a two-year contract on Tuesday that contains a two-way clause in its first year. That leaves the door open for the Union College grad to play in Charlotte during a potential NHL lockout - something that otherwise may not have come to pass.
Despite the fact that Welsh, who first signed with the Hurricanes at the conclusion of his college season in April, has only played one professional game, expectations are high for the player whose 44 points in 40 games last campaign made him one of the most sought-after college free agents. Over the course of his three-year career at Union, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Bayfield, Ontario, scored 100 points (53g, 47a) in 119 games.
“Jeremy is a player we think very highly of,” Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford said in a team release. “He is a big man that can play center or left wing, and has really good hockey sense.”
With new contract in hand, Welsh officially becomes one of a large group of players on two-way contracts that are eligible to play in the AHL for the duration of the NHL lockout, which would begin Saturday if a new collective bargaining agreement cannot be reached.
Aside from the players who played in Charlotte last season and new veteran signings like Marc-Andre Gragnani and Tim Wallace, Welsh falls into the category of talented young players who would likely have been NHL-bound under normal circumstances. Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, each members of the NHL’s All Rookie Team in the past few seasons, are also in that group, although it’s still unclear if they would play in Charlotte or sit out with their veteran teammates as established NHL players.
Regardless of what transpires with the NHL’s labor situation, the AHL season is set to begin as scheduled. The Checkers first hit the ice for the first of a nine-game road trip at Houston on Oct. 13 before playing their home opener at Time Warner Cable Arena on Nov. 4.