The anticipated roster shakeup caused by the start of NHL training camps finally occurred on Saturday. It ended up being as significant as advertised.
A total of six players made the trip from Oklahoma City, where the Checkers played back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday night, to Raleigh to join the Carolina Hurricanes. They are forwards Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Tim Wallace and Jeremy Welsh, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, and goalie Dan Ellis. They join defenseman Justin Faulk, who left Charlotte earlier in the week.
To cope with the loss, the Checkers added five ECHL players – John Muse, Beau Schmitz, Matt Beca, Matthew Pistilli and Leigh Salters, earlier in the day. More on those transactions can be found here
The flurry of movement will have a dramatic impact on the team, albeit one felt around the AHL this weekend. That said, it could have been even more significant, with a few notable names not making the trip to camp.
Forwards Zac Dalpe, Jerome Samson and Brett Sutter, all of whom have NHL experience with the Hurricanes and are among the Checkers' leading scorers this season, and goalie Justin Peters headline a group of players that could have easily joined the initial group of departures.
The timing of today's transactions will be particularly cruel to Dalpe and Peters, two of the Checkers' most productive players over the last week. Dalpe, who ranks second on the team with 27 points and leads the team with a plus-13 rating, has eight points (4g, 4a) in his last four games. Prior to earning another win on Saturday, Peters was coming off back-to-back shutouts and had posted a 1.30 goals-against average and .946 save percentage in his last nine appearances dating back to Dec. 11.
Sutter, who served a one-game boarding suspension on Friday, is enjoying his most productive offensive season to date, having scored 11 goals thus far. He needs just two more to tie his career high from five previous AHL seasons. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, currently injured, also stays with Charlotte though there is currently no known timetable for his return.
Between Dalpe, Peters, Samson, Sutter and Riley Nash, 185 games of NHL experience will remain with the Checkers for the time being.
It remains to be seen how long the recalled players will stay in Carolina. There are certainly spots on the NHL roster to be filled, meaning the Checkers could lose all of them permanently, but the distinct possibility of additional roster moves may close those doors or at least create competition. As is the case in any season, there should also be the normal ups and downs of players making trips to and from Raleigh on a regular basis.
Sifting through the aftermath, the Checkers' top five scorers are now Dalpe, Chris Terry, Sutter, Nash and Samson, in order. An AHL team in any season could certainly do a lot worse. In goal, Peters will continue to provide a reliable, experienced option and should see his workload increase after splitting starts with Ellis up to this point.
The most immediate impact will be seen on defense. Due to ongoing injuries to Gragnani and Rasmus Rissanen, Brett Bellemore, Michal Jordan and Justin Krueger are now the Checkers' top three, with the other spots filled by players who started the season in the ECHL. Though there won't be anything wrong with the unit when everyone returns to health, the puck-moving dynamic new to this season will suffer due to the losses of Faulk and Sanguinetti. With Gragnani out, the team may go through an adjustment period.