It’s going to be a busy day in the NHL as Free Agency season finally begins! Outside of the trade deadline in late February, no other single date sees more changes in team rosters than the kick off to free agency. For an organization that finished 23rd overall in the league last season and missed the playoffs for 3 consecutive years, this isn’t a day to be a spectator. There are more holes in this roster than Camp Green Lake. So, we should have an idea of what kind of product will be on the ice come October based solely on what management does (or doesn’t do) in the early stages of this free agency period. “But with so many questions about my beloved Canes, how will I ever keep track of all of it all on such an important day? Woe is me!!!” SNAP OUT OF IT!!!! Uncle Foxy has you covered!
- Has the coaching staff seen enough from Jeremy Welsh to warrant giving him a shot at making the roster? Coach Mu (that doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?) recently said he wanted to experiment with The Brothers Staal playing on the first line together. Since we are chock full o’ players that can play either wing or center, this isn’t that big of a concern. Any number of forwards can fill the 2nd line center role. However, it does leave a spot open for the 3rd line center. Welsh (6′ 3″, 210 lbs.) certainly has the ideal frame to fit the bill and he would be buried deep enough on the roster that when he does make mistakes the impact would be negligible. I don’t see JR addressing this as a priority, but maybe he would fancy two lines consisting of all centers?
- Where are the Left Wingers? I know that most forwards in our system play multiple positions, but our lack of natural left wingers is laughable. The only two left wings that have any real NHL experience are Juice and Drayson Bowman…….that’s it. As it stands now our lines are currently shaping up to look a little something like this:
Juice – Jordan – Eric
Skinner – Ruu – Tlusty
Nodl – Welsh – LaRose
Dwyer – Brent – Stewart
- Note, half of those forwards are not in their natural position, and I still don’t even know who you have sitting in the press box! I’m not going to beat a dead horse here. Everyone can see it. Everyone’s scared. We can only hope that JR will use free agency to fix it . I’ve said which players I would prefer, but I wouldn’t limit our scope to just 2 or 3 specific players. There’s plenty of productive, affordable options out there. No need to give up too much just because you have your heart set on
Jordan Staalone certain player.
- Will Bryan Allen leave for greener pastures? If he does the Canes are sure to address his absence via free agency. And probably sooner rather than later, as the pool of defensemen in this year’s crop of free agents isn’t very deep. The only free agent capable of stepping in to take on Allen’s role is Ryan Suter and he’s going to be a major hit to the cap. He has expressed interest in going somewhere that he can stay the rest of his career and that he would be taking his family into account when making a decision. Could the Triangle’s family friendly status be something that keeps us in the running? Hopefully. I would imagine that Jimmy has something up his sleeve. With the news coming this week of Joslin being put on waivers (and all but out the door), and both Jaro Spacek and Allen being allowed to test the market, I’m expecting some sort of major addition at the position, or a season of hurt. I think it’s time to give Bobby Sanguinetti a shot, but there’s no way he can fill the void if Allen splits.
- Will the Canes acquire a back up goaltender for our back up goaltender? Brian Boucher is expected to miss 4-6 months due to a shoulder injury (that’s what happens when you’re 35). Cam has averaged about 64 games played per season since becoming the starter at the beginning of the ’06 season, but there is still a necessity for a serviceable back up in this league. If we are planning on making it back to the playoffs, Cam will need a breather on occasion and we also need to make sure we stand a good chance of winning the games that he doesn’t start. To make matters worse, Mike Murphy left for Russia in the off season leaving Justin Peters as the only goaltender in the system anywhere close to NHL ready. We have to save some cap space somewhere if we’re planning on signing a forward or two. Perhaps, we can hand the crease over to Pete Dawg for a few games and cross our fingers but he’s set to be a UFA, so let’s hope that JR has been flexing that Pimp Hand. Or, if Greg Stefan doesn’t think he’s up to the task, look for Carolina to make a move for a veteran back up. Marty Biron, Al, Montoya, and Scott Clemmensen could all be reasonably cap friendly, single season gap stops. Is anyone else overly concerned with how ill equipped we are at this position?
- Will management approve spending anywhere close to the cap in order to put a competitive team in front of adoring fans? Alright, Mr. Karmanos, we’ve been patient (perhaps not pleasant) and you’ve saved your money at the expense of quality for a few years. You got yourself some fellow investors to help take on some of the financial rigors of team ownership, Now, it’s time to take care of the fans. We have stood and cheered as our team’s hopes of the playoffs were dashed on the last day of the season. We cheered for “the effort” because that’s all we had. Well, we made the effort to show up early to tailgate, and remained loyal when we knew we stood little chance of competing, our efforts at work afford us the luxury of buying $130 jerseys (hopefully not a Sutter jersey), $8 beers, and $10 parking. We’re used to so much more than what we’ve had to settle for over the past 3 years. Now it’s time to reward our effort.