Carolina Hurricanes: Is Warren Foegele Expendable?

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 12: Warren Foegele #13 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots the puck during warm ups prior to an NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 12, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 12: Warren Foegele #13 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots the puck during warm ups prior to an NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 12, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Warren Foegele’s season has been a mixed bag thus far. With a few prospects knocking on the door, it’s fair to wonder if Foegele has a future with the Carolina Hurricanes, or if he might end up traded or waived.

NHL roster spots are limited and coveted, so it’s important that those holding them are making their presence felt. The Carolina Hurricanes have considerable depth at the AHL level. A few of those guys have the skills to step into an NHL role at some point this season.

To me, “making their presence felt” doesn’t necessarily mean lighting the lamp. It means being in the correct position, moving your feet, and making the little plays happen. I’ve never questioned Warren Foegele’s energy or commitment, but I’ve seen a few hiccups in his game thus far that makes me feel this is a fair question to ask.

Is Foegele expendable?

I understand we’re only a handful of games into the season, and this thought might be premature. I also understand that we’re in a bind because if we assigned Foegele to Charlotte, we’d certainly lose him since he’s not waiver exempt.

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Based on early season performances from a few of the Checkers, namely Julien Gauthier and Morgan Geekie, we can and should open this dialogue. I can envision a scenario in which Foegele ends up traded or waived.

The possibility of Foegele losing his spot actually crept into my mind on opening night when he missed an assignment on his back check. Obviously, every player makes mistakes from time to time. This stuck out to me though because I couldn’t recall ever seeing Foegele not moving his feet. Maybe it was the end of just one shift, but it was also the only time I noticed him that game.

The Carolina Hurricanes are still lacking right-handed shots up front, and Gauthier or Geekie could help. That and the Hurricanes are fast with or without Foegele. It is the main element of his game, and sometimes speed and tenacity aren’t enough to cut it in the NHL. It’s tough to justify investing long-term in a guy who mainly draws and kills penalties.

One of the things I was hoping to see progress in Foegele’s game this offseason was his shot. As exciting as his splash plays are, it’s about being consistently dangerous. For example, last night Foegele was 1-on-1 with Martin Jones in close. He didn’t have much time, but I felt he had just enough to elevate his backhand. No dice.

To his credit, Foegele does have two secondary assists in eight games this season. That’s solid for a fourth line role. The issues arise when we consider his habit of being streaky. Last season, he had separate goalless droughts of 27 and 16 games. That, and 5 of his 10 goals came in 4 games. His possession metrics have also slowly declined.

Foegele’s CF% this season is sitting at 44.2% despite getting offensive zone starts 51.0% of the time. He’s not been as impactful, and a quick eye test supports that number. This is reflected in his diminishing ice time compared to last season. So far, he’s averaging 10:36, which is down about 2:00.

As for Foegele’s shooting, he has only taken 10 shots so far this season. However, 7 of them came in two games against Tampa Bay and San Jose. He has been held shot-less in half of the Carolina Hurricanes’ games. This speaks to said streakiness and splash impact.

What about the two guys knocking on Foegele’s door?

Gauthier has most of the fan base clamoring for him to get a bigger chance. He has the numbers to support it. In his second AHL season, Gauthier posted 27 goals, just one less than Foegele’s rookie season. He has also scored in both his games with the Checkers thus far.

In his two games with the Carolina Hurricanes in a limited role, he registered a CF% of 55.6% and took a minor penalty. While he hasn’t yet gotten on the score sheet, he has generally made his presence felt and continued to build on his electric preseason.

As for Morgan Geekie, he’s a player I’ve been keeping a close eye on. He was my training camp dark horse, if you will. While Gauthier took the preseason by storm, Geekie also had a stellar camp. He has quickly ascended up the Checkers’ depth chart and with good reason. I like his ability to protect the puck, his nose for the net, and his shot.

In his AHL rookie season, Geekie put up 46 points (19 g 27 a) and posted a shooting percentage of 20.4%. During the Calder Cup run, Geekie tallied 18 points (8 g 10 a) in 19 games, which is obviously superb for a rookie. This season, Geekie has found the score sheet in each game he’s played. He’s off to a hot start with 5 points in 4 games. Here’s a cannon of a shot from Geekie from last week.

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Where does this leave us?

I think the injury to Jordan Martinook gives Foegele some much-needed breathing room and a little leash. However, we can’t ignore that there are guys behind Foegele taking huge strides while he struggles to find his game.

Here’s a little more food for thought. If Justin Williams decided to come back, a spot would need to be made available. Also, do we want to be married to second line Brock McGinn?

If the Hurricanes were to cut ties with Foegele, McGinn’s natural 4LW spot would be made available. Williams, Gauthier, or even Geekie could then skate alongside Jordan Staal and Andrei Svechnikov. I know you’re salivating at that thought.

Let me be clear: I love what Foegele brings when he’s on. But, with a new season comes a new expectation of growth. Foegele’s thriving in “the big moment” needs to mature into consistency over the course of 82 games.

We’re only a handful of games into the season. It’s too early to outright panic about Foegele. It’s not too early to wonder what could be waiting in the wings for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Question for CC Readers:  Do you consider Warren Foegele a mainstay in the Hurricanes’ lineup, or do you feel he could be replaced?

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