Just a few days ago, the Carolina Hurricanes were already looking like a vastly improved team that nobody outside of Canes supporters seemed to be taking much note of. Gone from their 2015-16 squad were perennially underachievers such as Riley Nash, Chris Terry, Nathan Gerbe and Brad Malone – who still managed to help the Canes secure 10th place in the East with 86 points and a record of 35-31-16. Replacing them are veteran forwards Lee Stempniak, who had a 53-point resurgance last season, along with Cup-winning ex-Blackhawks Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell. Add in young Finnish phenom Sebastian Aho as well as a potential trade steal, the young, talented Teuvo Teravainen, and it’s easy to see why Canes fans are as excited as ever to see their team take the ice.
Well, Ron Francis should probably be prosecuted in a court of law, because he’s done nothing but steal quality players from opposing teams since taking over as the Canes GM in 2014. His first move this week was to claim just turned 23-year old Martin Frk, a Czech forward who scored 27 goals and 44 points in the AHL last season in the Detroit farm system. The same Detroit system that blessed the Hurricanes with coach Bill Peters, who coached Team Canada to a gold in the WC and also coached at the WCOH, along with another unheralded pickup at the time, Andrej Nestrasil, who’s produced 41 points in 96 games for the Hurricanes and has been a very quality top-9 two-way forward. Frk is a different type of player however. He’s a right-handed shot, which the Canes are in need of, and oh, yeah, this kid can shoot – and he can score. Two big needs filled for the Canes filled at the cost of…. nothing. We’ll see if Frk pans out, but adding him for free is an absolute no-risk move that could be highly rewarding if he follows in the footsteps of ex-Red Wings employees that have made the move to Raleigh. Red Wings fans were very upset to lose this kid, who could be a solid contributor for the Canes sooner rather than later.
Then, just an hour or so later, Ronnie signs another Czech-born player, 28-year old defenseman Jakub Nakladal, to add depth to the Canes defensive core which includes Justin Faulk, Ron Hainsey, Ryan Murphy (who’s currently injured) and the extremely talented young trio of Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. The Canes were regarded as a finalist to sign Nakladal last summer, but he instead went to Calgary on a one-year deal and played 27 games of solid hockey for them. The fact he’s been unsigned all summer isn’t great, but he’s been drawing interest from multiple teams and Nakladal is a guy the Hurricanes have clearly liked for a while. Considering it’s just a one-year deal for slightly above the league minimum, its another no-risk move that could pay out big for the Canes if Nakladal finds his groove playing third-pairing minutes. If not, they cut bait at the end of the year and move on with promising youngsters like Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown and Trevor Carrick who have the year to refine their games at the AHL level.
Last but not least, just when we thought the Canes roster was set, the team goes out and plucks 25-year old Swedish defenseman Klas Dahlbeck off waivers from Arizona. Dahlbeck, a 6-3 207-lb defensive d-man was extremely liked by Chicago supporters before he was traded to Arizona as a main piece in their trade for Antoine Vermette. Dahlbeck only has 3 goals and 12 points in 94 games, so he’s not expected to be much of an offensive threat for the Canes. Where he’ll contribute is defensively – the Canes dont have a true stay-at-home, big, tough defensive presence who can push bodies around in front of their net and in the corner – which is what Dahlbeck can provide. He’s another 3rd pairing guy, but with the defenseman the Canes have in place ahead of him he won’t be overly relied to play big minutes. He’s a quality add to the blueline. “But Alex – He was just waived, he can’t be that good. Arizona didn’t want him! Why should we?!” Well listen. Arizona is loaded on defense. They have quality holdovers from last season plus their adding youngsters Jacob Chychrun and Kevin Connauton to the mix, and they also want to give a chance to former Canadiens first-rounder Jarred Tinordi. There just didn’t have room for Dahlbeck – and it’s also telling to their defensive depth that they waived another very quality defenseman in Zybnek Michalek. It was a numbers game for Arizona, and the Canes now have the chance to benefit from it, with another no-risk, no-loss move.
So to summarize, the Canes have added 3 NHL calibre players to their roster in the last couple days without sacrificing a single asset. Even if none of the three ever make an impact for Carolina, there’s no way you can fault Ron Francis for taking these measures to attempt to improve the Hurricanes roster as the season starts up. Not trying to get too far ahead of myself here – but I seriously can’t think of one actual bad move that Francis has made during his time at the helm. If you can – let me know. Anyway: While Frk, Nakladal and Dahlbeck get up to speed with the Canes squad, you can expect the depth chart to look similar to as follows for their opening game in Winnipeg:
Skinner – Rask – Stempniak
Nordstrom – Staal – Nestrasil
Aho – Lindholm – Teravainen
Bickell – McClement – Stalberg
(Di Giuseppe, Frk)
Faulk – Slavin
Pesce – Hainsey
Hanifin – Roland McKeown
Ward / Lack
Thanks for reading!