Well, day one of free agency is wrapped up. Some of the big stories of the day include Jaromir Jagr signing in Philadelphia, the Florida Panthers spending more money in one day than I would ever see in about ten lifetimes, and Brad Richards still not signing anywhere.
On the personal front, my favorite NHLer of all time signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings after a disastrous 2010-11 season. Mike Commodore, a former Hurricane (and North Dakota Fighting Sioux) went to the dark side and signed with my most despised NHL team. Fortunately, my affection for Mr. Commodore runs deep, so I will support him during his time in Detroit, just maybe not the logo on the front of his sweater!
Carolina Hurricane’s fan favorite Erik Cole decided to head north of the border and signed a four year deal worth $18 million with the Montreal Canadiens. Once considered to be a Hab-killer with his incredible ability to defeats the Canadiens, he’ll now be wearing the bleu blanc et rouge in a city that has their team underneath a microscope like no other. I wish Cole the best of luck! He was a favorite of mine over the years.
AHL Thoughts and news of note:
The Hurricanes did nothing on day one of Free Agency to bolster their minor league squad. While teams across the league(s) made key signings that improved their depth, Checkers fans are still left wondering who is coming back for season number two in Charlotte. The Checkers have a number of UFAs on NHL contracts in Bryan Rodney, Casey Borer, Nick Dodge and Zack Fitzgerald. (The latter of whom will probably not be re-signed by Carolina, but could still get an AHL contract directly with the Checkers or other AHL squads).
This seems to be the way of the Hurricanes, which is contrary to some of the powerhouse squads in the AHL like Hershey and Wilkes-Barre. The Hurricanes use their AHL team in a truly developmental manner. They didn’t have a single player last year who was considered a veteran under the AHL guidelines that limit the number of vets you can play in any given game, whereas many teams in the AHL would have to bench some of their older, more experienced players in favor of young guys with fewer games under their belts.
I actually like this a lot about the Hurricanes, because they are using their Charlotte team to train and develop their own talent pretty darn effectively, but the hockey fan in me would LOVE to see some heavy hitters signed to beef up our local team! The Checkers also only had two players (Herauf and Micflikier) on their regular roster who weren’t property of the Hurricanes (and another small handful of guys who spent most of the season in Florida with the Everblades).
While I still wouldn’t anticipate any major depth signings that will affect the Checkers for a while longer, I have a lot of confidence in the core we DO have. Unlike so many AHL teams that had a lot of veterans and UFAs, we are looking at the core of our team to look very similar this October to the squad we had in the Calder Cup Playoffs last season.
A few key AHL signings from around the league:
- The Edmonton Oilers signed Defenseman Corey Potter to a two-way deal. Potter is a former ECHL Checker, and spent last season with Wilkes-Barre, though he did play one game in Pittsburgh. He has four and a half seasons of AHL experience, and if he ends up in Oklahoma City, the Barons will have a great player on their roster.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Colin McDonald to a one-year deal. He’s a depth signing, and there’s a good chance the former OKC Baron will spend most of his time in Wilkes-Barre.
- Ryan Potulny was a beast when he faced the Checkers during the Eastern Conference finals this season, scoring six points (4G, 2A) in the four games against Charlotte. Washington picked him up on a one-year deal, and if he ends up playing in Hershey, AHL fans in our division should be worried. (Unless of course, the Checkers move west, then Potulny can torment the WBS Pens instead of us!)
Other NHL Hurricanes signings:
- The Hurricanes signed veteran goaltender Brian Boucher. He’s an American netminder with loads of playoff experience, who has played in a number of cities over the years. He will back up Cam Ward in Raleigh, giving the Checkers the goaltending duo of Mike Murphy and Justin Peters.
- The Hurricanes signed a fourth-line center in Tim Brent to a two-year deal. Brent was drafted twice by the Anaheim Ducks in 2002 and 2004. After not signing with his team after the first draft, he re-entered and the Ducks claimed him a second time. Since his first professional season in 2004, he spent most of his time in the AHL, never playing more than 15 NHL games until 2010-11, when he finally made the big club on a full time basis, playing 71 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- The Hurricanes signed a one-year contract with Alexei Ponikarovsky. Previously, Ponikarovsky played under Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice for two seasons in Toronto. He spent most of his career in Toronto until being traded at the deadline to Pittsburgh in 2010, and spending the past season with the Los Angeles Kings.