NHL Free Agency 2014: Evaluating Each Carolina Hurricanes Signing
The Carolina Hurricanes' love affair with the Toronto Maple Leafs has continued through the start of the NHL free-agency period, as three of the 'Canes five signings to date most recently played in a Leafs uniform.
AHL goalie Drew MacIntyre, fourth-line center Jay McClement and former 'Canes defenseman Tim Gleason will migrate south from the capital of Ontario to the capital of North Carolina.
In Raleigh, they'll join fellow ex-Leafs Jay Harrison, John-Michael Liles and Jiri Tlusty, the last of whom signed an extension with Carolina on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, depth forward Brad Malone comes to the now-Ron Francis-led 'Canes from Colorado.
How will each of the team's five free-agent signings so far improve the franchise? How worthy is each of the contract he signed? An evaluation of every move falls on the coming slides.
C/W Brad Malone
Contract: Two years, $650,000 cap hit
Size: 6'2", 207 lbs
2013-14 Team: Colorado Avalanche
2013-14 Stat Line: 32 GP, 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points
The only NHL signing for the 'Canes on July 1, Brad Malone brings decent size, a lot of checking and little scoring from the Avalanche.
In his 54-game NHL career—stretched over the course of three different seasons—he has recorded nine points and a whopping 131 hits.
He's an extremely bruising player and, given the amount of ice time he was given in Colorado, very efficient at taking advantage of hitting opportunities. Advanced stats, however, emphasize just how weak his offensive game is.
Although I initially criticized Malone as an inexperienced, insufficient player for the fourth-line center role, the Hurricanes' signing of Jay McClement a day later—which makes Malone a depth winger instead—eases those concerns.
G Drew MacIntyre
Contract: One year, $600,000 cap hit
Size: 6'1", 184 lbs
2013-14 Team: Toronto Marlies (AHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 29-15-3 record, .917 save percentage, 2.53 GAA
Under former general manger Jim Rutherford, Carolina rarely signed "career AHL-ers" to add leadership to its primarily prospect-filled Charlotte Checkers affiliate. Ron Francis may intend to change that, as 31-year-old MacIntyre will lend experience to A-grade youngster Daniel Altshuller as the latter enters his first professional season.
MacIntyre was quite successful on his own in 2013-14, posting sparkling numbers in the AHL as well as a .922 save percentage in two appearances for Toronto's NHL team. A stunning .941 save percentage in the postseason helped push the Marlies to the AHL's Eastern Conference Final.
Although NHL upside simply doesn't exist at MacIntyre's age, it's likely that his presence will be much appreciated with the Checkers.
C Jay McClement
Contract: One year, $1.0 million cap hit
Size: 6'1", 205 lbs
2013-14 Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
2013-14 Stat Line: 81 GP, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points
Like the aforementioned Malone, McClement makes his biggest impact in ways not registered on the box score.
Primarily a penalty-killing and defensive forward, he suffered through a disappointing 2013-14 campaign. His 10 points were a career low—he had tallied 17 in each of the previous two seasons, playing 48 games in 2012-13 and 80 in 2011-12—and the Maple Leafs' penalty-killing unit dropped from second (in 2012-13) to 28th this past year.
But the former second-round pick remains a very adept two-way center. He led the Leafs in short-handed ice time by a wide margin both years in Toronto (averaging 3:39 and 3:25 per game, respectively) and ranked 22nd in the league with a 53.6 faceoff winning percentage in 2013-14. He ranked second among Leafs forwards with 57 blocked shots and fourth with an impressive 141 hits.
McClement has also missed just seven total games over the past eight seasons and no more than two in any one season.
He's a considerable improvement over one-dimensional Manny Malhotra at a cheaper price and younger age.
D Tim Gleason
Contract: One year, $1.2 million cap hit
Size: 6'0", 217 lbs
2013-14 Team: Toronto Maple Leafs/Carolina Hurricanes
2013-14 Stat Line: 56 GP, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points
In one of the more unexpected signings of the NHL offseason to date, the once-exiled Tim Gleason will be returning to the 'Canes next season.
They traded Gleason, who then had 2.5 years remaining on a contract with an excessive $4.0 million cap hit, to the Leafs on New Year's Day for John-Michael Liles. The Leafs bought out Gleason at season's end; the 'Canes, despite buyout speculation, kept Liles. Now, they have both.
Gleason improved marginally in Toronto, although that was almost inevitable considering how awful he was in Raleigh. After playing well in a shutdown role for most of January and February, his performance declined, and ice time fell as the Leafs choked in the spring. He finished the year fourth on the team in both hits and blocked shots: 2.77 and 1.77 per game, respectively.
Under the fresh coaching style of Bill Peters and perhaps freed from the weight of his old cap hit, Gleason could possibly regain the former toughness that made him once such a fan favorite in Carolina. Nonetheless, with plenty of other options still available, including more recent fan favorite Brett Bellemore, one must wonder if this retread is truly necessary.
C Ben Holmstrom
Contract: One year, $600,000 cap hit
Size: 6'1", 180 lbs
2013-14 Team: Adirondack Phantoms (AHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 75 GP, 13 goals, 19 assists, 32 points
Holmstrom replaces the departed Brett Sutter as a proven leader and reliable contributor at the AHL level.
As evidenced by his 146 penalty minutes in 2013-14 and 400 over his professional career to date, he's an eager fighter and thus could potentially see some NHL ice time for a 'Canes team with no designated enforcer.
The 'Canes signed Tlusty to a one-year, $2.95 million "bridge" contract that will leave him eligible, for the first time, for unrestricted free agency next summer.
At age 26, he has been in the NHL for a while and has had some success, but his long-term role has never been carved out. With plenty of top-six playing time on the horizon, his performance in 2014-15 will affect his future tremendously.
Carolina's most aggravating, polarizing and longest-tenured prospect has been given one final opportunity to prove himself worthy of the NHL. Supposedly.
Boychuk, 24, captured the AHL's scoring title with 36 goals in 69 games for Charlotte in 2013-14 and even managed four points in 11 NHL games (his highest total since 2010-11), as well. He's expected to be a top challenger for Carolina's vacant third-line wing hole in training camp...but we've all heard this story before.
Injuries hampered 24-year-old Nemisz's AHL campaign, but the return player in the Kevin Westgarth trade was stellar in limited action for Charlotte. At 6'3", Nemisz could be a long-shot dark horse for a checking-line NHL job.
The Hurricanes' best remaining AHL blueliner was inked to a one-year extension on Thursday after a strong 2013-14 campaign, per the team's official website. The 23-year-old former fourth-round draft selection should receive a number of NHL call-ups this coming year.
Brotherly love must be the only thing keeping Jared Staal in professional hockey, as he has scored a miserable 10 goals and 25 points in 169 AHL games since 2007. Regardless, he was also re-signed for one more season on Thursday, per the team's website.
Note: Contract information courtesy of Capgeek.com.