On Monday, I went over some of the players from within the Carolina Hurricanes organization who may receive an invite to training camp next week and there are more than a few who are worthy of an invite. As if things weren't going to be crowded enough, GM Jim Rutherford has also stated his intention to add another player to the mix as soon as possible. At this point of the off-season, the free agent pool is full of players who were passed over because they are too old, had a bad season or just don't offer much potential upside. Therefore, it's likely that Rutherford will sign one of these players to a tryout deal or trade for someone else.
There are always a lot of interesting players signed to tryout deals every year and most of them are guys who make you say, "I didn't know he was still in the league." Not much is expected out of guys who come in on tryout contracts and most of them end up being cut before the season started but there are always some who manage to stick around. Take Petr Sykora for example. He was invited to the New Jersey Devils training camp on a tryout deal, ended up making the team and had a very successful year. The odds of that happening again are slim but bringing in a veteran player on a tryout contract is a low-risk way to bolster your roster.
Is there anyone worth taking from the remaining free agent pool, though? If you remember correctly, Rutherford also said this off-season that he was looking to add "grit" to the third and fourth lines or possibly sign an enforcer to "protect" the younger players like Jeff Skinner. I have my own views on whether or not the Hurricanes "need" to add grit, but if all JR is looking for is a third or fourth liner, then he may be in luck with this free agent pool because there are more than a few out there.
After the jump, we will take a look at what options are out there and whether or not they would be a good fit for Carolina.
It's very likely that the Hurricanes will reconstruct their bottom-six with the loss of Brandon Sutter and that's probably for the best because they lost their shutdown center and their fourth line was not good at all last year. They provided a lot of secondary scoring, but their performance in terms of keeping the puck in the offensive zone was extremely poor. Having four lines who can control the territorial play would be ideal and while that's not realistic at this moment, the Canes adding a stronger player to their third or fourth line can help matters quite a bit. Adding someone who can kill penalties would also be a good move because that would relieve the Staals of some responsibility.
Basically, if it were up to me and I had to sign one of the remaining free agents, I would look for someone who could push the play forward and possibly kill penalties. Let's see if there is anyone who fits those requirements.
Available Unrestricted Free Agents
How the Canes will roll their lines is something that has yet to be determined, but if they want to continue to use the third line as a shutdown unit, Dominic Moore may fill their void at the center position. He is coming off a very bad season defensively but I think he can be a competent third-line center. Moore can win face-offs, kill penalties and doesn't need to be protected. His performance with the Lightning last season has me worried about the quality of his play now but for a tryout deal, he is worth a look. Rutherford may think differently since Moore doesn't have much to offer in terms of adding "grit," but if they want someone to compete for the third line center spot, Moore isn't a bad option.
A player who would add size and "grit" to the Hurricanes forward corps is Brad Winchester, who spent most of last year as a fourth liner with the San Jose Sharks. His numbers are pretty underwhelming because he was on a good possession team and couldn't do much with protected minutes, but other than that, he doesn't appear to be too bad of an option. If the Canes want someone for the fourth line and be somewhat of a contributing member, Winchester could be in the mold of what they are looking for. A player similar to him is Byron Bitz, who has played tougher assignments the last couple of years but hasn't done much to drive the play forward.
Eric Fehr, Trent Hunter and Jesse Winchester are a few other players who I would consider but they each have their own flaws. Fehr, while not bad for Winnipeg last year, was consistently out of the lineup due to injuries and his inability to score. That can somewhat be attributed to bad luck (and an on-ice shooting percentage of 2.74%) and he will probably rebound in a full-season, but the problem with Fehr is that he was given soft zone starts for his entire career and I'm not sure if he can succeed in a non-scoring role. Meanwhile, Hunter can probably be okay as a checking line player despite not doing much penalty killing and Winchester is a solid fourth liner with concussion issues.
Mathieu Darche would also make a good add to the bottom-two lines and he is similar to Fehr in the sense that he is more used to playing easier minutes, but Darche can also kill penalties and be able to drive the play forward as he has done so in the past. Darche weighs 215 pounds and stands at 6-1, so he isn't the biggest player out there but I think he can be a solid checking line player as he has been with the Montreal Canadiens the last three years. He isn't going to score much and no one should expect him to because that isn't part of his job description. If I had to add one player to the Hurricanes from this list, Darche would be one of my first choices.
Players I would pass over are Radek Dvorak, Mike Knuble, Matt Bradley and Rod Pelley. The Hurricanes already have a similar player to Dvorak in Patrick Dwyer, Knuble doesn't offer much as a bottom-six player and struggled to stay in Washington's lineup last season while neither Bradley nor Pelley would add much to the team. That leaves Tom Kostopoulos as the remaining player and the funny thing is that he seems to fit the description of what Rutherford is looking for. I'm not sure if he is eager to re-sign him, though.
After reviewing the list here, you can say that the remaining UFAs who would help Carolina the most are Moore, Darche, Hunter and both Winchesters. Most of these guys would provide fringe upgrades at best, though and that leads me to this question. Why do the Hurricanes need to sign anyone before camp? There is a good chance that none of the players listed above will end up performing above replacement level and the Hurricanes have plenty of guys from Charlotte who they can call-up if they want to fill roster spots. They won't add much size, grit or any other intangible qualities but players like Riley Nash, Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe and Drayson Bowman have a lot of potential and are on the cusp of being "NHL ready." I suppose the team could use some more veterans but my mindset is always that if you have a lot of young talent in your organization, it's best to get the most out of it while you can. Things might be different in this scenario since the Hurricanes are aiming to a contending team this season, it's just that I think the players in Charlotte can help the Hurricanes just as much as any of the available UFA's. I'm pretty sure that Rutherford feels differently, though and we could very well see one of the players above in camp.