In his column today, Luke DeCock makes it clear that Jeff O'Neill's chances of sticking with the Canes are pretty slim. Not only will O'Neill need to get his legs back under him after taking off a season, but he's going to a camp loaded with forwards. DeCock speculates that there's no place on the fourth-line for someone who made his name as a goal scorer, so No. 92 will have to shock the world and beat out an established group — or benefit from an injury to someone in the top nine — to earn a one-way contract in Carolina.
All this equals out to one thing: O'Neill is a long shot.
So if he doesn't land in Carolina, but does enough to spark interest elsewhere, what city is a good fit for the one-time sniper? Here are some possibilities:
• ANAHEIM: With Teemu Selanne's return up in the air (at least he knows if he's coming back), the Ducks might need help at right wing. But the cap is a problem. O'Neill would probably come cheap, but can Brian Burke really afford to add anyone given the salary crunch?
• ATLANTA: This is a long shot, but the Thrashers could you use help at center, and O'Neill is a capable pivot. But I don't see him thanking the Canes for the chance and then signing in the Southeast. But never say never.
• FLORIDA: Same thing: help needed at center, but the divisional ties make it unlikely.
• LOS ANGELES: Dean Lombardi and the Kings are in a youth movement, and the cap floor isn't far away with Jarett Stoll signed and Patrick O'Sullivan owed a raise. But if one of the young players can't stick in L.A. (say, RW Ted Purcell), there might be a spot on the right side for O on the third line behind Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown.
• MINNESOTA: Pierre-Marc Bouchard is an assist machine, so he'll be in one of the top two right wings jobs. But with Marian Gaborik's future up in the air and scoring pretty thin elsewhere, O'Neill could fit in Minnesota. The question is: Can O'Neill play in coach Jacques Lemaire's demanding defensive style?
• NASHVILLE: GM David Poile has said he won't go out of his system to fill the spot left by the departure of Alexander Radulov. But if Patrick Hornqvist, Ryan Jones, Antii Pihlstrom or someone else can't fill the void, O'Neill might be a serviceable replacement.
• OTTAWA: I don't know that a high-pressure Canadian market is the best place for O'Neill, but there is a hole on the Sens right wing that will need to be filled by a young player. If none of them steps up, O'Neill could wind up back in the Great White North.
• PITTSBURGH: No one seems to be questioning the choice of Miroslav Satan as Sidney Crosby's right winger. If O'Neill has a good camp and preseason, it's not inconceivable to see him having success playing alongside a dominant, puck-distributing center (sound familiar?). Even if he couldn't crack the top line, he could maybe be an upgrade over Tyler Kennedy on the third line and contribute on the power play.
• TAMPA: Why not?
In conclusion, there are other places that make some sense, but likely won't happen. Columbus and Phoenix could use some help, but are committed to their youth, and Toronto would benefit from a rejuventated O'Neill, but that might be the least-likely destination for No. 92. Of course, any injuries around the league could impact his future in the NHL.
In the end, all we can hope if Jeff plays well and gets his chance — be it with Carolina, another NHL team or even on a two-way deal.
Undrafted netminder David Leggio is probably the most unfamiliar name to Canes fans among the goalies listed on the training camp roster. Leggio starts his first full pro season after finishing four years at Clarkson University — the last two very successful. Leggio — a teammate of fellow Canes prospect Nick Dodge at Clarkson — is unlikely to land a contract with Carolina, but this article gives some background on him and speculates he will sign with the Florida Everblades, the Canes' affiliate in the ECHL.