The Carolina Hurricanes have said they want their forward corps to get bigger, and GM Ron Francis looked to a player his new coach knows well to start doing it.
The Hurricanes claimed forward Andrej Nestrasil off waivers from Detroit Thursday, adding a 6-3, 200-pound player that the Red Wings tried to slide back to the AHL to make room for Stephen Weiss. He will join the Hurricanes for their road trip.
Nestrasil, a native of the Czech Republic who played his junior hockey in the QMJHL, was picked 75th overall by Detroit in the 2009 draft and spent time with the team’s AHL and ECHL affiliates the past two seasons before earning a roster spot with Detroit to start 2014-15.
Mike Babcock told MLive.com’s Ansar Khan that Nestrasil needed more development time, which is why the team opted to send him through waivers instead of reassigning Tomas Jurco (could go down without waivers) or past-his-prime Daniel Cleary.
"He needs to play in the American Hockey League," Babcock told Khan. "He's not quite ready for this level. Maybe one day he'll play. His pace was good at the start but you know the league changes. ... I don't know how a kid like that grows playing no minutes and sitting in the crowd."
Nestrasil was prepared to be claimed, telling Khan, "I really don't know what the best option would be for me.This is the organization I would love to play for, but if someone else claims me then I would be happy to go somewhere else."
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, more than one team put a claim in for the 23-year-old winger. But coming to Carolina — whose low spot in the NHL standings gave them waiver priority over all but a couple teams — might be the next best thing for Nestrasil, who will see a familiar face running the show in new coach and former Babcock assistant Bill Peters.
Nestrasil may remind some of former Hurricanes center Josef Vasicek: while big, he's not overly physical, but he uses his body to shield the puck and has good enough hands to score in the NHL. He had two assists in 13 games (11:03 TOI) with Detroit this season, and had 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 70 games with the team's AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids last year. Outside of Peters, Nestrasil has few links to the Canes, but did play a season of junior hockey with Prince Edward Island alongside former Hurricanes draft picks Philippe Paradis (first round, 27th overall in 2009) and Samuel Morneau (seventh round, 195th overall in 2008).
Nestrasil, who earns $550,000 on a two-way deal this season ($82,500 in the AHL) will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Here is the release from the team:
HURRICANES CLAIM ANDREJ NESTRASIL ON WAIVERS
Czech forward made NHL debut with Detroit on Oct. 9
RALEIGH, NC – Ron Francis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has claimed forward Andrej Nestrasil (ahn-DRAY NEHS-tra-shihl) on waivers from the Detroit Red Wings. Nestrasil will join the Hurricanes on their current road swing which continues tonight at Los Angeles.
"Andrej is a young player with good size who we feel can contribute to our group of forwards," said Francis. "He has improved in each of his pro seasons and took a big step last year with Grand Rapids."
Nestrasil, 23, made his NHL debut in Detroit’s season opener on Oct. 9, and has earned two assists in 13 games with the Red Wings this season. The Prague, Czech Republic, native spent all of the 2013-14 season with Detroit’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, notching 16 goals and earning 20 assists (36 points) in 70 regular-season games. Nestrasil ranked tied for fourth in scoring among Griffins skaters in the postseason with six points (4g, 2a) in Grand Rapids’ 10 Calder Cup playoff games.
The Red Wings drafted Nestrasil (6’3", 200 lbs.) in the third round, 75th overall, in the 2009 NHL Draft. Since turning professional in 2011-12, he has scored 22 goals and earned 24 assists (46 points) in 120 AHL regular-season games, and captured the AHL’s Calder Cup championship with the Griffins in 2013. Nestrasil also has played in 91 regular-season games with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, totaling 18 goals and 52 assists in those contests. Prior to turning professional, he played three seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with Victoriaville and P.E.I. Nestrasil represented his native Czech Republic at the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship, as well as the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championship.