The Charlotte Checkers made a memorable charge into a playoff spot in the last two months of the season, and as is typically the case with minor-league clubs they will likely lose a good number of the players who took them to the Calder Cup playoffs in the offseason. There are eight Checkers regulars who are under contract to the Carolina Hurricanes and will be unrestricted free agents in the summer. Which are likely to stay and who will likely move on to greener pastures?
Likely to Return
- Andrew Miller - Miller was part of the Checkers’ most productive line of the season alongside linemates Lucas Wallmark and Valentin Zykov. Miller finished the season 3rd on the team in scoring with 41 points in 55 games. Losing him in free agency would be a big blow to an offensively starved team, and he’s insurance for the Canes who signed him to a one-year deal last July and may do so again.
- Patrick Brown - It’s a no-brainer to retain Brown. He’s the captain and leader of the team and the guy in the dressing room to turn to on a young team. He improved on last season’s performance, registering 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) compared to 25 points a year ago. Look for another two-way deal, likely with a salary guarantee similar to what Miller had last season.
- Philip Samuelsson - Samuelsson was acquired from the St. John’s IceCaps having recorded 5 points in 40 games in the 2016-17 season at the time of the trade. He saw a big change in his game, recording 14 points in 25 games with Charlotte. Sameulsson is a reliable 6’2” defenseman that provides size on the back end, and a capable fill-in if the Canes need to make a callup.
In The Middle
Connor Brickley - Brickley was great down the stretch for the Checkers, providing late game heroics when needed. Brickley was acquired in exchange for Brody Sutter on October 12 and provided solid depth in the bottom six. He adds a solid offensive punch to the bottom six and the Checkers would be thrilled to keep him.
However, he is not likely to be signed by the Hurricanes, who have too many other forwards ahead of him in the pipeline. If Brickley is willing to accept a minor-league deal, the Checkers will gladly sign him. But if another NHL team comes calling, he will likely head elsewhere.
Time to let go
- Danny Kristo - With many forwards projected to be added to the Checkers lineup next season - Warren Foegele, Janne Kuokkanen, Aleksi Saarela, et al. - the 26-year-old Kristo is likely to be the odd man out.
- Michael Leighton - Leighton got off to a hot start but fizzled out before his injury late in the season. With Tom McCollum starting, if the Calgary Flames elect to let him go back to Charlotte, and one of Daniel Altshuller, Alex Nedeljkovic or pending rookie Callum Booth able to step in as a backup, it doesn’t make sense for the Checkers to retain Leighton.
- Dennis Robertson - Robertson is a reliable stay at home defenseman. A tough decision will have to be made in letting Robertson go but he may the odd man out on the back end.
- Brendan Woods - With only six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in 24 games, Woods did not prove his worth enough throughout the season with an abundance of forwards coming in for next season. However, the #WoodsCelly will be missed. Once more, with feeling: