While the Carolina Hurricanes have been hard at work trying to improve their roster before the 2019-20 season, so have the Charlotte Checkers and Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The Checkers are coming off last season as champs and have suffered a major roster overturn including losing playoff MVP Andrew Poturalski, Tomas Jurco, Aleksi Saarela and Nicolas Roy. They have made a few additions that may help stop the bleeding.
Here’s a look at a few additions:
The 23-year-old right-handed defenseman helps fill the holes on defense that were left behind by the departures of Dennis Robertson and Josiah Didier. Lintuniemi was a 2014 second-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings and stuck with the organization ever since. He can add additional offense on the back end and has recorded 24 and 25 points, respectively, in the past two seasons for the Ontario Reign. He won’t push for a job in Raleigh but will be a reliable top-4 Checkers defender if the Hurricanes come calling for Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury.
Acquired in the Calvin de Haan trade, Forsling will also help fill the empty spaces on the Checkers blue line. The Swedish defenseman was drafted in the fifth round in 2014 by the Chicago Blackhawks and brings over 100 games of NHL experience. He played 43 games for the Blackhawks last year and accumulated nine points (three goals, six assists). He likely won’t be slotted in as a power-play quarterback as he doesn’t bring as much of an offensive edge as Lintuniemi does. He’ll take a one year gamble with his contract expiring at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Gibbons was a smart addition by the Hurricanes front office and brings a wealth of experience with him. The 31 year old forward has spent stints with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators. With the addition of Ryan Dzingel and the forward logjam in Raleigh, Gibbons will likely be the odd man out. Gibbons will fit well in Charlotte’s middle-six and add a veteran presence to what looks to be a relatively young Charlotte team. Gibbons is just two seasons removed from a career high 26-point season with the Devils.
Added today on a one-year, two-way deal, McCormick will be added to the forward ranks in Charlotte and will likely miss on an NHL opportunity. The 27-year old forward has split time between the AHL and the Ottawa Senators over the past few seasons.
Like Gibbons, McCormick is two years removed from a career season in which he had 36 points for the Binghamton Senators in 2016-17. McCormick is a former teammate, both with the Senators and at Ohio State, of newly-added Hurricanes forward Ryan Dzingel.
In addition, the Checkers have agreed to AHL contracts with defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald, forwards Hunter Shinkaruk and Colin Markison, and re-signed defenseman Derek Sheppard to a new deal.
Greenville Swamp Rabbits
The Swamp Rabbits have also made strides to improve their roster but currently have just eight players under contract for the 2019-20 season. That’s not as alarming as it may sound, though, with many of the additional spots eventually being filled by players that won’t make the Checkers. The most recent addition for the Swamp Rabbits is Mason Baptista, who has split his career between the ECHL and the German second division. The playmaking center has 143 points in 231 games at the ECHL level and should be a strong addition to the team’s middle-six.
The Swamp Rabbits also re-signed defenseman Adam Larkin to a new one-year contract. Larkin, the cousin of Detroit Red Wings star Dylan Larkin, joined Greenville in a trade last season and immediately became a key contributor. Players under ECHL contracts are not automatically eligible for a callup to the AHL, but can sign an AHL deal that preempts their ECHL contract and makes them eligible for a callup, as Sheppard did with the Checkers last season.