What a week it has been for Charlotte. The results on the ice weren’t much to get excited or disappointed about, as the Checkers split with the Binghamton Devils over the weekend. But the big story is the roster turnover. The Checkers have been gutted by injuries in Raleigh and a flurry of roster movements surrounding the NHL trade deadline.
Since last week, both Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg were recalled to fill the voids left behind by James Reimer and Petr Mrazek after sustaining injuries against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Charlotte lost its top goal-scorer in Julien Gauthier in exchange for Joey Keane from the New York Rangers. Finally, in a flurry of moves on Monday, Charlotte lost Janne Kuokkanen, Eetu Luostarinen, Chase Priskie and Fredrik Claesson.
So, now what? In the short term, this could be a major blow to their playoff hopes for a team that has built momentum compared to the start they had to the season. With how it stands Tuesday morning, this is what the roster could look like for this weeks opening game against the Hershey Bears:
From an offensive standpoint, the Checkers take a major loss with the subtractions of Gauthier, Kuokkanen and Luostarinen. It’s hard to replace two members of your top-six in the short term as you head into a playoff push. Charlotte has already made one move today to address the deficit, signing ECHL forward Boston Leier to a professional tryout, and they will rely more on Morgan Geekie and Steven Lorentz down the stretch as primary point providers.
Defensively, the loss of Chase Priskie stings. The now-Florida Panther (and South Florida native) is a talented puck mover that has helped catapult the Checkers power-play into third place. Jake Bean will be asked to do even more than he’s already providing and be the primary anchor on defense.
Charlotte does, however, get an upgrade with Keane over Claesson. Keane ranks 12th among rookie skaters in points (9 goals, 23 assists) and instantly provided impact with two points in two games with the Checkers.
There’s plenty of opportunity in net for Jeremy Helvig and Callum Booth. Booth played in a few games for Charlotte last season before Dustin Tokarski was acquired. Helvig has been strong for the Swamp Rabbits in flashes, including a 52-save performance. The Checkers should be fine with the pairing in net.
More reinforcements will come next season that may put Charlotte back into a top contender. Dominik Bokk & Jack Drury will be two welcome additions for the Charlotte forward lines that should provide great rookie campaigns. However, in the meantime, Charlotte may take a hit that could see them slide out of the playoff picture.