As Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said to open a Zoom call with media Saturday afternoon, there’s been a lot going on in the hockey world in the last 24 hours.
Here are the highlights from Waddell’s comments:
Sizing up the roster, injuries
Friday, the Hurricanes unveiled their initial training camp roster:
The team can take up to 31 players on its active roster into the bubble in Toronto for Phase 4, and Waddell said the team will make 31 players available, though not all may travel into the bubble.
That means Carolina will have a decision to make on injured blueliner Brett Pesce.
After having shoulder surgery in March, Pesce was thought to be definitively done for the year. There’s recently been more optimism about a potential return, but Waddell’s comments Saturday would seem to lessen that. Pesce is slated to start skating near the end of August, with a potential return coming in late September. That means the Canes would likely have to advance to the Stanley Cup Final (slated to start Sept. 22) to get Pesce back.
However, in order to have the option of Pesce returning when healthy, the Canes would have to make the decision to have him occupy a spot on their initial Phase 4 roster.
“I’m not sure it’s going to make sense,” Waddell said. “If he’s going to be ready sometime late September and we’re talking about, as we all heard, the tentative dates right now of what the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be. … Even though we have to turn our roster in up until we go to Phase 4, we’ve been told we can make subtractions and additions before that, so we’ve probably got another three weeks before we have to make a definite call.”
One notable name on the roster is top prospect Ryan Suzuki, the Canes’ first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
“I think with Ryan’s case, anytime you can be around your coaches and your strength coach and all that, we are always teaching young guys how to be a pro,” Waddel said. “Being around the big guys for this last period of time going into Phase 3, I think it’s really good for his development to get to work with our coaches on a one-to-one basis.”
NHL players have the option to "opt out" of the return to play with no questions asked and no consequences.
NHL players have the option to “opt out” of the return to play with no questions asked and no consequences, with
Waddell said that’s a discussion the team has had internally, but currently doesn’t have concerns about any players opting out.
“The guys that have all been here in Phase 2 have all been working hard to prepare for this,” Waddell said. “So if it would happen right now, it would be unexpected. So certainly, you’re aware of it. We all know that everybody’s looking at this situation differently, our hope is that our guys all step forward, move onto the bubble and try to win a cup.”
Safety protocols, responsibilities
The Canes have had numerous safety protocols in place throughout Phase 2/voluntary workouts that will continue into training camp next week.
Currently, the team is testing the players for COVID-19 every other day, and a cleaning crew is putting in frequent work in the team’s locker and weight room. A hygienist meets every player at the door, and the players must go through a symptom checklist and temperature check before entering the locker room.
All staff who are around the players and locker room are required to wear masks. Waddell said the team will have a discussion Monday about being safe and responsible, social distancing, wearing masks and taking appropriate precautions.
He echoed Justin Williams’ earlier comments that each team is only as strong as its weakest link.
“What we tell the players is ‘Let’s be smart; we’re in this thing together,’” Waddel said. “… One guy walks in that locker room with it, and there’s a day between testing, you just don’t know how many people it can affect. So I think it’s important. I know right now I’ve talked to a lot of the players; they’ve done a good job of taking care of themselves. On Monday, we have our first meeting with them. Rod and I are going to stress the importance of just being smart. Takeout food is good, home-cooked food is good. We’ve got enough obstacles to try to win. It’s hard to win a Stanley Cup, of course. So let’s keep ourselves in the best position to be able to do that.”
The Hurricanes announced two hockey operations hires Saturday, replacing outgoing massage therapist Tristan Simmons with Mike Maresca, who previously held that role with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, and hiring former NHL defenseman Peter Harrold as a skills coach.
Waddell said Harrold lives in the area and has worked on skills with players at all levels, including the AHL. He’ll join former Hurricanes Tim Gleason and Sergei Samsonov in that role, along with helping Waddell with video scouting and other front office duties.
One facet of the new CBA is that the salary cap will remain flat at $81.5 million, likely for at least the next couple seasons, but Waddell thinks the Hurricanes will be in good shape there.
“Right now we have, I think $6 or 7 million under the cap,” Waddell said. “We have, I think, two restricted free agents in Fleury and Foegele that need to get signed and will get signed. And we’ll see what else is out there. Who knows. We feel really good about the assets we have here. As I said before, if there’s something out there that makes a lot of sense for us, we’ll pursue it.”
One other matter to be settled in the coming weeks will be the conditions on the Sami Vatanen trade. The Canes acquired the injured defenseman from the New Jersey Devils for Janne Kuokkanen, Frederik Claesson and a conditional fourth-round pick.
However, with the regular season deemed over, Vatanen did not play a regular-season game for the Hurricanes. Waddell said the team does not believe it owes the Devils a pick now, but that trade, along with several others (about 24 total), will be reviewed by the league over the next couple weeks.
There is no change to the status of current free-agent play-by-play announcer John Forslund.
Waddell said the two spoke Friday and “left the door open”. Forslund will call games for NBC during the upcoming postseason.
“Obviously, John’s one of the best [announcers] in the game,” Waddell said. “We’ve always said this isn’t about John and his work. And so we left it at that yesterday. He’s going to go do all the games for NBC. We’re not shutting the door; that’s for sure.”
It was thought that the ongoing saga of the Canes’ AHL affiliation agreement for next season, with a reportedly likely switch from the Charlotte Checkers to the Chicago Wolves would be done by now.
However, given all the events of the last few weeks, Waddell said there’s “nothing official yet.” He said he has a call about the AHL affiliation next week, and hopes to “have something in the next short period of time.”
It’s yet to be determined how the delayed start to the 2020-21 season will impact the Canes’ Stadium Series game at Carter-Finley Stadium, currently scheduled for Feb. 20. Waddell said the planning for the game is behind schedule with everything else that’s been on the front burner recently.
The hope is the game will still take place in the 2020-21 season, but perhaps at a later date.
“My hope would be that we’d keep it and push it back,” Waddel said. “We know the season’s going to start later as it is. So we’ll have more time on our side. So there’s a lot more planning and a lot of the planning that probably should be done by now hasn’t been able to happen due to the outbreak. So I still believe we’ll have it, it’s just a matter of it probably wouldn’t be that date.”