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FutureCanes MailBag: Volume 4

Answering fan questions about the current construction of the Canes’ organization heading into training camp.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the fourth installment of the FutureCanes mailbag! I figured that since we’re in the completely dead part of the offseason, it’d be a good time to answer some fan questions about where the Canes currently stand in general, and look into some issues that people may be having with the current make-up of the group. Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

I’m a bit indifferent about it right now, because I’m still not convinced he’ll be here on opening night. The team has to shed money from somewhere, and while Jake Gardiner seems like the logical choice, Bear is also an option due to the Canes being able to bring back an asset in return.

As far as the player, I saw a lot things that I liked from Bear last year. He’s very smart, he moves the puck well and he’s a decent rush defender. Where he struggles is when pressured on the forecheck, he’s prone to making mistakes. He didn’t play a single minute in 14 playoff games either, which seems like an indictment by the coaching staff. With Jalen Chatfield and Dylan Coghlan also in the mix on the right side behind Brent Burns and Brett Pesce, it’s hard seeing exactly where Bear might fit in — and fair to wonder if a fresh start is better for both sides.

There’s a few factors at play here. Within another year or two, Nikishin is likely to be ready for NHL minutes based on his heavy defensive style, his size and his skating ability. The issue is, I’m not sure a two- or three-year NHL entry-level contract is very enticing for him, considering that he can make a LOT more money in the KHL, and stay in his homeland while doing it. If the three-year extension with SKA becomes official, that would take Nikishin to age 25, and then he’d be able to sign just a one-year entry level deal with Carolina — which would allow him to cash in quickly.

All that said, there’s a lot of moving parts here and it remains to be seen if there’s an NHL out-clause in Nikishin’s contract. Regardless, at this point it’s pretty fair to assume that whenever Nikishin does decide to come over to North America, he’ll be ready to step right into the Canes’ lineup — and probably right into their top-4. My hope is that he blooms into a modern day Anton Volchenkov.

Is John Klingberg really even an upgrade on the man, the myth, the legend himself? I’m not even sure. All I know is, the 2-year deal Haydn signed in Tampa is a steal, although I regret to inform everyone that I’ll now be forced to support the Lightning from a distance.

I can probably make a case for both sides here. I’ll start with the Marchment and Niederreiter duo, which would’ve given the team a trio of nasty wingers to play against combined with Andrei Svechnikov. Three power wingers like that in the top-9 group would have given the team a much-needed physical component up front to mesh with the skill forwards like Aho, Turbo and Jarvis, while also bringing scoring touch and offensive creativity. I feel like that combination would’ve been hell for opposing teams to compete against and match up with.

On the flip side, I can see the Pacioretty and Kase duo having higher upside, albeit in a different way. While they aren’t the physical specimens that Nino and Marchment are, Pacioretty plays smart with his size and can still win battles on the wall. He’s also one of the absolute best finishers in hockey, which is obviously a very welcomed addition to a group that has run into consistent scoring issues in the past. The X-factor here is Kase, a player with a lot of speed and skill who’s had an extensive injury history. If he can stay on the ice, he’s a very dynamic and potentially explosive piece to have in the bottom-six, and will bring a creative level of offensive ability that the Canes haven’t had in the bottom half of their roster.

Overall, both duos look good on paper, and it’s kind of a “pick your poison” situation. But I’d usually lean to having the best player available, and Pacioretty is definitely the cream of the crop when weighing the available options. On the flip side, you covet players like Nino and Marchment in the playoffs, but Patches fits exactly what this team has been searching for.

I think he’ll make the opening night roster and probably start off on the fourth line. He’s proven himself more than enough at the AHL level, and plays a reliable style that can be effective even if he’s not in a top-6 scoring role. He can kill penalties, play tough matchups, and move up the lineup if you need him too. He’ll learn on the fly, and with a similar play style to the man — Rod Brind’Amour — teaching him how to survive and thrive at the top level, I think he’ll have success from day one.

It does, but I’m assuming the Canes will bring in a veteran AHL/fringe NHL goaltender sometime before training camp. Pyotr Kochetkov will undoubtedly be the starter for Chicago and the first call-up option for the Canes regardless of whom they may bring in, but having extra capable bodies in the organization never hurts. I was sad to see Eetu Mäkiniemi go, but with Kochetkov ahead of him it was difficult to see a clear path to the NHL for him in Raleigh. Beck Warm and Jack LaFontaine just weren’t NHL-level prospects, and aren’t hard guys to replace.

As always, thanks for reading, and a huge thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week. If you missed out, don’t forget to follow me @FutureCanes on Twitter to submit your question(s) for the next installment!