I was all set to write some silly post that has nothing to do with hockey just so I could post something here. I came home today to the news that Cory Stillman has undergone shoulder surgery and may be lost for half the season. This, obviously, is of concern.
After a sensational regular season in 2004 with the Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay lightning and another great regular season with Carolina in 2006, Stillman was widely regarded as the free agent steal of the year. He had won an arbitration hearing which would have given him $3.9M for 2004-05. Tampa Bay exercised their "walk away" option, then the lockout happened anyway. Early in the free agent market last summer, Stillman was pursued by Carolina and nobody else. He ended up signing a three year deal with Carolina worth $1.75M per season. Even then, many fans considered it to be a very savvy move. His 76 point season (21/55) and his 26 point playoffs (9/17) proved those fans to be right and Jim Rutherford to be a great GM.
Carolina has acquired some depth at forward this summer, but most of it has been at the center or right wing positions, and some of this "depth" is not quite up to NHL standards. In any case, it's not possible to "replace" a guy like Stillman. And it isn't just the points. Sure, he's our first line left winger and was second on the team in points, but he's also a leader on the ice and in the room. Aside from his HUGE blunder in game 5 of the SCF which caused the turnover which led to the game winning shorthanded goal by Edmonton, he rarely makes mistakes. He's a great passer and a brilliant playmaker, well beyond the things for which the league keeps stats.
Obviously, Andrew Ladd and Ray Whitney will see some increased playing time and bigger roles with the team. I really can't see Whitney on the first line, so I have to guess that Ladd goes to the first line, Whitney stays on the second, and perhaps we'll see some players playing out of their natural position. One thing I DO NOT want to see is Jesse Boulerice. He may be a natural left wing, but I would worry about his skill set, even if he was given limited ice time.
Although I don't like the idea of breaking up the Adams/Adams/LaRose line, I can't really see somebody new as the third line left winger. Ryan Bayda, who scored 38 points (13/25) in 59 games with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL last season, might be the answer, though. Bayda spent two partial seasons with the Canes, tallying 20 points (7/13) in 69 total games during the really lean years. He left the Canes organization and was signed as a free agent by the Moose in January. This month, the Canes brought him back to the organization, offering him a two-way one year contract.
I'm looking at the potential forward lines and having a whale of a time trying to figure things out. Here's how one scenario on opening night could pan out:
It's also possible that Keith Aucoin or Dave Gove start the season in Raleigh as a third (or fourth)line left wing. I see that as slightly less feasible. More likely than that would be Shane Willis, serving his second tour of duty with the Canes. He might fit in to the third line. Still, though, I wouldn't count on that.
Keeping in mind that Cory Stillman's salary won't be counting against the cap while he's on the IR, maybe the Canes should look on the free agent market for a quality player.
Anson Carter is still out there, and could possibly be had for right at $2M. Of course he's not a left wing, but I'm sure he would fit in nicely with a little tweaking. Erik Cole can play either wing, so if he gets moved to left wing, Viva plays right wing on the first line, Andrew Ladd gets moved down to third line left wing, there would be room for Carter to play right wing on the second line with Whitney and Brind'Amour. This might be nice:
I wouldn't count on the Canes going after someone like JP Dumont. If they go get a free agent, it would have to be somebody who comes much cheaper than that. There's a lot of Jaro Svaboda-type players out there who could be had for the league minimum, but Carolina will need to do better than that.
I might have been critical of Carter in the past, but I think it would be a very nice pick-up.
When Stillman returns... I guess we'll worry about the toll charge when we get to that gate.
4 years ago