With the roster needing to be trimmed down to 23 players by 5 p.m. today, many fans were hoping that the Hurricanes roster situation would be cleared up by now. Unfortunately, the roster the Hurricanes submitted left everyone with more unanswered questions. According to the statement released by the Canes today, the Hurricanes "opening night" roster will feature 12 forwards, 8 defensemen and two goaltenders. Seeing how two players on the roster are injured (Tim Gleason & Elias Lindholm), it's very likely that the lineup the Hurricanes send out on Friday night will be completely different from what we're seeing here.
This became evident when the team announced that they were sending defenseman Ryan Murphy to the AHL even though he has been very impressive in training camp and is needed on the power play. They also did not sign right winger Radek Dvorak, despite him also having a good camp and filling a need in the bottom-six. The Hurricanes can still make changes to their roster between now and Friday but had until today to trim their roster down to 23 players. What might sound odd to fans is that they were already at 23 players before they sent Murphy to Charlotte. One would think that this means the coaching staff wants him to play a few games there before breaking into the NHL, but then TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted that Murphy will likely be on the opening night roster despite being sent down today.
So what the hell is going on here?
This really comes down to cap space and the Hurricanes needing to wait until the season to place injured defenseman Joni Pitkanen on Long-Term Injured Reserve. As everyone knows by now, Pitkanen is not going to play this season and the Hurricanes were eventually going to place him on LTIR, which would take his cap hit off the books until he is healthy and able to play. However, they can't place Pitkanen on LTIR until tomorrow at the earliest because that's when the salary cap begins to take into effect. Capgeek explains everything well in this article here, but the gist of it is that LTIR can not be used unless a team absolutely needs cap relief, so the Hurricanes have to wait until tomorrow to put Pitkanen on LTIR and get his $4.5 mil. cap hit off the books. Right now, he is listed as an "injured non-roster player," and his $4.5 mil. puts the team right up against the cap. I suspect this to change tomorrow.
This is probably why the team elected to send Murphy & his $1,313,333 cap hit down while keeping Matt Corrente on the roster for now. It also explains why they did not put the injured Gleason on IR yet because he will likely be out for more than 10 games with a concussion. Once this happens, the Canes will likely have enough room for Murphy, Dvorak and possibly another player if they want to add more to cover up the injuries.
As for the rest of the roster, there are still a few things to iron out. Alex Semin is still questionable for opening night with a hand injury and no one knows if Elias Lindholm will be in the lineup either. It's also tough to figure out if the Canes will make another move since the team's right wing depth is still lacking and they could use a couple of improvements in other areas. With the season being just around the corner, my instincts say there won't be any major moves, but there could be a couple of surprises.