Carolina's training camp begins today and while they have only one player there on a professional tryout deal (Radek Dvorak), the door could still be open for them to add a few more bodies to camp. If the entering roster is any indication, Kirk Muller and his staff are aiming to have a young team this year and most of the club's prospects will compete for the few remaining roster spots. This could easily change within the next few weeks, though. There is alwaya chance that the younger players struggle in camp or look shaky during the pre-season and if that happens, the Canes may look to bring another player or two before the season starts.
Despite it being September, there are still some solid free agents remaining and can be brought in at a low cost. There isn't going to be much expected out of someone who is brought in on a Professional Tryout contract, but sometimes players like this can prove to be decent value. The Charlotte Checkers signed Dan Ellis to a tryout contract last year and he ended up being the Hurricanes back-up goalie after playing well during the lockout. With there being so many decent players left in the free agent pool, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them add a couple more guys to camp, especially after Joni Pitkanen's injury status is announced.
Tom Gilbert and Ron Hainsey are two players who I've already talked about being on the Hurricanes radar, but who else is out there?
1. Damien Brunner
The Swiss import had a solid rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings, scoring 12 goals and 26 points in 44 games, yet he remains unsigned. The word earlier in the off-season was that he was looking for a long-term deal after rejecting the initial extension offered to him by the Red Wings. Since it's now September, Burnner may have to lower his demands if he wants to stya in the NHL and the Hurricanes would be smart to take a gamble on him. Yes, six of his eight 5v5 goals last season came with Zetterberg centering him, but the Canes aren't exactly starved at the center position right now and Brunner could work well with Jordan Staal or Elias Lindholm. Brunner also seemed to mesh well with Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist during the playoffs, so it's not like Zetterberg carried him throughout the year.
If there is any reason to be weary of him, it's that the Wings used him in sheltered situations at even strength (59.3 offensive zone start percentage) but the Hurricanes might be able to use him that way if he plays on the third line. Either way, Carolina needs depth scoring and Lindholm is a guy who can give it to them. He is also a right wing, so he should be able to take over Chad LaRose's spot on that line and slide into the top-six if needed.
2. Jeff Halpern
Halpern is only just a fourth line center now, but he is still very useful and extremely underrated. He is getting old and last year was probably his worst NHL season (3 points in 46 games), but he does almost everything you could want out of a fourth line center. Halpern can win faceoffs, kill penalties and most importantly, he can prevent his line from getting hemmed into their own zone. Despite the low point total, Halpern was able to get the play moving in the right direction last season while taking over 70% of his 5v5 shifts in the defensive zone. The Hurricanes could really use a guy like him on their fourth line and he should be available for the league minimum.
3. Carlo Colaiacovo
In addition to Hansey & Gilbert, Carlo Colaiacovo could provide some nice depth for the Canes blue-line. When healthy, Colaiacovo is a solid mobile defenseman who can contribute on both special teams units. He was around a .5 point-per-game player during his time with the Blues and someone who could play top-four minutes at even strength. Colaiacovo was also very good at keeping the play in front of him and help his team win the territorial battle at even strength, so he could actually be a decent replacement for Pitkanen, and a cheap one on top of that.
The only problem is that Colaiacovo is never healthy. A concussion limited him to only six games with the Detroit Red Wings last season and they actually bought out the final year of his contract because of his injury problems. He was decent in the playoffs, but the Wings have a lot of young defensemen who can play the same role as Colaiacovo so they bought him out to clear a roster space. If Colaiacovo can stay healthy, the Hurricanes should get great value out of him but replacing one injury prone player with another is a recipe for trouble.
4. Kyle Wellwood
Wellwood is another guy who has given teams a decent bang for their buck in decent years and could help the Canes scoring depth woes. His 47-point campaign with the Jets a couple years ago was probably an aberration, but Wellwood has still scored at a decent rate at even strength in the last three seasons. He was able to give the Jets top-six level production while playing third line minutes and lord knows the Hurricanes can use that in their bottom-six. He also gives the Canes someone they can use on the power play if needed and is capable of being someone who can tilt the ice in his team's favor during five-on-five play.
There really isn't any drawback to kicking the tires on Wellwood, but the Hurricanes have a lot of players similar to him already in camp, so adding him seems a bit redundant. That being said, he is a more proven option that someone like Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe, Aaron Palushaj or Nathan Gerbe, so I still think the Hurricanes should look his way if they can't find anyone to fill the holes on the third line.
5. David Steckel
Like Halpern, Steckel is a fine defensive center who can win faceoffs and he is generally considered one of the best in the league in this regard. Steckel would also give the Canes a player who can anchor their second penalty kill unit and take some pressure of their top players so they can focus on offense instead. The one drawback to adding Steckel is that he is not a good skater and might have trouble adjusting to Muller's up-tempo system. He is also not someone who can push the play forward at even strength and isn't fast enough to match against other team's top lines, despite his solid defensive game. Still, he isn't bad if you're looking for someone to center your fourth line and he could allow Muller to take some pressure off Jordan Staal's line when it comes to getting the tough assignments.