If you were following any of the Hurricanes development camp, then chances are you've heard a lot about Sergey Tolchinsky. He was invited to camp as an undrafted player and has really caught the attention of a lot of people. He was easily the best skater during the morning practices, showed a very creative skillset in shootout drills and was the best player on the ice during the mini-scirmmage yesterday. He is a small player at only 5'8", but his size becomes an after-thought when you watch him play because his talent is hard to argue with. Most Hurricanes fans have only known about him for a few days, but he has already won over a lot of them and has also caught the eye of the coaching staff & the front office.
As an undrafted player from the OHL, he is eligible to play in the NHL next season and the Hurricanes can offer him a contract if they want to. With the team in need of prospect depth, signing him seems like a no-brainer because of how much he stood out in camp. Adding him to their system almost makes too much sense when you think about it. The Canes had only four draft picks this year, need prospect depth and currently have first priority to sign a talented young player. It's tough to see the downside in that even if Tolchinsky never plays in the NHL because the Hurricanes wouldn't be risking that much. The only thing standing in the Hurricanes way is deciding whether or not they want to give a contract to a player who they haven't seen much of.
It's understandable that they might be reluctant to do this because while Tolchinsky has been impressive this past week, gaining his rights would mean signing him to a three-year entry level deal. This also means paying him a signing bonus up front and adding another contract to the team's reserve. It could also lead to the Canes having to move a player for next to nothing somewhere down the line if they get near the 50-man contract limit which, of course, is a bad thing. I'm sure the Hurricanes management would love to add him, but a week of drills & one mini-scrimmage might not be enough for the team to committ years & money to a player who they've known for a brief period of time.
The New York Rangers went through a similar process when Tolchinsky was in their development camp a few weeks ago. They chose not to sign him, but invited him to play for them in the Traverse City tournament in a couple weeks. This will give the coaches & management an extended look on Tolchinsky before they lock themselves into anything. That is, unless the Hurricanes choose to sign him between now and Traverse. Because he was most recently in Carolina's camp, the Canes currently have first priority to sign him and that would make his agreement with the Rangers null & void.
The Canes do have a little more flexibility than the Rangers when it comes to adding contract, though. As of right now, Carolina currently has 43 contracts on the books with only one RFA left to sign in Zach Boychuk. So unless Jim Rutherford has plans to sign a few more players, adding Tolchinsky wouldn't put them in that much of a bind. At least not compared to the Rangers, who currently have 45 players under contract and three RFAs to re-sign, two of them being important players in Derek Stepan & Mats Zuccarello. Given that, it's easy to see why the Rangers would want to get a longer look at Tolchinsky before offering him a contract. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, have a little more breathing room.
Still, Carolina will need to act quickly here since Tolchinksy has already agreed to join the Rangers in Traverse City and could sign with another team by this time next year. He is also eligible to re-enter the draft and from the sound of things, he will be a lot higher on team's draft boards this time around. Adding him now would give the Hurricanes a chance to bolster their farm system without even using a draft pick.
Basing your decisions off a small sample size is generally a bad idea, but Tolchinsky does have a lot of potential. His talent is undeniable and he scored at a high rate for the minutes he played according to those who watched him in the OHL. Giving a contract to an unproven player is risky, but a player with Tolchinsky's talent & upside is hard to pass on.
I absolutely love this blog! Keep up the good work. I know we are trying to build a bigger team, but I hope that doesn't mean we fail to recognize talent in whatever size it exists. Tolchinsky really turned some heads this week. I don't think its a fluke nor do I think it would be costly to make him an offer.