RALEIGH — What better way to start the 2019-20 NHL season than a quick Category 5 after the Hurricanes hit the ice Friday for the first time to truly start training camp. As Tone Loc would say:
Category 1: The biggest story to start camp is the future of Justin Faulk. The Ducks and Hurricanes have had a trade in place since last week, but Anaheim was among the teams on Faulk’s no-trade list and the 27-year-old defensemen had not cleared the way for the deal. That’s probably because Faulk, an unrestricted free agent after this coming season, would like a contract extension in place in order to waive his NTC. That hasn’t happened, and it’s sounding less and less likely Faulk will be joining Charlie Conway, Fulton Reed, Adam Banks and Gordon Bombay in Orange County.
“I’m still here and ready to work, show up and do my thing,” Faulk said Friday following session two of practice (Team Pride, not to be confused with session one’s Team Passion).
Faulk declined to talk about any potential Anaheim trade, but he did answer whether or not he wanted to stay in Raleigh.
“Yeah, I like it here. I’ve been here a long time,” Faulk said. “Obviously, we know about the dog days there for a little bit, but last year was fun.
“We had a good run and the team’s getting better. (I’m) more than happy to stay here — haven’t asked for a trade or anything like that. I’m happy to stay here, and I have no objections staying here after this year either.”
For now, Faulk is part of the Hurricanes, and coach Rod Brind’Amour is preparing as if the Minnesota native will be in the lineup on opening night.
“I understand the buzz around him and all of that, but (it’s) business as usual for us,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s here, and I’m looking for a big year out of him.”
Category 2: It’s been reported that free agent college defenseman Chase Priskie chose to sign with Carolina this summer in part because he was told, despite the team’s glut of D-men, there would be room for him in the near future — another reason a Faulk trade seems more likely than not.
But Priskie — who led all NCAA blueliners with 17 goals last season and had 39 goals, 77 assists and 116 points in four years at Quinnipiac — left Friday’s practice with an undisclosed injury, and Brind’Amour didn’t sound particularly optimistic.
“Priskie went off, and we’re sending him to the doctor right now,” the coach said. “So that’s not a good sign.” Brind’Amour added there was no update on his condition.
The Hurricanes’ blue line depth is well-documented, but you can never be too deep — especially with Trevor van Riemsdyk still recovering from spring shoulder surgery (he and Spencer Smallman, also working his way back from injury, worked on the ice after the two main practices with coaches).
Jake Bean, Gustav Forsling and Roland McKeown all have some NHL experience, but the team also added Frederik Claesson to its training camp roster at the last minute. Claesson did not practice Friday and will have an uphill climb to earn a contract, but the 26-year-old Swede has 150 NHL games under his belt and could add some experience, particularly if a trade is made.
Category 3: It’s been a shorter-than-usual offseason for the Hurricanes thanks to their return to the postseason and trip to the Eastern Conference Final, but Brind’Amour is making sure his team is neither looking back nor looking too far ahead.
That includes making it clear (again) that Justin Williams is not part of this year’s group while also not hinting who might succeed him wearing the C.
“We’re not even really dealing with that right now, I’ll be honest with you,” Brind’Amour said about potentially naming a new captain. “We’re going to get through training camp before we make any decisions on that kind of thing. We’ve got great leaders in there. We’re in a good spot; (Williams) left us in a real good spot in that regard.”
Brind’Amour also admitted to having a little more confidence on Day 1 of Year 2 vs. his initial time running camp last season.
“I definitely feel a little different standing here now vs. last year. … But it’s all about we’ve gotta find those eight extra wins,” Brind’Amour said, referencing how the team only got half of the 16 postseason wins required to earn the Stanley Cup last year.
But the coach did get a bit ahead of himself once Friday with the first group.
“The first drill today, I forgot to go to the board to describe it,” he said. “And I just kind of blew the whistle and went, ‘Uh oh, I forgot.’ We have a lot of guys back, and they just picked it up, and then the other guys followed through. So I was like, that was good. I messed up, but they covered for me.”
Category 4: The only thing returning from last year’s goalie mix is veteran Petr Mrazek, armed with a new two-year contract and … hats?
The Czech goalie had these custom hats — which can best be described as a paint splatter-style that you might find in a late ’80s rap video or at your favorite state fair airbrush kiosk — made in the Czech Republic for the players with their numbers and initials on them.
Behind Mrazek, James Reimer, Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg will battle for the No. 2 spot, and there’s also a new goalie coach in former NHLer Jason Muzzatti.
Muzzatti played professionally for 16 seasons, including two years in Calgary and Hartford, brief stints with the Rangers and Sharks, AHL, IHL and UHL time, and overseas experience in Germany, Finland and Italy. Perhaps most notably, he was a teammate of Brind’Amour’s at Michigan State for the 1988-89 season. He was goalie coach with the Spartans the past four seasons before taking the job with the Hurricanes.
Last year, Brind’Amour said then-goalie coach Mike Bales — who left for an expanded role with the Sabres where he will be both an assistant coach and work with the goalies — carried a lot of weight in deciding who would play each night, building a trust that the coach already has with his former college teammate.
“That was part of the hire,” Brind’Amour said of his familiarity with Muzzatti. “You want to make sure, No. 1, you get a good person in there, and I know what Muzz is about as far as that goes.”
Category 5: The three biggest additions to Carolina’s roster this offseason were center Erik Haula, forward Ryan Dzingel and Gardiner.
Haula, acquired in a trade with Vegas, was the only one of the three who didn’t have a choice in coming to Raleigh, but he seemed excited about the opportunity. He got into town a week early for informal skates to get to know some of his new teammates before the start of camp, and it also helps to have countrymen Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, along with former Wild teammate Nino Niederreiter on the roster.
“There’s a lot of familiar faces, so that was no problem,” Haula said. “I wasn’t concerned about it. And just the rest of the group, I want to come in and not disturb anything that they had going on. They had a good family environment, it seems, last year, so I’m just going to jump into that.”
It’s Haula’s third stop in the NHL. He started in chilly Minnesota, then went to arid Las Vegas. And Raleigh?
“It’s a little sweatier, but it’s been good — no snow, so I’m happy about that.”
Dzingel, who was drafted by Ottawa in 2011 and was with the Senators until he was dealt to Columbus at last year’s trade deadline, has been very vocal about wanting to make Raleigh his longtime home. With a two-year deal in place, the 27-year-old has made it clear he needs to produce with the Hurricanes to stay beyond the length of his contract.
As for Gardiner, his addition is perhaps a little awkward given that it makes a Faulk trade more likely, but the longtime Leafs defenseman is in no way going to be intimated by the relatively tame Triangle media after spending eight years in Toronto under the microscope.
A side note on Gardiner: After having doppelgängers Warren Foegele and Josh Wesley in camps together the past couple years, I couldn’t help but notice that the Minnesota-born defenseman has a strong resemblance to currently unsigned restricted free agent Saku Maenalanen, right down to the steely blue eyes.
Perhaps if a deal with Maenalanen gets hammered out, we could get another photo like this one of Foegele and Wesley from a couple of years ago.
There is no difference 😂 pic.twitter.com/yUZceac7OW
— Josh Wesley (@JoshyWeso) May 13, 2017