Hurricanes News & Rumors : LaFontaine & Cancellations & Brind’Amour

A week into 2022, the Carolina Hurricanes are in an unusual position after a difficult back-to-back. The goalie position is also ravaged by injuries. The team is finally getting some semblance of “health” back in their lineup, but the goalie position is down to two players between the NHL and AHL. Luckily the team’s play on the ice continues to be top-notch, with their hard-fought, 4-3 overtime loss to Florida (with their third-string goalie in net, too) snapping a five-game winning streak. The team still has nine wins from their 11 previous games.

The team was able to take advantage of the unexpected time they had after the coronavirus hit again and make a move to strengthen their goalie position. We’ll talk about that in this week’s News & Rumors, as well as the schedule down the stretch, and the head coach getting the chance to head to Las Vegas in February for a weekend full of excitement. Since that sounds like something that is right up Rod Brind’Amour’s alley.

LaFontaine Posted for NHL Duty

With three of their five goaltenders at the professional level hurt, and no current timetable on Antti Raanta outside of, “more than a few days,” it was announced on Monday afternoon that 2016 Hurricanes’ third-round draft pick Jack Lafontaine would be signing a one-year, entry-level contract (from Why Jack LaFontaine is leaving NCAA Minnesota midseason, and why the Hurricanes need him right now”, [Update News](January 10, 2022).

LaFontaine was then added to the taxi squad by the team on Monday. The 6-foot-3 goaltender could be in line for the NHL crease very soon. Brind’Amour noted that the team wants to see what they have in the 24-year-old, who won the Mike Richter Award winner as the NCAA’s top goaltender in 2021. It could be that his NHL debut is closer than expected, especially since Raanta will miss a significant amount of time. This gives the team some flexibility at the backup spot, which is between Alex Lyon (who performed admirably), and LaFontaine. Loss to the Florida PanthersSaturday

Jack LaFontaine is Hurricanes goalie, and he’s pictured with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. (Jim Rosvold -Minnesota Athletics).

LaFontaine has struggled this year. His save percentage (SV%) dropped to.900 from the.934- and.919 marks his first two seasons at University of Minnesota. His size and sound positional style still make him a potential NHL player. Along with the fact that he has already graduated, the move makes some sense from both parties’ perspectives. He’s guaranteed professional playing time – whether that be at the NHL or AHL level – and gives him a chance to earn himself some minutes next year. A $88K signing bonus is also appealing.

The Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, have signed four goalies to PTOs over the last few weeks, doing whatever they could to bide time while Eetu Makiniemi and Beck Warm are both on the shelf. And, as previously mentioned, Lyon has been in Carolina since Raanta’s injury, making the team suddenly extremely thin at the position. They decided to sign LaFontaine earlier than planned, rather than bringing in another player from the outside.

It’ll be interesting to follow LaFontaine over the next few weeks, but there are also questions about how the goalie room looks moving forward. He could certainly push his way into the Hurricanes’ plans, but with Makiniemi already showing very well and top goalie prospect Pyotr Kochetkov eligible to sign in May from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the Chicago goalie room could get quite crowded next season. That’s a good problem to have, though.

Another Cancellation, Future Issues

Tuesday night’s tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers was yet another casualty of COVID-19, and there have been plenty of interesting angles to look at the matter. The Flyers have just three players in COVID protocol currently, since their captain, Claude Giroux, exited yesterday – and before the game was canceled from what I’ve gathered. Remember that there is now a taxi squad, where a team can transport six more players. So… what are we doing here? I seem to recall the Hurricanes playing two different games, while I was missing Seven Players quite recently

I’m going to need answers on why the Flyers and the league could cancel a game with three protocol-bound guys in a world that has a taxi squad. Canes were also unable to practice today because the ice was not covered.

Plenty has already been said about that, and what’s done is done, so there’s no reason to dwell on it. However, we can look ahead and see that the back half, already very busy for Hurricanes, will get even more hectic.

Related: Hurricanes’ Top 10 Prospects: January 2022 Update

Seven games have already been rescheduled for the team, but none of them are yet.There are no makeup dates yet. The easy target the NHL office has already referenced as a solution would be to fill in these games over the NHL’s now-pointless Olympic break, but the likelihood of arena availability fitting all those in that two-week period seems like a pipe dream. Is the regular season going to be extended? What happens if teams travel long distances and have to play a shortened schedule? There are a lot of questions up in the air right now, so it’ll be interesting to see what direction the league goes.

Now, the Hurricanes are far from the only team that’s dealing with this issue, so there will be no reason to make excuses. The team seems to do a heck of a lot better when they play a lot anyway, definitely better than they tend to, coming off long breaks (granted, against Calgary last week after a five-day break, that only lasted about a period, and suddenly they looked like the ‘Canes again). Instead of getting into a slump with the lack of time off, they might be able to find a rhythm in the back half.

Brind’Amour to Coach Metro Division All-Stars

It’s not like it was voted on or decided in some other interesting manner – simply, the coach from each division’s best team by points percentage on Jan. 10 was going to earn the nod – but nonetheless, another accolade is headed to Brind’Amour’s jacket. The fourth-year head coaching position will allow the coach to take the lead of names such as Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin.

With a record of 144-73-22 and three straight trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs with a young, rapidly-improving team, Brind’Amour continues to solidify his place as one of the best coaches in all of hockey. And no, this doesn’t seem like the type of thing that’s going to make him jump for joy or get particularly excited about at all, as I’m sure he’d rather use his break to hang with his kids and hit the gym like any other off-days he gets (not that I actually know what he does in his free time, but that seems like a good guess, right?). It’s possible that some of the top players in the league could have the opportunity to meet the Carolina bench boss, and see why his teams are so successful.

Rod Brind'Amour Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

Now, I’m not saying that, like, Panarin, or anyone else, is going to sign with the Hurricanes simply because he said “your turn” and let them jump over the boards for a glorified game of pond hockey (although it would be downright hilarious to see the Metro team going all out and win each game by a score of like 10-0 because they’re so pumped up by his intensity and leadership). Nevertheless, it’s really cool to see some notoriety earned by the Hurricanes organization after the incredible turnaround the team has seen under the leadership of Brind’Amour, as well as general manager Don Waddell and owner Tom Dundon. They are deserving of all the praise they get these days and possibly even more.

Hurricanes Still Searching For Rhythm

The Hurricanes will be playing the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Carolina has already beaten them twice this year – scoring 12 goals in the process – so this will be a good game to potentially quickly get back into the swing of things. The Canucks will be their next opponent, and both games will be played at PNC Arena. Then the Boston Bruins await next week, a game most Hurricanes fans will have circled and surely won’t put too much stock into as a barometer for the team’s playoff hopes.

With a challenging, but highly interesting stretch of schedule upcoming, our fingers remain crossed that we won’t have to deal with any more schedule disruptions for a while. This is the world we live in, as COVID continues to cloud the league. With all this going on, it doesn’t really feel like we’re soon to be entering the home stretch of the season, but usually, come January, coaches and general managers are thinking that way. Days and games are rapidly getting crossed off the schedule, playoff races are heating up, and teams are starting to realize what they have, what they don’t, and how they can either improve or set themselves up for the future as the trade deadline rapidly approaches.

With so many games having to be re-scheduled, it doesn’t quite feel that way just yet this year. But, for the Hurricanes, finally almost healthy and basically icing the team they had on paper when the season began, it’ll be fascinating to watch the team – and the front office – work over the next few months. Can Brind’Amour find lines he likes and stick to them? Power-play units are another option. What does Raanta have to offer the Hurricanes? Or Ethan Bear. Seth Jarvis is a top-six player at the moment. Does his arrival, along with the surging Jesperi Kokotkaniemi, give Hurricanes enough firepower for the next level? Many questions still don’t have answers. If Carolina can find their groove and build on their 33-game winning streak, then hopefully virus protocol and the NHL schedule allow them to be here by April.