Earlier today, Elliotte Friedman posted his popular “31 Thoughts” article on twitter. In it were quite a few tidbits about the Hurricanes, but one in particular caught my eye. Friedman wrote that Elynuik may not sign with the Hurricanes, and will re-enter the draft instead. While it may seem like something groundbreaking to people who only watch the Canes twice a season, let’s put it in perspective. First, here’s what Friedman wrote in his article, which you can find here.
12. Carolina drafted WHL Spokane centre Hudson Elynuik 74th in 2016. After 86 points in 71 games during the regular season, he had seven points in the playoffs before the Chiefs were eliminated by Portland in a decisive first-round Game 7. He’s a big boy, bigger than his father, Pat, who went eighth overall in 1986. (He played 506 NHL games for Winnipeg, Washington, Tampa Bay and Ottawa.) There is word he will not sign with the Hurricanes and is going back into the draft. Deadline is June 1.
This answers one of the questions that I had: why didn’t Elynuik sign right after Spokane was eliminated? As you can see, Elynuik was one of three third round picks that the Hurricanes made in 2016, and he’s the most successful one so far. He’s 6’5, and just a touch under 200 pounds. When we drafted Elynuik, he was lanky, not the best skater, and had a lot of room to grow offensively. Now, he’s a better skater, bigger, and more comfortable offensively. He followed up a 73 point season with an 86 point season, so there’s definitely a bit of growth as well. Elynuik projects as a bottom six winger that can be a mix of a power forward and a grinder. It’s definitely a useful skill set, but it’s becoming easier to find players like him. He seems like a good player, so why might he not want to sign?
The most obvious answer is the management situation right now. Elynuik might not like the fact that we don’t have a GM, and what he’s hearing from Canadian media might not be helping either. He might not want to sign with a team that doesn’t have a clear plan for the future as of right now. Sure, Dundon has stated his goals for the future, but having a GM makes a lot of those things possible. Another likely solution is that he didn’t want to start next season in the ECHL. The Canes have been using the ECHL to season some of their prospects much more often in the past few years, and Elynuik might not like that idea. The Canes still have a lot of players in the AHL right now, and their plan for Elynuik might involve him playing in the ECHL for part of a season. It could also be that we’re not offering him enough money, but I doubt that is the case.
Now would Elynuik be a good fit here? Sure. He’s got the size and speed to be a solid bottom six forward, and he’s got enough offensive skills to make him a decent prospect. The only issue is that we have better prospects than him already. Foegele’s emergence this year makes a guy like Elynuik expendable. It’s likely that he’d only be a fourth line winger for the Canes in the future, which might not be something he’s okay with. Elynuik was also a 20 year old playing in the WHL this year, and he just towered over everyone. While his numbers were respectable, you have to look at how long he’s been in the league. He’s played against WHL players since 2013. He’s adjusted to the league, and clearly outgrown it. While he may be a decent prospect, the Canes need that extra contract for trades, free agents, or even other prospects. You can draft an equally talented player in this draft, so it’s not going to hurt if Elynuik leaves.
So what do we do with him? If he makes it clear that he’s not going to sign with the team, we can try to trade his rights to another team for a conditional pick. Tampa did it last season with Imama, but they only got a seventh round pick for him. Elynuik would likely only fetch a fifth round pick, which is still better than letting him go for free. If he signs with that team, at least you get a pick out of it. If not, then at least you tried to get something from him.
If this rumor is true, the Canes will have to make a decision. Do they keep trying to sign him, do they trade his rights, or do they just let him enter the draft again? Either way, you’re down a prospect. Elynuik would be just the second prospect from Ron Francis’ tenure to not sign a contract thus far. Kyle Jenkins, our seventh round pick in 2014, was not offered a contract in 2016. While it may look bad for the organization, Elynuik’s decision to not sign with the Canes will not hurt them.
EDIT: There’s one thing that I forgot to add. If Elynuik simply doesn’t want to be here, then don’t force him to be here. We’re trying to build a winning culture with players that enjoy it here. Don’t try to sign someone that doesn’t fit what you’re trying to build.