On Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes learned that Justin Williams tore his achilles tendon in an off-ice workout. He's expected to miss four to six months. In other words, the best case scenario has him returning to the lineup sometime in March, 2009.
This is devastating news not only to the organization, but also to the player, who missed most of the 2007-08 campaign with a serious knee injury. General manager Jim Rutherford addressed the depth of the team with Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News and Observer on Wednesday, but was quick to point out that there's no one ready to jump in and score 35 goals, which is what Williams afforded the team.
"We do have options, It's difficult to replace a player like Justin, but it's an opportunity for someone else."
Two other developments from Raleigh on Wednesday:
Rod Brind'amour underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and will miss most, if not all, of training camp. Last season, he tore the ACL in his left knee and missed the last 22 games.
The seven year contract extension for Eric Staal appears to finally be a go. Originally, the contract featured a no-trade clause that was to go into effect on July 1, 2010 which was the same date Staal was to become a free agent. The new wording specifies that the no-trade clause will kick in when he becomes and unrestricted free agent. In order for that to happen, Staal must play each of the next two seasons. The contract is worth $57.75 million over seven years.
Traverse City Update:
The Dallas Stars prospects defeated the Atlanta Thrashers prospects 8-3 to win the championship of the Traverse City tournament. From an Atlanta standpoint, general manager Don Waddell has to be very pleased with the progress of the young kids, especially Zach Bogosian, Spencer Mahacek and Angelo Esposito.
Bogosian is all but a lock to start the season in Atlanta and play on a blueline that has gone through a major overhaul in the off-season. I would be shocked if he doesn't make the team out of training camp. Assuming the team carries seven defensemen to start the season, you'd be looking at Ron Hainsey, Nick Havelid, Garnet Exelby, Ken Klee, Toby Enstrom, Boris Valabik and Bogosian. I guess I'm one of the few out there that's fairly bullish on this blueline. Part of my enthusiasm lies in the fact that Alexei Zhitnik was bought out and is long gone. I'm also counting on a bounce back season out of Exelby, who had his worst season as a pro in 2007-08. As for depth, guys like Nathan Oystrick, Grant Lewis and Arturs Kulda will be a Delta flight away in Chicago.
Esposito is all but certain to return to the QMJHL for a final season of junior. It appears that Waddell has handled this kid very well. When he arrived in Atlanta for the prospects camp in July, Waddell sat him down and told him to concentrate on hockey and not worry about the past. It was the old clean slate talk. And it seems to have worked.
As for the Dallas Stars, it was good to see the name of Ray Sawada on the score sheet from last night's championship game. Sawada had an outstanding career for the Cornell Big Red and is looking to solidfy his chances in Big D.
And while we're talking about the Stars, I need to send out a GOOD LUCK message to Stu Barnes, who retired this summer to become an assistant coach with the team. If anyone ever creates a "good guy" hall of fame, Barnes should be a charter member. I spent the better portion of two seasons with him in Pittsburgh after Pens general manager Craig Patrick acquired him from Florida. He always made himself available to the media and never took a night off on the ice. 1997-98 was his break out year offensively when he scored 30 goals. I remember talking to him one day about his hot streak in which he credited former Pens great Rick Kehoe for helping him create space in front of the net by front up defenders then spinning off of them to set up for the shot. He will be an asset to the Stars coaching staff. Don't be surprised if he ends up as a GM someday.