Patrick O’Sullivan’s brief tenure with the Hurricanes could be coming to an end, as the team placed the left wing on waivers Monday afternoon.
The NHL’s other 29 teams will now have an opportunity to claim O’Sullivan, who was signed as a free agent on the eve of training camp, by noon on Tuesday. If he is not claimed, the Hurricanes could keep him on the NHL roster or send him to Charlotte of the American Hockey League – a choice that General Manager Jim Rutherford said he has not made as of yet.
“We’ll deal with it at noon tomorrow,” said Rutherford. “We’ll take it one day at a time.”
O’Sullivan, who has played sparingly on the fourth line during the regular season after a productive offensive showing in the exhibition slate, has not been able to hold down a scoring role on the Hurricanes that he needs to be effective. He’s been a healthy scratch 10 times this season, having only returned to the lineup for each of the team’s last three games. Over that span, he was scoreless while playing around five to seven minutes per game.
“Right now what we’re trying to do is get the forwards cleaned up, get down to 20 men and not have guys sitting out,” said Rutherford. “He’s handled the situation very well, but in order for him to do what he does best he needs to play in the top nine, and that opportunity hasn’t opened up with Samsonov, Jokinen and Skinner playing in that position.”
Even if O’Sullivan were to clear waivers, there would still be the possibility of him leaving via trade. Even if a team is unable to claim a player on waivers due to financial and cap considerations, waiver placements often serve as an announcement regarding a player’s availability.
“Sometimes teams may want a player but they don’t have room money-wise or contract-wise,” said Rutherford. “It leads to starting talks about what makes sense and if a team could move a contract for another contract.”
If he clears and the Hurricanes assign him to Charlotte, the team would save some money as he would begin earning the AHL portion of his two-way contract at $105,000 rather than the $500,000 he makes at the NHL level.
Rutherford added that the decision to place O’Sullivan on waivers had nothing to do with his performances since returning to the lineup, as there simply wasn’t room for him to advance higher in the lineup as Jokinen and Samsonov did in similar positions earlier in the season.
“For him to play the way he plays and to be successful, the position that he’s been in doesn’t set him up to do as well as he should,” said Rutherford. “He has to play in the top nine and play some power play time to be the player he is and help the team.”
Given his two-way contract that expires at the end of this season, O’Sullivan could provide a quick, inexpensive and low-risk fix on offense to an NHL team that needed it. If not, he’ll continue to provide forward depth for a Hurricanes team that has recently acquired Troy Bodie and Brett Sutter and has a number of skilled offensive players waiting in the wings in Charlotte.
“When we’re rebuilding like this, it’s a very good situation to be in,” said Rutherford.