BUFFALO - Hello and welcome back to Tweetmail, a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let's get to it.
The hope is that Jordan Staal will return to the Hurricanes' roster this season.
The reality is that his current injury situation is a bit more unpredictable than being able to offer a simple yes or no answer.
Staal missed five games in December with a concussion and returned to play five periods. Since being sidelined again in the Dec. 22 game against Pittsburgh, Staal has yet to return to the ice with the team, whether in a game or practice.
Staal has been spotted around PNC Arena and Raleigh Center Ice going through some off-ice workouts, but that's been about the recent extent of his workload as he deals with lingering issues from his concussion.
Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour was asked recently about Staal.
"I have no update on that. He's not skating yet. Saw him in here trying to get a little workout in. I've got nothing, unfortunately," Brind'Amour said. "We miss what he brings every night. Thankfully we've had other guys step up here in the timeframe he's been out, but when a player like that is out for a long time, it hurts your club."
One of the most noticeable gaps in Staal's absence has been the Hurricanes' performance in the faceoff circle. Since Christmas, the Canes rank 29th in the league in faceoff win percentage at 45 percent. Prior to that, they ranked sixth at 51.9 percent.
The Canes also miss the sheer minutes Staal logs, his dexterity on the penalty kill and his ability to possess and protect the puck. The good news is that, from a wins and losses perspective, the Canes have fared well even without Staal. With that said, adding him down the middle in the lineup would be a boon to this club down the stretch of the season.
That's the hope.
But the reality remains unclear.
As of publishing this on Feb. 6, the Hurricanes sit three points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They're not firmly in a position to buy, and they're not firmly in position to sell.
That is to say, any trade that is made between now and Feb. 25 won't compromise the bigger picture.
Here's what Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell said when I talked to him shortly after he traded for Nino Niederreiter, a one-for-one, hockey trade:
"We're looking. We're not going to be in the rental market business, but we would be in for hockey trades. Any move we're going to look at right now isn't only going to be for this year but for long-term," he said. "We'll continue to look at hockey trades and see what's out there."
The Hurricanes won't be buying to buy - they aren't in that position yet - and they won't be selling to sell - there are important pieces around which this club is building its future. So, neither.
Sebastian Aho figures to be in for a substantial pay day, but that was already predetermined.
In the final season of his three-year, entry-level contract, Aho has put together a career campaign, as he emerges as one of the league's young stars.
Here's a quick list of some of Aho's accomplishments from his third season in the NHL:
- Through 53 games, he's the team leader in goals (24), assists (36) and points (60)
- He hit that 60-point mark in his 52nd game, the fastest Carolina player to reach that mark since Eric Staal did so in 45 games in the 2005-06 season
- He strung together a 12-game point streak in October, a franchise record for longest point streak to begin a season
- He's on pace for 92 points, which would crush his previous career high of 65 set last season
- He was named to the Metropolitan Division All-Star team for the first time in his career, placed second in his All-Star Skills passing challenge and won the All-Star game
He's now looking at a contract with both significant term and dollar amount. It will be a long-term deal, and it will make him the Canes' highest paid player with an average annual value probably in the upper region of the $6-9 million range, if I had to guess. Nice.
Brind'Amour put it succinctly when asked about Aho last week: "I don't think he's going to have to worry about money. Ever. In his life."
In my opinion, it comes down to this: If the Storm Surge is fair - and it's totally fair, the fairest of all things fair and a great thing that should be replicated around the league - then opposing players imitating a part of said celebration is also fair.
This actually already happened once this season, way back on Oct. 28. Following the Islanders' 2-1 win over the Canes, Johnny Boychuk did the clap before embracing his goaltender.
I think Lindholm's instance has received more attention because it's a former player, who also happened to score a goal for a team full of familiar faces in what was an emotionally-charged game.
To be honest, I'm surprised this doesn't happen more, and I really don't find it to be that big of a deal. It comes with the territory.
It might not be the best look for Lindholm (and his former teammates are sure to give him grief over it), but at the end of the day, it's fair.
If you're interested, TV's Mike Maniscalco and I discuss this more on this week's CanesCast. Subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode!
At this point in the regular season, the theme night schedule is set. There's a good bit coming up, including a number of College Colors nights and Hockey is for Everyone nights, so be sure to check out our promotions schedule for all those details.
Wrestling night was one we had targeted for this season, but we couldn't get all the pieces to fall into place. I would almost certainly expect one to happen in the 2019-20 season.
Any additional theme night ideas you'd like to see? It's a discussion point for us each summer, and we've already got some wishlist themes we hope to get to as early as next season.
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you'd like answered or you have a theme night suggestion, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes, or you can drop me an email.