The Capitals selected defenseman Chase Priskie in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. In April of 2019, he informed Washington he would not sign with the team prior to the Aug. 15 deadline and would become a free agent. Now he is with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The CBA offers college players an avenue to free agency and a player can have any number of motivations for signing with a certain team. Sara Civian of The Athletic dives into why Priskie chose Carolina in an article published Thursday.
It is very easy to jump to the conclusion that each of his reasons for joining the Hurricanes are things he was not getting or could not get from Washington. When you really dive into those reasons and analyze them, however, you see that this is not the case.
Through sources, Civian has three main takeaways on why she believes Priskie signed with Carolina.
Takeaway No. 1
“The Hurricanes have made it clear to Priskie’s camp that he will get a real shot at the NHL roster. They indicated to Priskie’s camp during the draft that at least one NHL defenseman on the roster would be gone. (Goodbye, de Haan). They’d been seriously pursuing him since.”
The biggest advantage Washington had over any other team last season was that they were the only team that could sign Priskie and potentially play right away. Except they couldn’t because the team was already at the maximum of 50 contracts when the college season ended. That is certainly a reason why Priskie would at least be open to exploring other options for the upcoming season.
But here is where things get murky.
Priskie felt he would get a shot at Carolina’s NHL roster in part because the team knew one NHL defenseman would be gone. So far, the Caps could have essentially offered him the same thing. The moment the Caps acquired Nick Jensen -- a top-four, right-shot defenseman -- it was a clear indication that Matt Niskanen could be traded. With the cap situation being what it was, Washington could not afford both Jensen and Niskanen.
So essentially, both Washington and Carolina had deep blue lines and were going to move one defenseman. The issue here is likely the makeup of the third pair.
Any team in the NHL can “offer” a player a shot at the roster. If you are good enough, you going to play. No general manager thinks during training camp, ‘gee that prospect defenseman who is cheaper than all of our veteran players is outplaying everyone and looks like one of our top guys. I hope he doesn’t play.’
Let’s assume, however, that a rookie coming out of college would probably have not earned a top-four role out of training camp so we would be looking at a possible third-pair role. If Priskie wanted to stay in Washington, maybe the team does not trade Niskanen for Radko Gudas, but look at the makeup of the third pair. We likely would have seen some sort of rotation between Jonas Siegenthaler, Christian Djoos and Priskie.
Therein lies the problem.
With Brooks Orpik gone, you do not have that steady veteran on that pair like both Siegenthaler and Djoos had. Two young players together on the third pair be something opponents would gameplan around in an attempt to exploit every single game. Todd Reirden would have to get creative with their usage and it would probably mean shuffling the pairs all game long. For a Caps team that still believes its championship window to be open, a Siegenthaler/Djoos - Priskie third pair does not seem like a viable option. If Brian MacLellan had the same conclusion then yes, Carolina offers Priskie more of a shot at the NHL this season that the Caps.
Takeaway No. 2
“‘It’s probably their combination of their ability to develop young defensemen, and more so their willingness to play them,’ a non-Hurricanes affiliated source said. ‘They must’ve shown him that they believe in him as a player and are willing to foster his development. At the end of the day, everyone wants to go where they’re going to play or at least get a chance to.’ So basically, the fact that there are tons of high-potential young defensemen in the system was actually seen as a positive.”
First off, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Siegenthaler and Djoos are all developed Caps’ prospects. Djoos played in 22 playoff games in the Cup run and both Djoos and Siegenthaler played in the playoffs last season. Clearly there is a willingness to play young defensemen in Washington. Second, there is no denying that Carolina has a pretty loaded prospect pool, but if there is one area in which the Caps’ prospect pool is also loaded, it is defense. Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary are two of Washington’s best prospects and there is also Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs and Tobias Geisser, among others. This is not an advantage Carolina had over Washington.
Third, that Carolina “must’ve shown him that they believe in him as a player and are willing to foster his development” is all well and good, but I am not sure how much that would have mattered until after he became a free agent. After all, the Caps tried to sign Priskie in 2018 and he turned them down to return to Quinnipiac.
I am not quite sure what the Hurricanes could have done to prove they “believe in him” more than what the Caps did.
Takeaway No. 3
“Regardless of offer sheet and GM contract drama, the hype around playing for the Hurricanes after last season is real. A player who grew up in a non-traditional hockey market isn’t afraid of some Duck Duck Goose, and he certainly wants to play for Rod Brind’Amour.”
Priskie decided he would not sign with the Caps in April when they were still the defending Stanley Cup champions. The allure of playing for a team that reached the conference final last season is real...but that didn’t matter when it came to playing with a team that won the Stanley Cup in 2018? With all due respect to the Hurricanes, they had a tremendous 2018-19 season, but why would that matter if Washington’s 2017-18 season did not?
If you want to say that Carolina’s window could be seen as just starting to open while Washington’s run may be closer to the end, that is a fair point, but it seems to simple to say the Hurricanes’ deep run in 2019 could have been a factor if there was no allure to playing for the champs.
As for the excitement over playing for Brind’Amour, that seems like a much more reasonable explanation.
So when looking at why Priskie may have chosen the Hurricanes, only two things jump out as factors that Carolina could offer Priskie that Washington could not: A clear path to the NHL in 2019-20 and the chance to play for Rod Brind’Amour. Everything else I have to question how important it was because if that wasn’t enough to keep him with the Caps, why would it be enough for him to sign with Carolina?
Let’s be clear, I am not questioning what Civian is being told by her sources or that these factors did not play a part in Priskie's decision. We also do not know what discussions between the Caps and Priskie were like behind closed doors the past few years. The point of all of this is to say his reasoning for choosing Carolina does not necessarily explain why he opted not to stay with Washington because most of the reasons Civian lists are not exclusive to the Hurricanes.
Of course the Caps believed in him and wanted to foster his development. They drafted him and tried to sign him a year ago. And it is not as if the Caps have shown an unwillingness to play their homegrown players. Prospects are sometimes forced to wait their turn because of the log jam of other defensive prospects, but that is a problem facing Carolina as well.
Undeniably, it would have been hard to fit Priskie into the lineup next season even if the team had not traded for Gudas and that, along with Brind’Amour, may have been the most influential factors in his decision because those are the only things that MacLellan could not give him.