Airdrie player inks new contract with Hurricanes
An Airdrie hockey player has been guaranteed another year in a Carolina Hurricanes jersey. The ‘Canes re-signed Zach Boychuk to a one-year, two-way $650,000 contract, July 24.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said the 22-year-old forward. “We’ve been going back and forth the past couple of weeks, and it’s nice to get it out of the way and focus on my training. It’s great that Carolina wants me back.”
Boychuk played 16 games with the Hurricanes during the 2011-2012 season and recorded two assists in the first 13-game stint in 2011. He was reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, at the end of November. He played the rest of the winter in Charlotte, and was called back up by the Hurricanes for three games in February and March.
In 64 games with the Checkers, Boychuk scored 21 goals and recorded 23 assists, good for third in team scoring.
A few days after Boychuk was re-assigned to Charlotte the first time, the Hurricanes fired head coach Paul Maurice and hired Kirk Muller, who won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. The move was a breath of fresh air for the team and for Boychuk, who saw his ice time increase when he was called up near the end of the season.
“I got lots of ice time and I got to play with some really good players,” he said. “I’m hoping it’s a good thing for me in the future.
“We’re definitely still a fairly young team. Kirk Muller won a Stanley Cup and he seems like a smart guy. He’s good at leading the young guys and he plays a more up-tempo style, which is similar to my game. I’m really looking forward to making an impression (on him) in September.”
The Hurricanes finished in 12th place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference - 10 points out of the final playoff spot. However, the team made one of the biggest transactions of the summer at the NHL draft in June. The team acquired Jordan Staal, younger brother of Hurricanes Captain Eric Staal. Boychuk will now have a chance to play with two of the league’s best centremen.
“That was a pretty surprising and shocking trade,” said Boychuk. “To get a superstar like that puts us on the map a bit. Now that we have Jordan, Eric and (Jeff) Skinner, it kind of makes the league look around and see that (the team) is ready to compete.
“Jordan and Eric are big guys that control the puck well and play well at both ends of the ice. If I could get on a line with those two, it would be a pretty amazing experience.”
Jordan wore No. 11 for the Pittsburgh Penguins ever since he made his NHL debut during the 2006-2007 season, but it’s the same number Boychuk wears for the Hurricanes. When Jordan requested to keep the number after coming over in the trade, Boychuk was happy to acquiesce, but hasn’t decided what number he’ll switch to.
“I’m fine with it,” he said. “I’m taking recommendations for what my next number should be.”
Until training camp begins in September, Boychuk is training at Crash Conditioning in Calgary. After four years of shuffling between the NHL and AHL, he’s ready to challenge for a permanent roster spot.
That is, if there is a season next year.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Associations’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires Sept. 15. While negotiations are ongoing between the two parties, if an agreement cannot be reached by the fall, it may result in a partial or full lockout.
Boychuk isn’t among the players who have been attending the negotiating meetings, but said the issue is on the minds of all of the skaters.
“You pay attention to it a little bit,” he said.
“The NHL and NHLPA are keeping us updated every week, and things are going a bit slow, but I’m hoping we can get something done. Nobody wants to sit around and have to find something else to do all winter.”
Boychuk’s contract will work in his favour, however, if there is a lockout.
The two-way aspect of the deal allows him to continue playing with the Checkers if part or all of the NHL season is cancelled, while players on one-way contracts will have to find work in Europe.
Like many of the players, Boychuk is preparing to play in the NHL in the fall and aiming to play a full season with the Hurricanes.
“It’s definitely going to be a huge training camp for me,” he said.
“There are three to four guys battling for one or two spots on the team. I need to show up in good shape and show that I belong.”