December 31: McKeown has cleared waivers and can continue to play overseas.
December 30: The march to the regular season continues, this time with the Carolina Hurricanes placing a depth defenseman on waivers. Roland McKeown finds himself there today, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, just a few days after signing his new one-year, two-way deal. McKeown has been loaned out to the SHL for the season and needed to clear waivers to remain overseas.
In a normal year, McKeown might be in danger of being claimed by a rebuilding team around the league. The 24-year-old defenseman has put up several successful seasons in the AHL after being a second-round pick in 2014, even spending ten games with the Hurricanes in 2017-18. In this unique campaign though, it seems unlikely that anyone would use a claim that would force him back from Sweden.
The fact that Carolina decided to send McKeown overseas in the first place is a bit ominous, at least when considering the AHL’s future. In the loan release, GM Don Waddell explained that it was “important that [McKeown] get back on the ice” even though he was a strong performer in the minor leagues. That suggests that there is still some doubt the AHL will get off the ground, at least not right away.
If that’s the case, he certainly won’t be the last player somewhere between prospect and depth that ends up on waivers. If a player requires waivers to play in the AHL, they’ll also need it to head overseas, as both are ways off the NHL roster. Those waiver placements would normally happen at the end of training camp in a regular season, but at least in McKeown’s case, the Hurricanes have decided to pull the trigger early in order to get him on the ice in the SHL.