ESPN’s Kevin Weekes has reported on X that the Carolina Hurricanes will loan netminder Pyotr Kochetkov to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, the top affiliate of the Hurricanes’ Eastern Conference rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The move comes in the wake of two significant events: the injury to Lightning superstar goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, as well as the move by the Hurricanes’ prior AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, to move forward as an independent AHL franchise.
The Wolves’ move has left the Hurricanes without an AHL affiliate of their own, and the result has been significant to the developmental pathways for Hurricanes prospects. A few prospects, some of whom are notably AHL-caliber players (such as Anttoni Honka and Noel Gunler) will be playing in the ECHL for 2023-24, while others such as Jamieson Rees have latched on with AHL clubs.
It has also complicated things for Hurricanes goaltending, as the team had previously been able to count on an AHL affiliate to provide starter-level opportunity for their organization’s third goalie.
Making $2MM against the cap through 2026-27, the Hurricanes likely believe that the 24-year-old Kochetkov will be a long-term face in Carolina, so getting him the chance to continue his development in the AHL is an important step.
The Crunch are one of the AHL’s few remaining independently-owned franchises, and they have always prioritized a healthy balance between development and playing winning hockey.
As other AHL teams have jumped head-first into prioritizing development above all else, the Crunch have continuously attempted to field a contending roster, and the addition of Kochetkov will help them dramatically for the early part of the season.
The injury of Vasilevskiy may have a ripple effect on goaltending depth for the Lightning organization, as one of the goalies expected to see time with the Crunch, Matt Tomkins, is now in Tampa with the Lightning.
Getting Kochetkov will not only make it so the Crunch won’t have to rely on offseason signing Evan Fitzpatrick to start games, (he has just 13 AHL games on his resume) it will also land them one of the most talented goalies in the AHL, even if just for a limited time.
While it’s certainly not a common sight to see an NHL team loan a notable player to a rival team, this move is not without precedent. The St. Louis Blues once loaned netminder Jordan Binnington to the AHL’s Providence Bruins, just one year before Binnington defeated the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
Although it’s far from an ideal situation for the Hurricanes and Kochetkov, this move does have its benefits for all parties involved and it’ll be interesting to see how the Crunch split starts between Kochetkov and Hugo Alnefelt, a valued Tampa Bay prospect.
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