Today, the Carolina Hurricanes announced they have signed veteran center Jay McClement to a two-year, $2.4 million deal. There’s few players on the Canes this year that deserved an extension more than McClement. Signed in the offseason as a veteran presence for a team that expected to rely on its youth, McClement has far exceeded expectations set by even the most optimistic of Canes fans.
“Jay has proven to be a valuable veteran leader for our club and it was important for us to keep him in Raleigh,” said general manager Ron Francis. “He’s one of the league’s best face-off men and has played a key role in what currently stands as the best penalty-killing unit in team history.”
Not only is the penalty-killing unit one of the best in team history, it is also currently ranked #1 league-wide. Considering Carolina’s defense consists mostly of a hodgepodge of bottom-tier defensemen, the combination of McClement and Patrick Dwyer in the forward portion of the penalty kill have done an excellent job of keeping those pucks out of the net.
However, the most important aspect of this signing is that it shows a dedication to the philosophy that the Carolina Hurricanes organization is attempting to build.
His Way or the Highway
At the announcement of his new role as head coach, Bill Peters stated that he held the biggest bargaining chip over the players on the team.
“I’m all for that as long as your giving me the things that I need in the work ethic, the play away from the puck, the attention to detail, and that’s the perfect marriage when it all comes together”
“I have the ultimate hammer as a coach and the hammer is the ice time. If they all want ice time, they all feel they deserve more ice time, they all want to play in the situations as matches or skill set then I’m all for that as long as your giving me the things that I need in the work ethic, the play away from the puck, the attention to detail, and that’s the perfect marriage when it all comes together,” said Peters.
He hasn’t been afraid to swing that hammer either, with skilled, but inconsistent, forward Alex Semin often being the target of that reduced ice time. Early in the year, Canes fans questioned why a player like Semin was a healthy scratch, while players like Jay McClement and Brad Malone found themselves in the lineup. As the year has gone on, and the results of Peters’ strict no-nonsense approach are starting to make themselves clear, the answer becomes equally clear.
Jay McClement is the ideal Peters player. He has a never-faltering work ethic, his play away from the puck is superb, and his 55.3% faceoff percentage is among some of the top players in the league.
A “True” 4th Line
The quiet additions by Francis of McClement and Malone clearly have made the #Canes 4th line better than it has been in years.
— Mike Maniscalco (@mikemaniscalco) February 28, 2015
Though it may seem minor in the grand scheme of things, the play of McClement, Malone, and Dwyer have given Carolina the best 4th line they’ve had in years. The line is very physical, defensively-responsible, and the three players have just enough chemistry with each other to produce offensive chances as well. The 4th line should remind some Cane fans of the “Lawfirm” line back in the 05-06 season, where Craig Adams, Kevyn Adams and Chad LaRose caused havoc on opposing teams en route to Carolina’s first Stanley Cup.
They showed that production last night against the New York Islanders. On the back-end of a back-to-back, having traveled to New York the day of the game, the 4th line stepped up in a big way, with McClement providing two goals and Malone providing a third. With 18 points at even-strength, McClement is 4th on the team in that regard. He is also +3 on a team where the vast majority of players find themselves in the negative column.
With statistics like that and a consistent performance night in and night out, it’s no wonder that the Hurricanes chose to extend Jay McClement, rather than ship him off as they had done to many other of their impeding UFAs.
Jonathan Gardner currently lives in Raleigh, NC and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.