Welcome back to Season Primers, today we’re going to jump over to the Eastern Conference for a look at the Carolina Hurricanes. Under new head coach Bill Peters, the Hurricanes finished last in the Metropolitan Division and missed the playoffs for the 6th straight season. This allowed Carolina to add a key piece at the draft in defenceman Noah Hanifin with the 5th overall pick. Hanifin has been signed to a pro contract and I would expect that he makes the Hurricanes this season. The Hurricanes also decided to buy out Alexander Semin, who later signed with Montreal.
Key Additions: C Derek Ryan, LD Noah Hanifin, RD James Wisniewski, G Eddie Lack
Key Subtractions: RW Alexander Semin, RW Patrick Dwyer, RD Brett Bellemore, G Anton Khudobin
The additions of Hanifin and Wisniewski for Carolina add depth to and improve their defence. They should be a good second pairing. Eddie Lack replaces Anton Khudobin. I don’t think either goalie is clearly better than the other. Derek Ryan is an interesting addition. The center led the SHL in scoring last season, he could be a great signing if that offense translates to the NHL. He could quite possibly replace the offense provided by Semin.
Compared to the end of the season, the Hurricanes have made significant improvements to their defense, but no major changes to their offense, which isn’t great.
Projected Lines (All Players Healthy):
Eric Staal – Jordan Staal – Jeff Skinner
Nathan Gerbe – Victor Rask – Elias Lindholm
Chris Terry – Riley Nash – Andrej Nestrasil
Brad Malone – Jay McClement – Zach Boychuk
Ron Hainsey – Justin Faulk
Noah Hanifin – James Wisniewski
John-Michael Liles – Ryan Murphy
Roster Contenders: C Patrick Brown, C Brody Sutter, LW Brendan Woods, RW Justin Shugg, LD Keegan Lowe, RD Danny Biega, G Drew MacIntyre
Carolina’s forward group is the biggest concern coming into the season. There is a both a lack of skilled forwards and a lack of depth in the system. With no skilled forwards being added into their lineup coming into this season, it’s hard to see Carolina improving much on their 27th place finish in goals scored.
On defense, there’s a good mixture of defensive and offensive defencemen in the top 4, with Faulk and Wisniewski being good offensive defenders, the veteran Hainsey being solid defensively, and Hanifin being a good all around defenceman. On the 3rd pairing we have young offensive defenceman Ryan Murphy alongside John-Michael Liles, who is considered to be an offensive defenceman, but has underrated defensive abilities:
Notice that CA60 +/-?
In net we have Cam Ward and Eddie Lack. I have Ward as the starter but I think Lack could easily take over the starting job.
One of the biggest stories for the Hurricanes this season will be what they decide to do with pending UFAs Eric Staal and Cam Ward. If Staal decides not to re-sign, and Carolina is out of the playoff picture by the deadline, he could be a valuable asset and should fetch a 1st round pick+. Ward might not hold as much value as he used to. In his last 3 seasons he has posted save percentages of .910, .898, and .908, which aren’t great for a starting goalie. He will have to have a good season to prove he can still be a starter in the NHL.
I’d fully expect the Hurricanes to improve this season, but they just don’t have the offense to make it to the playoffs, unless someone really steps up for them. This will be a team to keep an eye on this season. I think it’s entirely possible that they add one of the forwards still remaining in free agency, they definitely have the cap space to do it.
That’s all for today, thanks for reading. Next time we’ll take a look at the Colorado Avalanche.