Predicting The Offseason

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We’ve all speculated on what might happen this offseason for the Hurricanes. Well, as I do every offseason, I am going to dive into it and see what I think may end up happening. I’ll have predictions on player contracts, some of the draft, free agency, trades, and more! This is going to be a long one, and it ended up being over 5,000 words. So get comfy!

First, I’ll look back at each and every Hurricanes player currently on the roster, give a brief review of their season, and predict what their role should be next year, if they should have one at all. Next, I’ll move into the draft. I will probably only do the first three rounds or so, since this article is focuses more on next season, and it’s unlikely that anybody taken that late in the draft will be ready to contribute next season. After the draft, I’ll move into free agency. There will also be trade talks throughout. Let’s get into it!

Player Reviews

Centers:

–          Sebastian Aho

Contract status: One year left on Entry Level Contract

2017-2018 role: Top nine LW/C

Review: This kid is a star. He needs to get off to better starts, but once he finds his groove and starts scoring, he doesn’t slow down. If he can play a full 82 games the way he played down the stretch last season, I don’t think anybody will doubt his status as a star. The only question is whether the team decides to play him at center or on the wing. Bill Peters and Ron Francis wanted him in the middle eventually, and I would think that Rod Brind’Amour would think the same. Aho also seems as if he wants to play center. He should continue to lead this team for years to come, and I would think that the team looks at extending his contract this summer as well.

2018-2019 projected role: Top six C

–          Jordan Staal

Contract status: Five years left at $6m per year

2017-2018 role: Top six/top nine C

Review: What a guy. Staal has been an amazing leader for this team, and personally, he’s my top choice to be the lone captain on this team next year. Staal has been steady in his Hurricanes career, proving to be one of the top two-way centers in the NHL. I believe that Brind’Amour thinks that Staal is capable of more offensively, and I think that Rod is going to try and unleash that next season. The only question is whether or not Staal can be more of a contributor offensively without sacrificing some of strong defensive game. I don’t see it as an issue, and I think that Staal may surprise some people by his production next year.

2018-2019 projected role: Second or third line C

–          Derek Ryan

Contract status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: Top nine C

Review: Ryan is good for about 30 points over the course of an 82-game season. That’s not bad production. Ryan is a very serviceable forward who is often victimized of being overslotted. I think that Ryan is a good player to have centering your fourth line or spot filling in the bottom six when needed. I do not think that Ryan is a good player to have playing with your most dangerous offensive player (Jeff Skinner). I would be fine if Ryan was back, but I think that the team will fill the fourth line center role with Lucas Wallmark or newly acquired Jordan Martinook. Ryan will be in the NHL next year if he wants to be, I just don’t think it’s here.

2018-2019 projected role: Fourth line C/extra forward, just not in Carolina

–          Victor Rask

Contract status: Four years left at $4m per year

2017-2018 role: Top six center, then depth forward

Review: Rask set career lows in games played (71), assists (17), and points (31) last season. It was a miserable start to the year, but Rask slowly showed signs of improvement over the course of the year. Rask was penciled in as a top six center heading into the season, but now his spot on the roster is in doubt. Personally, I liked Rask more when he played on the wing, and I don’t even think there is a spot at center for him anymore. He’s still got four years left on his deal, but I’m not sure how much of that will be played out in Raleigh. If the team decides that they aren’t comfortable with some younger players filling top nine roles next year, Rask might be back and get a chance for redemption. If the team does indeed fill some top nine roles with younger players, it’s almost certain that Rask is traded, although at this point there likely isn’t going to be much of a return.

Projected 2018-2019 role: Bottom six C/LW/RW, with the chance to move up

Left Wing:

–          Jeff Skinner

Contract status: One year left at $5.725m

2017-2018 role: Top nine winger

Review: Skinner had an amazing 2016-2017 season, scoring 37 goals and 63 points, but this season was a different story. Skinner tallied “only” 24 goals and 49 points. Part of that can be blamed on who Skinner was playing with, most notably Derek Ryan. But, to be fair, Skinner played some of the best hockey of his career at the end of the 2016-2017 season, and ended up top five in goal scoring in the league, all while playing next to Ryan. Skinner is capable of consistently being a threat to break into the top five in goal scoring, but this season Skinner just wasn’t there. He would go through stretches where he would just disappear. He wasn’t scoring or even getting chances. He wasn’t noticeable. But, the team as a whole went through similar stretches. You can’t put all of the blame on Skinner for his struggles, but you also can’t put all of that blame on his center. Skinner has just one year remaining on his contract, so that is a major issue. I’m going to be honest, I don’t see Skinner extending his contract this summer. I think he will want to wait and see how things go with Brind’Amour before making that decision. I think that Skinner wants to win here, but sometimes enough is enough. Skinner has spent his career being stapled to below average NHL players. He hasn’t made the playoffs once in his career. It’s easy to see why he wouldn’t want to re-sign in Carolina. And, if that becomes the case, you have to bite the bullet and trade Skinner. That’s not a good thing to hear, but Skinner is a great player and you can’t let him walk for nothing. All of the reports look like Skinner is on his way out, but I’m in wait and see mode. It’s just frustrating to see that things may have gotten to the point to where Skinner may not want to re-sign. I’m still hopeful that Brind’Amour will be a good coach for the team and that will encourage Skinner to stay on board. It’s also important to note that Skinner controls his destiny, as he holds a NTC. One last note: Remember how Steven Stamkos was the talk of the league a year or two ago? He was almost certain to walk in free agency or even be traded. Yeah, how did that work out for Tampa?

2018-2019 projected role: Top six LW

–          Brock McGinn

Contract status: One year left at $887k

2017-2018 role: Top nine LW

Review: Brock didn’t disappoint in his first full NHL season. He scored 16 goals and added 14 assists in 80 games. McGinn brings more to the table than the stat sheet shows. He’s gritty, throws the body, and is willing to drop the gloves or step in to defend a teammate. Every team needs a guy like Brock McGinn. I think he has all but locked up a roster spot next season, likely on the fourth line. He went through a stretch where he was one of the hottest players in the NHL. Unfortunately, when he’s not scoring, you don’t always notice him. He plays better when he has everything going for him. Part of his success was his role, mainly in the top nine next to players like Jordan Staal. I like McGinn as a fourth line player and energy guy, but I don’t like him in the top nine. Like I said, put him on the fourth line and be happy you did.

2018-2019 projected role: Fourth line winger

–          Joakim Nordstrom

Contract status: Restricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: Fourth line LW

Review: Nordstrom was acquired as part of the trade that brought Kris Versteeg to Carolina, and he’s been a staple on the roster ever since. I’ll be blunt. Nordstrom is an offensive black hole, and that’s giving him a little bit. He doesn’t score. He doesn’t do anything at all on offense. And I don’t think there’s a spot for him on this roster. I think he will likely be non-tendered, although I could see him sticking with the organization if he’s willing to play in the AHL. Another option for Nordstrom is going overseas, which to me is the most likely scenario

2018-2019 projected role: Overseas or AHL player

–          Phil Di Giuseppe

Contract status: Restricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: AHL top six winger, then NHL bottom six/extra forward

Review: PDG is tough. I like him as a depth guy. I think he’s fine as the extra forward and filling in when needed. I’m just not sure there’s a spot for him. Personally, I don’t think there is a spot for PDG with McGinn and Martinook both on the team. He will most likely end up back in the AHL with Charlotte, but he may decide to go somewhere else and crack an NHL roster. I still think he will be back with the organization. He’s a good guy to have around.

2018-2019 projected role: AHL/ depth forward

Right wing:

–          Justin Williams

Contract status: One year left at $4.5m

2017-2018 role: Top nine RW

Review: Rod Brind’Amour’s favorite player. Everybody’s favorite player. Willy is an extremely valuable player and person for this organization. He brings it each and every night and can play in a number of roles. He’s only got one year left on his deal, and who knows, it might be the last of his storied career. I think Williams will be on a mission to bring this team back to the playoffs next season, and I think it’s likely that he does so with a C stitched on his chest. He’s a born leader and he’s going to play a big role on the team. He will likely be the second or third line right winger next season, and I personally think he’s a great fit next to Jordan Staal.

Projected 2018-2019 role: Top nine RW

–          Teuvo Teravainen

Contract status: One year left at $2.86m

2017-2018 role: Top six LW/RW

It’s Teuvo Time. Thanks, Chicago. Teravainen established himself as one of the most dangerous offensive threats in this lineup this season. He led the team with 41 assists and he tallied 65 points, which trailed only Sebastian Aho (66) for the team lead. Teravainen was also acquired via trade from Chicago, coming along with Bryan Bickell in exchange for a second and third round pick. What a damn good move that was. He’s got one year left on his current contract, and he’s sure to get a raise from his current $2.86m salary. Personally, I’d wait a year to see if he can replicate his success from this season before you extend his contract, but it would be wise to start those conversations soon. He should be a staple next to Aho in the lineup for many years to come.

2018-2019 projected role: Top six LW/RW

–          Elias Lindholm

Contract status: Restricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: Top nine RW, then top six C

Review: Lindy scored 16 goals and put up 44 points in one of his weirdest seasons yet. He started off playing RW, and he looked lost in the beginning. He had a brutal start to the season. Luckily, once the team moved Lindholm to center, and even a bit before then, Lindholm took a turn for the better. He looked confident on the puck, he was more confident in his shot, and his all-around game looked drastically better. He doesn’t have a deal for next season, but the Canes hold his rights as a RFA. I think that Lindholm’s time as a Hurricane is nearing an end, but not as soon as people seem to think. I like Lindy as a center, but we just don’t really have room for that beyond this season with Martin Necas coming overseas and Sebastian Aho shifting to center. I would start the season with Lindholm at center playing next to Martin Necas, and once Necas proves he is ready to be a consistent contributor in the NHL, you ease him into the middle as a center, which pushes Lindholm back to the wing, which makes Lindholm expendable. I think he will be traded either at the trade deadline or next summer. For now, he’s going to play an important role in the top nine, either in the middle or on the wing.

2018-2019 projected role: Top nine C/RW

–          Lee Stempniak

Contract status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: Bottom six RW

Review: What a rough year it was for journeyman Lee Stempniak. He was sidelined for the first half of the season, and he ended up playing in just 37 games. In those games, he tallied a rough three goals and nine assists. He just never looked like he did before his injury. I hate that, because he is a great person and deserves a chance to play and win. After this year, it’s tough to see how he’s on the roster next year. Hopefully Uncle Stempy can latch onto a contending team and fight for a Stanley Cup.

2018-2019 projected role: Bottom six winger, just not in Carolina

Defensemen:

–          Jaccob Slavin

Contract status: Seven years left at $5.3m per year

2017-2018 role: Top pairing LHD

Review: Two years ago, Slavin was looking like one of the top defenders in the NHL. This year was a slight step back from that, but he still looked great for the most part. He’s still the best all-around defenseman on the roster, and it should stay that was for a long time. He’s probably the closest to untouchable on the defense in terms of trades in the organization. I also believe that Slavin is capable of playing on the right side, which could help ease the transition if the team decided to move a RHD like Justin Faulk. Slavin is still a vital part of this team, and he’s one of the most underrated players in the league.

2018-2019 projected role: Top pairing LHD/RHD depending on trades

–          Brett Pesce

Contract status: Six years left at $4.025m per year

2017-2018 role: Top pairing RHD

Like Slavin, Pesce took a slight step back this year, but was still solid overall. Then again, the entire defense struggled this year. Pesce missed the end of the year to injury and only ended up playing in 65 games. I won’t get too deep here. Pesce will be in the top four, hopefully next to Slavin, for a long time. Nothing more to it.

2018-2019 projected role: Top pairing/top four RHD

–          Noah Hanifin

Contract status: Restricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: Top four LHD

Review: Hanifin earned his first NHL All-Star selection this season due to his very strong first half. He scored 10 goals and 32 points overall on the year, both of which led Hurricanes’ defensemen. Clearly, Hanifin took a major step in the right direction offensively this year. Unfortunately, his defensive game continued to slack off. He undeniably has a very high upside, and for that reason, his spot on the team should not be in question. Hopefully Brind’Amour can motivate him to improve his two-way game so he can take that next step and become a vital part of the top four. I’d expect the team to look at giving Hanifin a contract in the range of three years, but it’s tough to know how much money he will command.

2018-2019 projected role: Top four LHD

–          Justin Faulk

Contract status: Two years left at $4.83m per year

2017-2018 role: Top four RHD

Review: Yeah, this year was Faulking terrible (oops). I’m not sure whether or not being a co-captain proved to be too much for Faulk, but he took a step back offensively and a major jump back defensively. Like Hanifin, I hope that Rod Brind’Amour can help motivate Faulk to improve his all-around game, but I’m not sure if they’ll be given the chance to do so. Faulk’s trade value is at a low right now, but the team could definitely still get a decent return. With guys like Jake Bean and Roland McKeown pushing closer and closer to being ready for the NHL, Faulk’s time in Carolina may be over.

2018-2019 projected role: Top four RHD/potential trade candidate

–          Haydn Fleury

Contract status: One year left on Entry Level Contract

2017-2018 role: Bottom pairing LHD

Review: Fleury’s rookie year wasn’t great by any means, but he showed signs of improvement as we got closer to the end of the year. I still believe that Fleury could become a valuable part of the team’s top four, but he needs to have a good year to keep that hope alive. Jake Bean shouldn’t need more than a year in the AHL. He’s pushing. The defense as a whole wasn’t good last year, but Fleury needs to show serious signs of improvement next year to show us that he deserves to stick around. Expect him to start on the bottom pair with the chance to move up next year.

2018-2019 projected role: Bottom pair LHD

–          Trevor van Riemsdyk

Contract status: Restricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: Bottom pair RHD

Review: Once again, thank you Chicago (or Vegas, but you get the point). I’ll say it right away, TVR was the team’s most consistent defenseman this season. The trade to acquire him from Vegas proved to be a very beneficial one. TVR should definitely be tendered as a RFA. He is the perfect bottom pairing defenseman who is capable of filling in the top four when needed, so the team needs to keep him around. He should start on the bottom pairing but depending on trades he may start a little higher.

2018-2019 projected role: Bottom pair RHD/Second pair if trades are made

–          Klas Dahlbeck

Contract status: Restricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: Extra defenseman

Review: Dahlbeck is fine as a 7th defenseman. Reports have stated that Dahlbeck is going to play in the KHL next season, so I’ll leave it at that.

Goalies:

–          Cam Ward:

Contract status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2017-2018 role: Mainly the starting goalie

Review: Ward was by far the better goalie last year, but that’s not saying much. Neither one of them was very good. Ward is okay as a backup, but with Darling’s struggles, Ward was put into a larger role. The team can’t go into next season with the same goaltending tandem. If Darling isn’t on the roster, keeping Ward as the backup is fine. If Darling is here, Ward can’t be. And I think that Ward leaving would by itself give Darling a little confidence. Ward wants to be here and I think the organization wants him here in some capacity. If they don’t bring him back, he should find work in the NHL as a backup. It’s also possible that he retires, but I’m not sure that happens.

2018-2019 projected role: Backup goalie, not with Carolina

–          Scott Darling

Contract status: Three years left at $4.15m per year

2017-2018 role: Starting goalie, then backup goalie

Review: Darling was supposed to be the savior of this team’s goaltending issues. Instead, he turned in one of the worst single seasons by a “starter” in NHL history. Darling is playing in the world championships for Team USA right now, and he is staying in Raleigh this summer to train. Those are both encouraging signs. Darling knows he needs to be better, and he sounds optimistic that he can do so. There’s no way, however, that you can go into next year with Darling as the starter. The team needs to go out and get a 1A/1B type of goalie to pair with Darling. You aren’t getting rid of that contract. The team is going to have to work with Darling to build his confidence back up and hopefully help him regain the form he showed in Chicago. Hopefully Darling can live up to some of that contract. If he doesn’t a buyout is far more likely at the end of the 2018-2019 season.

2018-2019 projected role: Backup goalie with chances to become the starter

Other prospects/names to watch:

– Martin Necas should have his roster spot all but locked up. He will likely be on the second or third line at center, but the team may opt to keep Lindholm at center to help ease Necas’ transition to the NHL.

– Valentin Zykov impressed when he was finally given his shot in Raleigh this season, and he has probably just about locked up his roster spot. His road to making the opening night roster, however, became a little tougher with the likely addition of Andrei Svechnikov. Zykov could be a dangerous top nine winger next year.

– Lucas Wallmark might have the inside track on the fourth line center job. He will compete with Jordan Martinook, Derek Ryan, and maybe more to earn that role. I like his two-way game for the fourth line, and he could add potential offense to that line as well. He may end up back in Charlotte, but he just may be ready for his shot in Raleigh.

– Warren Foegele’s first NHL stint was short, but I really liked what I saw. I think he’s ready for a fourth line spot, but he may need one more year in the AHL. Either way, Foegele will play an important two-way game wherever he ends up.

– Roland McKeown is a steady defender, and I think he’s in the NHL next year if a NHL defenseman is moved. If not, he starts in Charlotte and is the first guy they call up when they need to make a move.

– Trevor Carrick probably has the best shot to be the 7th defenseman this year. He probably should have gotten more looks in Raleigh over the past two years, but I think he’s more likely to be the extra defenseman rather than bringing in an outsider.

– Alex Nedeljkovic may be ready to be the backup, but that’s not a good idea with Darling’s struggles this year. I think the team needs to bring in an established NHL goalie to pair with Darling, and let Ned be the bonafide starter in Charlotte for one more year. I just think a Darling-Ned goaltending duo would do more harm than good for Ned’s development.

– Jordan Martinook was acquired from Arizona last month, and he’s likely going to be on the fourth line or the extra forward. He’s a good skater, a hard worker, and I think Brind’Amour will love him. He may push Lucas Wallmark back to the AHL.

– The Hurricanes signed Finnish winger Saku Maenalanen this week, pairing him with Finnish teammates Aho and Teravainen. Maenalanen is a good skater, and he was the Predators’ 2013 5th round pick. He went unsigned, and now he’s a Hurricane. He probably starts off in Charlotte, but he may be competition for a guy like Brock McGinn.

The Draft

Draft day trades:

–          Victor Rask and a 2018 2nd round pick to St. Louis for the rights to UFA goalie Carter Hutton and a 2018 4th round pick.

Why? I’m not quite sure of Rask’s value, but here is my reasoning here. Last season, the Canes sent a third rounder to Chicago for the rights to Darling. The price is a little more here since the Blues are taking on Rask’s contract. Hutton was the best backup in the NHL this year, finishing with a .931 save percentage in 32 games. He’s the perfect type of 1A/1B type of guy to pair with Darling. Rask may be a good fit with the Blues, and Hutton may want a chance to start, which he may not have in St. Louis.

 

I’m going to talk about a potential Justin Faulk trade here, since this is likely when such a deal would happen. Trading Justin Faulk creates a hole in the top four. TVR would be fine as a temporary placeholder, but he may be overmatched there. McKeown isn’t quite ready for the top four. Keeping Faulk would be betting on him returning to his former self. If he did, he and Hanifin could become one of the most dangerous offensive pairings in the league. Either way, trading Faulk and promoting from within to fill that spot is risky considering how mediocre the defense was last season.

I had talked myself into a potential Faulk trade, which was Faulk and 2019 4th round pick to Toronto for Kasperi Kapanen and a 2018 2nd round pick. But, when I looked at the finished roster after that deal, I didn’t think it was enough. Plus, with the recent additions of potential bottom six players, adding Kapanen to the mix may not be a possibility anymore. I’ve been on team trade Faulk for a while, but now I don’t know. I just think that they should start the season with Faulk on the roster, and if he doesn’t improve, then you move him at the deadline and by that point McKeown should definitely be ready for the NHL. Betting on Faulk returning to his form as one of the top offensive defensemen in the league is a smarter idea than trading him for a below average return to me. This team needs to make the playoffs next year, and they have a better chance of doing so with Faulk on the roster.

–          1st round- 2nd overall: Andrei Svechnikov, RW

This is a no brainer. Svechnikov is the best offensive player in the draft. He’s an elite goal scorer who is also responsible defensively. He’s able to contribute in a top six role right away. That’s hard to come by. The young Russian is a franchise altering player, and he’s exactly what this team has been starving for for years.

–          4th round- 96th overall: Martin Bodak, RHD

Bodak is a 6’0 tall defender with lots of upside. He is a smart player who is good in his own end and is also capable of making plays offensively. This could end up being a great value pick if he’s here, and he may not need too much time before he could start pushing for a start in Charlotte and eventually Raleigh.

I’m going to end the draft there. Note that I traded the team’s 2nd round pick in the Rask trade, and the team is already without a 3rd rounder. Nobody at this point in the draft will be ready to contribute immediately, and since this article is focused on the current outlook of the team, I’ll skip the end of the draft.

Re-sign phase:
UFAs: Let go of Derek Ryan, Lee Stempniak, and Cam Ward

RFAs: Let go of Joakim Nordstrom and Klas Dahlbeck. Re-sign van Riemsdyk (2 year deal), Hanifin (3 year deal), Lindholm (2-3 year deal), and Di Giuseppe (1 year, 2-way deal)

Free Agency:

Looking at the free agent class, I don’t think there’s too many moves to make at this point. If the team doesn’t trade for a goalie they’ll have to sign someone.

I could see the team going after one of James Neal or James van Riemsdyk, but I don’t think that happens unless Lindholm is moved. Neal likely wants to play for a true contender. JVR is more likely, but I’m not sure he’d want to come here.

Roster Outlook:

I’m going to give two different predictions here. One will be based off of the scenario that the team shakes things up and trades both Justin Faulk AND Elias Lindholm (for now, we’ll assume these moves are in exchange for picks and prospects, opening up a potential free agent addition). The second scenario will be the team holding onto both Faulk and Lindholm, which I think is the more likely scenario.

SCENARIO 1:

Teravainen-Aho-JVR

Skinner-Necas-Svechnikov

Zykov-Staal-Williams

McGinn-Wallmark/Martinook-Foegele/Maenalanen

PDG

Slavin-Pesce

Hanifin-TVR

Fleury-McKeown

Carrick

Hutton

Darling

 

SCENARIO 2:

Skinner-Necas-Svechnikov

Teravainen-Aho-Lindholm

Zykov-Staal-Williams

McGinn-Wallmark/Martinook-Foegele/Maenalanen

PDG

Slavin-Pesce

Hanifin-Faulk

Fleury-TVR

Carrick

Hutton

Darling

 

There are a number of ways this offseason could go. Does the team really shake things up and trade multiple roster players? Or do they trade a couple and bounce on some rebound seasons? Either way, the team is close to being a playoff team. I am more intrigued (or scared?) for an offseason as I have been in a while. There’s a lot to work to do, I just hope they do things without blowing up the hope I have for the 2018-2019 season.

Thanks for staying this far! I know it was a lot of rambling and what-ifs, but that’s what makes the offseason fun. Just your casual reminder that I am wrong and quite the opposite of everything I said will likely happen.

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