The Carolina Hurricanes are right there in the middle of a very heated Eastern Conference playoff race, but I think it is a good time to look forward to what the team faces in the offseason. Thomas Dundon is now the majority owner of the Hurricanes, so I’m in an optimistic mood, so I am very interested to see how this summer plays out, both on and off the ice. I could talk all day about what expectations both the fans and Dundon have about changing the PNC Arena atmosphere, but for now I will just take a look at how the roster is shaping up.
Here’s a look at the current Hurricanes roster, their stats, and their contract situation:
Jordan Staal- 44GP, 13G, 15A, 28pts ($6M AAV through 22-23)
Victor Rask- 42GP, 11G, 3A, 14pts ($4M AAV through 21-22)
Derek Ryan- 43GP, 9G, 14A, 23pts (UFA)
Marcus Kruger- 39GP, 1G, 4A, 5pts ($3,083,333M AAV through 18-19)
Lucas Wallmark- 3GP, 1G, 0A, 1pt (RFA)
Sebastian Aho- 44GP, 16G, 21A, 37pts ($925K through 18-19)
Jeff Skinner- 44GP, 14G, 15A, 29pts ($5.725M AAV through 18-19)
Brock McGinn- 43GP, 7G, 9A, 16pts ($887.5K through 18-19)
Joakim Nordstrom- 43GP, 2G, 2A, 4pts (RFA)
Phil Di Giuseppe- 17GP, 0G, 1A, 1pt (RFA)
Teuvo Teravainen- 44GP, 11G, 24A, 35pts ($2.86M AAV through 18-19)
Justin Williams- 44GP, 7G, 20A, 27pts ($4.5M AAV through 18-19)
Elias Lindholm- 43GP, 12G, 13A, 25pts (RFA)
Josh Jooris- 29GP, 3G, 3A, 6pts (UFA)
Lee Stempniak- 1GP, 0G, 1A, 1pt (UFA)
Left Handed Defensemen:
Noah Hanifin- 44GP, 7G, 14A, 21pts (RFA)
Jaccob Slavin- 44GP, 3G, 9A, 12pts ($5.3M AAV through 23-24)
Haydn Fleury- 35GP, 0G, 6A, 6pts ($863,333K through 18-19)
Klas Dahlbeck- 14GP, 0G, 1A, 1pt (RFA)
Right Handed Defensemen:
Justin Faulk- 44GP, 4G, 10A, 14pts ($4,833,333M AAV through 19-20)
Brett Pesce- 39GP, 0G, 9A, 9pts ($4.025 through 23-24)
Trevor van Riemsdyk- 41GP, 1G, 7A, 8pts (RFA)
Scott Darling- 27GP (25GS), 9-11-6, 2.90GAA, .896SV% ($4.15M through 20-21)
Cam Ward- 19GP (19GS), 11-5-2, 2.85GAA, .904SV%, 1 shutout (UFA)
Let’s start off just looking at the NHL team. It’s safe to assume that Hanifin will be extended on a long term deal (4-5+ years) and will probably make close to $5M per season. Lindholm should also be extended, and I’m expecting that deal to be in the 3-4 years, $4M per year range. Hanifin is currently on his entry level contract making $925K, and Lindholm is currently making $2.7M.
Trevor van Riemsdyk has been very good this season, and I would argue that he has been the best offseason acquisition for the Canes to this point. He will likely be extended as well, possibly in the 2-3 year, $2.5-3M AAV range. Lucas Wallmark has yet to see a full season in the NHL, but he has had a good season with Charlotte this year. It’s almost a guarantee that he is given another two-way deal.
After those four, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the remaining expiring contracts. Derek Ryan has had a very good season as the third line center, but if the team brings Martin Necas to the NHL next season as anticipated, there may not be room for Ryan on this roster. Josh Jooris is also an UFA, and he has been a solid fourth line player. Nothing more, nothing less. I think Jooris is a nice type of player to have on a roster, but we’ll get into whether or not he fits a little bit later. Lee Stempniak just made his season debut, and while he played well, I can’t see Stempniak returning to the Canes next season. The roster is going to be too crowded.
Joakim Nordstrom has been a solid player for the Canes, and he’s just a guy who gives it all. He’s not going to put up points, and he’s not going to look flashy. He is a good penalty killer, and he gives it all. While I like Nordstrom, is there room for him on the roster next season? Same thing with Di Giuseppe. With Stempniak returning to the team, Phil may not even make it to the end of the season on the roster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as part of a trade.
I would just like to say that this team would be worse without Klas Dahlbeck. Yeah, I said it. Dahlbeck is a tough player that brings needed physicality to the Canes’ lineup. He is polarizing, and when he’s not on his game he can be rough to watch. But when he is on he makes a noticeable difference on the team. Dahlbeck is a fine 7th defenseman who can step in when needed, and I would be fine with him back in the same role next season.
And the most polarizing player in Carolina Hurricanes history goes to….. Cam Ward! Ward had his annual November hot streak, but he’s fallen back off since then. His .904 save percentage isn’t ideal, but I guess it could be worse. Scott Darling has a .896 save percentage, so… Whether or not Ward returns next season lies 100% on the shoulders of Darling. I have been a huge advocate of the optimistic approach to Darling. He hasn’t been good enough to this point. But if he can find his game and play well down the stretch, which I believe he will, then I think that the organization would feel comfortable with Darling as the starter next season and letting Ward walk and look elsewhere for a backup. But, if Darling continues to struggle, it’s easy to see the team bringing Ward back yet again and hoping that his annual November run runs all the way into April.
But what moves will be made?
There are a couple of top end forwards available as UFAs, most notably John Tavares. Josh Bailey and Evander Kane are two other forwards available as UFAs, but if I’m being truly realistic, I can’t see the team coming to an agreement with any of those guys. The only way I see it happening is if the Canes traded for Tavares at the trade deadline, which is probably more unrealistic then signing him in the first place. (NOTE: please sign Tavares, I do want him. I just can’t see it.)
The team as I see it has a hole in the lineup, the final right wing spot. Should the team go the free agency route to fill that hole, there are a number of cheap options. But, the most likely scenario is to stay in house, and bring back one (or more) of Nordstrom, Ryan, Jooris, or even Stempniak. Warren Foegele may also earn a look in the NHL next season. What do I see happening? Re-sign Derek Ryan and Joakim Nordstrom to one year deals.
There isn’t really much of a reason for the team to make any moves defensively unless they make a trade. If someone like Faulk is moved for a forward, a signing is justifiable, but I also think Roland McKeown would be perfectly fine on the bottom pair next season.
Like I mentioned earlier, the goaltending situation is all going to depend on how Darling plays this season. For the purposes of speculation and optimism, let’s say Darling does play well down the stretch. If that happens, like I said before, I would expect Ward to walk, which means the team would need to find a backup goalie. One intriguing option to me for a backup goalie is Aaron Dell. Dell is an UFA this summer, and he has an impressive .926SV% in 16 games with San Jose this season. Anton Khudobin has also played well for Boston this year, as has Ondrej Pavelec with New York and Darcy Kuemper with Los Angeles. All are potential acquisitions. There are a number of ways for the team to go in net, but it’s pretty hard to try and gauge what could happen at this point. The second half of the season will tell us everything we need to know.
SCENARIO ONE: no acquisitions from outside of the organization (not counting the backup goalie situation)
While that roster is by no means bad, I think the team would be one shift and one trade away from truly being scary. The shift? Sebastian Aho to center. The trade? Mike Hoffman. Hoffman is reportedly available from the Senators, and he would be a very welcome addition to this team. A package for Hoffman probably starts with Victor Rask and our 2018 first round pick, but I could see Ottawa having interest in Jake Bean as well. Because I don’t think there would be a spot on this roster for Rask with Aho shifting to the middle and Hoffman added to the mix, we will assume that Ottawa takes him and our 2018 first round pick for Hoffman and hope for the best. (I think it will be slightly more expensive than that)
SCENARIO TWO: The Hoffman effect
Adding a guy like Mike Hoffman to this team would do wonders. It would give the Canes more flexibility should they move Aho to center and bring Necas overseas. Necas’s transition to a full time NHL role would be interesting to watch, but (according to my roster), Derek Ryan would be there which would give the team a proven 3C should Necas struggle.
No matter how you look at it, this team has a lot of decisions to make in the offseason, and with an increasing cap and an increasing budget (hopefully, thanks Dundon), the team is in a prime position to spend and improve. This will be one of the most intriguing and interesting offseasons in Hurricanes history, mainly because of new ownership. With a new sense of hope of change regarding both the on ice performance and the off ice atmosphere, I’m very excited to see how things turn out. And so should the rest of you.
I’ll take a deeper dive into the offseason later on in the season, and there will be my full organizational look into contracts. There I will have both NHL predictions as well as AHL predictions. But, for now, let’s just enjoy the high note of new ownership and call it a day, a great day to be part of the #Redvolution.