The Carolina Hurricanes front office has had a busy 2018 offseason. The first summer under the Dundon regime has proven that the team is doing everything it can to put a winning team on the ice in October. Aside from miraculously landing forward Andrei Svechnikov in the draft and bringing in goaltender Petr Mrazek, the moves made by the team this summer have addressed the defense. A draft day trade sent Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to Calgary in exchange for Defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Adam Fox as well as forward Michael Ferland. The Canes also made a splash in free agency by bringing in the top available defenseman, Calvin De Haan. So what do these defensive acquisitions mean for the future of the organizations defense?
The Hurricanes already had a talented defensive corps that was the envy of most organizations league wide; however, the team has taken another step forward by solidifying its top four. As it stands today, the Hurricanes likely have a top four consisting of Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Calvin De Haan, and Brett Pesce. The Canes added a top 10 defenseman in the league in Dougie Hamilton. He is everything the team had hoped Justin Faulk would be. He is an offensively gifted right-handed defenseman. He and Ivan Provorov tied for the league lead in goals by defensemen in 2018. Hamilton is also no slouch in his own end. He and Jaccob Slavin will combine to make a balanced top pairing for the Canes that can do its job in its own end, while also driving the offense from the back end. De Haan is a reliable two-way defender who can provide an offensive boost from the back end while also being sturdy in his own end. He is a left-handed defenseman that will fill the hole left by Noah Hanifin on the left side. He and Brett Pesce will likely combine to be the Canes stalwart shut-down pairing.
With the top four being all but written in stone, the only question that remains is the state of the bottom pairing. The Canes have five players in the organization that will have to battle it out for the final two spots. Because Noah Hanfifn has been shipped out, the Canes are likely committing themselves long-term to young LHD Haydn Fleury. GM Don Waddell has also gone on the record to say the team is close to reaching a deal with Trevor Van Riemsdyk. This means that last year’s bottom pairing will likely return this coming season. However, Trevor Carrick was just given a one year contract by the organization, and Rowland McKeown has also shown flashes of being ready to step into the NHL. Carrick and McKeown will battle it out in training camp for the 7th defenseman slot on the roster come opening night.
This all leaves one large, looming question: What about Justin Faulk? Faulk, despite his struggles, is a top four defenseman in the NHL, and is arguably a better right handed option than TVR. However, he would not thrive in a bottom pairing role, and the role would not justify his contract. While Faulk could slip into Pesce’s spot in the middle pairing, the team has committed itself to Pesce long-term by giving him a a contract extension through 2024. Given this commitment to Pesce, it makes sense for the Hurricanes to cash in on Faulk’s trade value at the moment. Many teams have reportedly been interested in acquiring Faulk this summer, and it shouldn’t be hard for the Canes to find a trade partner. Detroit has reportedly been in on acquiring him. Toronto needs to build a defense to accompany their ridiculous offensive corps. The Senators may also become interested in Faulk if they do eventually trade away Erik Karlsson for whatever reason they could come up with to justify that. Needless to say, there are teams who need to add talented defenseman that would be interested in taking a flyer on Faulk. With the Canes current defensive corps, there isn’t room for Faulk, and I would not be surprised if he is dealt before training camp.
I would expect to see an opening night roster that consists of the following lineup:
The Checkers and Organizational Prospects
The additions of De Haan and Hamilton mean that the gaps on the left and right side have been filled. Thus, the Hurricanes top defensive prospects will start the season in the AHL. If he doesn’t beat out Trevor Carrick for the 7th D spot, Rowland McKeown will return to Charlotte for another season of development. 2016 first round pick Jake Bean will make his professional hockey debut this season with the Checkers as well. This shows that the Canes are committed to being patient with the development of their defensemen. Haydn Fluery played out all of his junior eligibility before moving up to Charlotte where he played two seasons before cracking the NHL roster. Its a win-win for the Canes. They have crafted an NHL defensive corps that will give them chances to win games while also being patient with their prospects, allowing them to cook a little longer in the AHL, juniors, and college. Not rushing Bean is the smart move, and is no cause for concern.
Adam Fox is a top defensive prospect acquired in the Hanifin trade. He impressed management and fans alike during prospects camp, and he will be a solid piece for the canes moving forward, if he signs. He has made it clear that he wishes to return to Harvard for another season, which is no detriment to the Canes. Fox will be able to fine-tune his game in college before turning pro. Although they have a good group of NHL level RHDs, the organization was lacking in right-handed prospects outside of McKeown and Luke Martin. Fox beefs up the prospect pool on the right side. The Canes future defense is in good hands with the likes of Fox and Bean.
Aside from Bean and Fox, the Canes still have some talented prospects on the backend down the pipeline. 2017 draftee Brandon De Jong showed improvement during his 2018 junior campaign. Luke Martin has had a good start to his collegiate career. He led Michigan in blocked shots in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. While he isn’t a stellar offensively, he is a solid shutdown defenseman that could make waves within the organization in a few years. Noah Carrol had a much improved season in 2018. He finished the 2018 OHL season with a career high 37 points (previous best was 12). While there is concern about his defensive ability, he has shown some offensive promise.
The Canes also signed 6’3 210lbs AHL veteran Dan Renouf to a one year deal. He is a left-handed defenseman that will add a veteran presence to a young Charlotte blue line.
The Canes busy offseason has given a facelift to an already impressive defense.
OUT: Noah Hanifin, Klas Dahlbeck, Justin Faulk(?)
IN: Dougie Hamilton(!!!), Calvin De Haan(!!!), Adam Fox, Dan Renouf
Only time will tell how the future will play out for the Canes top defensive prospects, but for now the NHL group is as solid as the team could ask for, and it will give the team a chance to win night after night.