Canes Mid-Season Review: Defense and Goaltenders

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Defense

Jaccob Slavin

Season Stats: 50 games played, 5 goals, 18 assists, 23 points, 18:33 ES TOI/game, 2:03 PP TOI/game, 2:25 PK TOI/game

Jaccob Slavin is the anchor to the Hurricanes defense. He is relied on in every situation, and he excels in every situation that he is put into. Slavin is tied for fourth in the NHL with 57 takeaways, which leads all NHL defensemen and trails only Mark Stone, Connor McDavid, and Aleksander Barkov, all of which have a case to be made as a Selke Trophy candidate. That speaks volumes about Slavin’s ability as a shutdown defender. Slavin is also an excellent skater, which is an underrated part of his game. He looks to be a very good number one defenseman, and the Canes are lucky to have him on such a team-friendly deal.

Grade: A+

Calvin de Haan

Season Stats: 50 games played, 1 goal, 10 assists, 11 points, 17:04 ES TOI/game, 2:01 PK TOI/game

The Hurricanes signed de Haan this summer to a four-year deal that pays him just over $4.5million per year. de Haan ranks third on the Hurricanes with 48 takeaways, which is tied for 16th in the NHL and ranks him 6th among NHL defensemen. I have been really impressed with the acquisition of de Haan. He has a history of injuries, but he has shown that he can stay healthy so far this season, and he has been a huge part of the top four of the Hurricanes’ defense.

Grade: B+

Haydn Fleury

Season Stats: 12 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, 11:57 ES TOI/game

Fleury has spent just 10 games in the NHL this season. Personally, I think that Fleury was playing well for the most part before being sent down to the AHL, but he hasn’t done enough to warrant keeping him as a regular NHL player. I think that Fleury deserves another chance on the Hurricanes’ bottom defensive pairing. Fleury was able to rejoin the NHL lineup for a couple of games before the All-star break, but he was the 7th defenseman and wasn’t able to find a true pair. Unfortunately for Fleury, the depth chart is getting tighter and tighter, and if he doesn’t step up and prove that he deserves to be a part of this team moving forward, he might be overpassed by the likes of Jake Bean and Adam Fox.

Grade: C-

Brett Pesce

Season Stats: 41 games played, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, 16:42 ES TOI/game, 2:40 PK TOI/game

Pesce has missed some time due to injury this season, but otherwise he has been solid. His 11 points over 41 games would have him on pace for a career-high 22 points over an 82-game schedule. Pesce is always solid when he plays next to Jaccob Slavin, and typically that is what happens. I don’t think that Pesce has been quite as dominant as he was last season, but he has still been a pretty reliable shutdown defenseman. I have worries about Pesce’s long term ability to stay healthy, but otherwise he is also on a very team-friendly deal and the Hurricanes are lucky to have him. Please do not trade him. Ever.

Grade: B+

Dougie Hamilton

Season Stats: 50 games played, 8 goals, 11 assists, 19 points, 17:04 ES TOI/game, 2:07 PP TOI/game

While NHL media might make it out to sound that Hamilton has had a bad season, he really hasn’t. Yes, Hamilton did have a little bit of a rough transition to his new team, but that is to be expected. Hamilton has really turned it up as of late, though, and he has 8 goals, which leads Hurricanes’ defensemen. I think that it is silly that Hamilton does not lead Hurricanes’ defensemen in Powerplay time on ice, but hopefully that evens out over time. I am a huge fan of the game that Hamilton plays, and he is a great guy to have around. Hamilton’s name has come up in trade rumors as of late as the team looks to add a top six forward. While I believe that the team should hold on to Hamilton, he presents more trade value than Justin Faulk, making a potential move of Hamilton somewhat justified.

Grade: B

Justin Faulk

Season Stats: 50 games played, 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points, 17:15 ES TOI/game, 3:05 PP TOI/game, 1:52 PK TOI/game

A couple of seasons ago, Faulk was one of the premier offensive defensemen in the NHL. He was a constant threat to lead NHL defensemen in goals, and he was a Powerplay monster. Now, Faulk is one pace to score around 5 goals. He still leads Hurricanes’ defensemen in Powerplay time on ice, and he just isn’t proving to be the best option for that role. For a player whose offensive strengths are supposed to outweigh his struggles on defense, he sure isn’t putting up a lot of offense. I don’t think that Faulk has struggled quite as much as he did last year, but he doesn’t seem to be the elite offensive defenseman that he once was. He is a free agent after the 2019-2020 season, and I believe that if the Hurricanes were to trade a defenseman, Faulk would be my choice to go.

Grade: C

Trevor van Riemsdyk

Season Stats: 46 games played, 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points, 14:00 ES TOI/game, 1:06 PK TOI/game

The Hurricanes signed van Riemsdyk this summer to a two-year deal to be a bottom pairing defenseman, and he has been exactly that. van Riemsdyk isn’t going to blow you away with skill, but he is a solid, quiet defender in the right role. Playing on his off-side this year on the bottom pairing has been a learning curve for van Riemsdyk, but I think that he has been solid overall. If the Hurricanes decide that they want to trade one of Pesce, Hamilton, or Faulk, then van Riemsdyk is almost certain to finish out his contract as a Hurricane. But, if the team holds on to all three of those guys, or they trade one and Adam Fox pushes for a roster spot, then van Riemsdyk would either be traded or stuck as the 7th defenseman.

Grade: C

Goaltenders

Petr Mrazek

Season Stats: 23 starts, 10-10-3 record, .894 SV%, 2.81 GAA, 1 shutout.

The numbers do not treat Mrazek well, but he really has been a welcome addition for the Hurricanes. Mrazek plays an aggressive game and sometimes that leaves him out to try and creates easy offensive chances for the opposition. But, Mrazek is capable of being the rock that keeps a team in the game. He has let in some questionable goals, but overall Mrazek has been solid as a Hurricane. He is due to be a free agent again after this season, and personally I don’t think that he will return. Mrazek will likely want to explore the idea of a two- or three-year deal as a starter if the opportunity arises, but I think that the Hurricanes are better off looking for a true and proven starting goaltender.

Grade: C+

Curtis McElhinney

Season Stats: 18 starts, 11-6-1 record, .914 SV%, 2.50 GAA.

A waiver claim as the season was just getting underway, McElhinney has been great for the Hurricanes. While McElhinney is 35 years old, he came in and immediately gave the team a huge spark and hope for the goaltending position. McElhinney is best suited as a NHL backup, and not being relied on to play in 50+ games. I could see the Hurricanes exploring the trade market for McElhinney, but in the end I think that he will remain on the roster for this season. His status for next season will depend on a) if the Hurricanes add an upgrade at the starter position and b) if the team feels as if Alex Nedeljkovic is ready to get a true taste of the NHL.

Grade: B+

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