The NHL Entry Draft is here, and the Carolina Hurricanes hold the 28th overall pick in the first round. The first round of the draft will take place at 8:00 on Friday night, with rounds 2-7 getting underway at 11:00 on Saturday morning.
The Hurricanes hold a league high ten picks in the 2019 draft. Here is a breakdown of where the Hurricanes will be drafting:
1st round- 28th overall
2nd round- 36th overall (Acquired from Buffalo as part of Jeff Skinner trade)
2nd round- 37th overall (Acquired from New York Rangers as part of Adam Fox trade)
2nd round- 59th overall
3rd round- 90th overall
4th round- 121st overall
5th round- 152nd overall
6th round- 181st overall (Acquired from Calgary as part of Eddie Lack trade)
6th round- 183rd overall
7th round- 216th overall (Acquired from New York Rangers)
Hurricanes’ owner Tom Dundon has made it very clear that the team will not be drafting a defenseman with their first-round selection. The team needs to add offensive skill and goal-scoring prospects to the system. At 28th overall, it is unlikely that any selection will make an immediate impact at the NHL level. There are a lot of different possibilities at 28th overall, but it is difficult to predict who will be there for the team to select due to the uncertainty of the draft.
What is intriguing is the number of second and third round picks the Hurricanes hold. The pipeline is relatively well-stocked, so do the Canes really need to make all four of those picks? The answer is no. The team has a clear need for offense at the NHL level, and those second and third round picks are great ammunition to make a move for that.
There are quite a few teams around the NHL that are going to be tight on the salary cap limit this summer. The San Jose Sharks have just about $15 million in cap space left, and they still have to sign Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Timo Meir, Kevin Labanc, Gustav Nyquist among others. Meir tallied 30 goals and 66 points in 78 games this past season, and he would be an intriguing option for the Canes to explore. He is an upcoming Restricted Free Agent, although I doubt that the Sharks would let him go.
The Vegas Golden Knights are completely out of cap space at the current moment, and William Karlsson headlines their free agency class. Karlsson is a RFA, and the Hurricanes should have interest in him should the Knights look to move him. Reilly Smith is another player that makes sense here for the Hurricanes.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have just $5 million left in cap space, and they are likely looking to make some changes to their roster. Phil Kessel and Patrik Hornqvist have been rumored to be on the block, although recent reports suggest that Kessel will not be traded. I doubt that the Hurricanes are an option for either player, although it is worth keeping an eye on.
The Winnipeg Jets have already started making changes to their roster. They sent defenseman Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in exchange for Neil Pionk and the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft. Forward Nikolaj Ehlers is believed to be available in trade, and rumors suggest that the Jets have offered Ehlers to the Hurricanes as part of a package surrounding a right-handed defenseman. Ehlers, still just 23 years old, is a three-time 20 goal scorer in the NHL. While he is coming off of a down year with just 37 points, his speed and ability to create offense would be a great fit on the Hurricanes roster. Ehlers is probably one of the more realistic trade options for the Hurricanes.
While Brett Pesce seems to be atop many team’s wish lists, and despite the entire city of Toronto believing they can acquire him for two bottom six forwards, he is on a very team-friendly contract and is unlikely to be traded. Two other right-handed defensemen on the Hurricanes are far more likely to be on the way out.
Justin Faulk has one year left on his current contract before he becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent. Faulk and the Hurricanes will meet this weekend about a contract extension, and if the two sides are far apart on terms, Faulk could be the one on his way out. Faulk is a consistent 30-point defenseman, and he has a hard shot, and he scored 11 goals this season for the Canes.
Dougie Hamilton has bounced around a lot in his young career. He is still just 26, and he scored a career-high 18 goals this season. Hamilton is good for around 15 goals and 40 points every year, and he fit in very well on the Hurricanes this year. Hamilton is under contract for two more years before he hits unrestricted free agency.
While Haydn Fleury is a left-handed defenseman, it’s possible that he is on his way out of Raleigh as well. I am a fan of Fleury, and it is clear that he has outgrown the AHL. He hasn’t been spectacular in his time in the NHL, but he also hasn’t gotten a lot of minutes when he has been up. Fleury can not be sent back to the AHL without clearing waivers, so he is going to be on a NHL roster at the start of next season. While Calvin de Haan and Trevor van Riemsdyk are not going to be ready to start the season, there is a logjam on defense. Jaccob Slavin, Pesce, Faulk, and Hamilton occupy top four spots, while Fleury, Jake Bean, Roland McKeown, Trevor Carrick, Jesper Sellgren, and a few others will contend for a spot on the bottom defensive pairing to open the year. If Fleury loses out on the battle for a roster spot, it is likely that he is on his way to a new team.
All signs point to both Hurricanes goalies- Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney- testing free agency this summer. The Canes would like to bring both goalies back, as they gave the team stable and above average goaltending for the first time in what seems like forever. Mrazek is likely looking for at least three-year deal, and both he and McElhinney will be looking for raises from their previous contracts. If the Canes fail to retain both Mrazek and McElhinney, and if they buy out Scott Darling as reports indicate they intend to, that leaves Alex Nedeljkovic as the lone goaltender for next season. Nedeljkovic likely needs to be eased into the starting role, so if this is the case, the team could look to add a goaltender via trade or free agency.
It is very unlikely that the Hurricanes make all ten of their selections in this weekend’s draft. The team has holes to fill, and there are plenty of opportunities to fill them. The Canes need to take advantage of their surplus of assets and find a deal that makes sense for them. The team needs offense, and there are plenty of ways for that to be addressed. I’d be very surprised if the team made more than seven or eight of their ten selections this weekend.