Last season, the Carolina Hurricanes finally broke through and qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009.
After winning 31 of their last 45 regular season games, the Hurricanes were not willing to settle for simply making the playoffs. The Canes faced the defending champion Washington Capitals in the first round, and rallied back from a 3-2 series deficit to win the series in double-overtime in game seven on the road.
The Canes then went on to sweep the New York Islanders, who surprisingly swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one, in the second round. The Boston Bruins ended up sweeping the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final, marking an end to an incredible run for the young Hurricanes.
After finally returning to postseason hockey, the Hurricanes do not want to experience another playoff drought. To try and ensure a return to the playoffs next season, the Hurricanes needed to capitalize on their young core and continue adding talent to their roster. Did they do that?
Let’s take a look at the Hurricanes’ offseason so far:
Restricted Free Agents:
The headline of the Hurricanes’ offseason has undoubtedly been the Montreal Canadiens offer-sheeting Restricted Free Agent Sebastian Aho. Shortly after the offer-sheet was announced, the Hurricanes made it very clear that they would match the offer. After officially matching the offer-sheet, Aho is now under contract for five years on a deal that comes with a cap hit of $8.454 million per season.
Forward Clark Bishop and defenseman Gustav Forsling were both signed to one-year, two-way contracts. Bishop, 23, played in 20 NHL games last season while the Hurricanes dealt with injuries to Jordan Staal. Bishop only tallied three points, but he looked impressive while playing in a fourth-line checking role. Forsling, 23, was acquired via trade from the Chicago Blackhawks, and tallied nine points while playing in 43 games with Chicago last season.
Defenseman Haydn Fleury was signed to a one-year contract that will pay him $850,000. Fleury, 23, split last season between the Hurricanes and their AHL-affiliate Charlotte Checkers. Fleury has proven that he has outgrown the AHL, but he has struggled to solidify a full-time role with the Canes. He will have the chance to earn a third-pairing role during training camp, as the team traded away Calvin de Haan and Fleury cannot be sent back to the AHL without passing through waivers.
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic was signed to a two-year deal and will compete for the Canes’ backup job during training camp. Nedeljkovic, 23, has been viewed as the Canes’ goalie of the future, and he is coming off of a very strong season in the AHL.
Forward Brock McGinn has filed for salary arbitration. McGinn, 25, scored the series-clinching goal in double-overtime of game seven against the Capitals, and he filed for $2.7 million. The Canes came in at $1.75 million. The arbitration meeting is this Saturday, where an arbitrator will settle the contract unless an agreement is made before. Saku Maenalanen is also still unsigned. If he returns, he is likely slated to begin as the extra forward in the NHL or will play in the AHL.
Defensemen Trevor Carrick and Roland McKeown are also still unsigned. Both are likely to return and compete for a roster spot out of training camp. With Trevor van Riemsdyk recovering from an injury, his spot might be open to start the season. Carrick and McKeown have a shot to earn that spot with a strong camp, and both are candidates to stay on the roster as the seventh defenseman if van Riemsdyk is healthy.
Goaltender Anton Forsberg is the last Canes’ RFA that is unsigned. Forsberg, if signed, should be the starting goaltender in the AHL for Charlotte unless Nedeljkovic plays in the AHL for another year.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
The Hurricanes lost a lot of AHL talent and NHL depth to Unrestricted Free Agency. Forwards Patrick Brown (Vegas- two years), Andrew Poturalski (Anaheim- one year), Greg McKegg (New York Rangers- one year), and Micheal Ferland (Vancouver- four years) all signed elsewhere. Hurricanes’ captain Justin Williams remains unsigned. It seems as if he is either going to return for another year with the Canes or retire. I would expect a decision within the next month or so. Defenseman Dan Renouf also signed a two-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
Coming into the summer, goaltending was yet again a big question mark for the Hurricanes. After finally getting quality goaltending at the NHL level from Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney, both remained UFAs as free agency got underway. Mrazek eventually re-signed with the Hurricanes on a two-year deal that will carry a cap hit of $3.125 million per year. McElhinney, however, signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Hurricanes also made a splash in signing UFA forward Ryan Dzingel. The former Senator and Blue Jacket had a career year split between the two teams, scoring 26 goals and 56 points in 78 games. Dzingel is known for being a sniper and having a high shooting percentage, which is something that the Hurricanes have lacked. He will slide in nicely on the left wing in the top nine.
Defenseman Alex Lintuniemi was signed to a one-year contract, and he will serve as AHL depth for the Checkers.
The Hurricanes certainly made a splash in the trade market this summer. While some trades were somewhat expected, others came as a complete surprise.
- Hurricanes trade Nicolas Roy and a conditional 5th round pick to Vegas in exchange for forward Erik Haula
The Hurricanes were in need of more top-nine talent in their offense, and they get just that in Haula. He scored 29 goals with 55 points during the 2017-2018 season before missing the majority of last season with an injury. Roy will compete for a fourth-line role in Vegas, and he was unlikely to have a spot with the Hurricanes due to their organizational depth. The 5th round pick will only be given to Vegas if Haula is either on the Hurricanes’ roster beyond the 2019-2020 season or if he is traded to another team.
- Hurricanes trade Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela to Chicago in exchange for defenseman Gustav Forsling and goaltender Anton Forsberg
This trade came out of nowhere, and to many, was a head-scratcher. While de Haan has struggled to remain healthy in his career, he is a defensively strong and versatile defender who signed with the team just a year ago in free agency. Forsling and Forsberg have both struggled at the NHL level, so adding Saarela to this trade made it even more questionable. Forsling will compete for a bottom-pairing/extra defenseman role during camp, while Forsberg will look to have a strong season in the AHL if he is signed.
- Hurricanes trade a 2020 6th round pick to Toronto in exchange for Patrick Marleau and Toronto’s 2020 1st and 7th round picks
This was another head-scratcher, although in the opposite way of the trade with Chicago. The Hurricanes bought out Marleau, which means that they will give Toronto a 6th round pick in exchange for a conditional first round pick, a 7th round pick, and a little more than $6 million of dead money on the payroll. The Hurricanes should be able to re-sign their remaining free agents with their cap space, and they should have a little bit of wiggle room as well, making this a no-brainer for the team.
- Hurricanes trade Scott Darling and a 2020 6th round pick to Florida in exchange for goaltender James Reimer
There was no question about Darling being bought out, I just don’t think anybody expected any team except for the Hurricanes to be the one to do it. Reimer has never been spectacular, and his contract has two years left and pays him slightly more than $3 million per year. Reimer will compete for the backup job in training camp, and if he is deemed replaceable, he will be moved which will open up a spot for Nedeljkovic and clear some cap space for future moves.
The Hurricanes also traded away Adam Fox back in April. Fox was acquired last summer in the trade that brought Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton to Raleigh, but he made it clear that he wanted to play in New York. The Hurricanes received a 2nd round pick and a conditional 3rd round pick. If Fox plays 30 NHL games for the Rangers this year, the 3rd round pick will become another 2nd round pick. This didn’t happen during the offseason, but it was worth remembering.
IN: Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel, Gustav Forsling, Alex Lintuniemi, Patrick Marleau’s cap hit, Anton Forsberg, James Reimer, 2020 1st round pick, 2020 7th round pick.
OUT: Nicolas Roy, Aleksi Saarela, Micheal Ferland, Patrick Brown, Andrew Poturalski, Greg McKegg, Dan Renouf, Curtis McElhinney, conditional 2020 5th round pick, 2020 6th round pick, 2020 6th round pick.
It has certainly been a busy summer for Don Waddell and the Hurricanes. They aren’t done yet, but we are inching closer to training camp. Stay tuned within the next week or so, as I will follow up on this recap with a preview for the 2019-2020 roster!
If I missed any signings or trades, please let me know in the comments!