|From Getty Images.|
The Hurricanes just have a really nice team. That's not a really a good first sentence, it is also all I could think about when looking at their roster. Besides Sebastian Aho, no one makes an enormous amount of money, and even Aho's contract is good. While they have a lot of people with cap hits between $2-$5 million, the Hurricanes have a very balanced roster with not a lot of cap problems at the moment. They move into a division with less competitors, but with both Stanley Cup finalists. It's interesting that they didn't get a goalie, so at the moment, there is that one weakness that stands out.
Additions: F Jesper Fast, D Joakim Ryan, F Drew Shore, F Jeremy Bracco.
Subtractions: F Justin Williams, D Joel Edmundson, D Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Best Move: Signing F Jesper Fast to a three year deal.
Worst Move: Not acquiring a goaltender and moving on from Petr Mrazek
One Move I'd Make: Trade away F Jordan Martinook for cap flexibility and to make room for young talent.
Best Contract: Jaccob Slavin, five years remaining with a $5.3 million cap hit.
Worst Contract: Brady Skjei, four years remaining at $5.25 million per year.
New Division Rivals: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay.
Pending UFAs: Dougie Hamilton, James Reimer, Petr Mrazek, Ryan Dzingel, Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinook, Joakim Ryan.
Pending RFAs: Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele, Morgan Geekie.
Even 2019-20 was the only of his four seasons where he wasn't nominated for a major award, Sebastian Aho went on a goal scoring rampage. He scored 38 times, beating his previous career high by eight, and in only 68 games. He finished with 66 points, nearly hitting the point-per-game rate he had the season before. This goal outbreak can probably be thanks to a massive increase in shooting percentage, up to 18.4%. But, Aho still scored 30 goals with a 12.3 shooting percentage the year prior. Teuvo Teravainen only scored 15 times, but had an astounding 48 assists. He finished 5th in Lady Byng voting. After a good, but nothing special rookie season, Andrei Svechnikov showed why he was the second overall pick. He scored 24 times with 37 assists for 61 points in 68 games, and had a very high 14.2 Goals Above Replacement (GAR). A 2017 1st round pick, Martin Necas finally became a regular, and had a nice under-the-radar rookie season. he scored 16 goals with 36 points playing middle-six minutes. After coming over from Minnesota last year, Nino Niederreiter had 30 points in 36 games. In 67 games this year, he had less points, with 29. He still had a positive expected +/- (the difference of your xGF and xGA), so he isn't a bad player despite him being a healthy scratch in the playoffs. The Hurricanes got Vincent Trocheck from the Panthers at the trade deadline, and he didn't really fit in to start. He had two points in seven games and was a -5, and he took 16 penalty minutes. It didn't get much better in the playoffs, as he had two assists in eight games. Let's give him a full season before we can judge him in Carolina. The longest tenured and second-oldest player on the team (he's only 32!), Jordan Staal has seen a dip in points over the past two years, but he is still a Selke candidate. He had a 55.7 CF%, and per Evolving-Hockey, he had a higher DEF than OFF. Warren Foegele scored 13 times with 17 assists for 30 points in 68 games, which is third line production. He received a nice pay raise in the offseason, signing a one year, $2.15 million contract as an RFA. Speaking of wingers with third line production, the Hurricanes signed Jesper Fast, who has consistently put up between 20-30 points a season, to a three year deal with a surprisingly low $2 million cap hit. Fast's right handed shot on a lefty-heavy team will fit in nicely. Ryan Dzingel signed with Carolina after a career high 26 goal season, and it didn't go well. He scored just eight times, although his assists brought his point total up to 29, which is still his worst in a full season. A sharp decline in ice time with a new, better team could be the reason for the decrease in production. Like Dzingel, Brock McGinn also saw a decrease in production last year. His seven goals in a season were only lower in his 21 game 2015-16 season, and he had a negative expected +/-. Jordan Martinook had a really nice 2018-19, but he went back to what he was in Arizona last year. Scoring just two goals with 11 assists in 45 games made Martinook a fourth liner at best, who is fighting for a spot in the lineup. The main competitor for Martinook is Morgan Geekie, a 3rd rounder in 2017 who scored three goals in his first two NHL games last year. Geekie played in eight playoff games, but only had one assist. He had 54 points in 55 AHL games. Drew Shore returns to North America after a KHL stint. He has played in 94 NHL games for the Canucks, Flames and Panthers. Shore had 27 points in 43 games in Russia last year.
Unless something drastic happens, the main priority for Carolina next offseason will be to retain Dougie Hamilton. He'll be a free agent after this year, and he played in 47 games in 2019-20, he had his best offense season, scoring 14 goals with 26 assists for 40 points. His goals per game and assists per game were career highs. That is also about a 24 goal pace in an 82 game season, and for a defenseman. Not to mention, he had a really good season defensively as well, cementing himself as a legitimate top-pairing guy. Hamilton's partner, Jaccob Slavin, is also very underrated. Slavin finished 4th in Byng voting and 5th in Norris voting last year. In the past four seasons, Slavin hasn't missed a game, and has at least 30 points each year. In 2019-20, Slavin had an astronomical GAR of 16.5. Jake Gardiner was an analytics darling over his time in Toronto, but that fell off last year, as his GAR went from 12.7 in 2018-19 to -7.3 last year, which is quite the drop. Gardiner finished with 24 points, a mark he's never had lower than in a full year. The only man to rival Gardiner's spot on the second pairing is Brady Skjei, who the Hurricanes traded a first rounder for at the deadline. Skjei played in 15 games with the Canes, if you combine the playoffs, and had three assists. Like Gardiner, Skjei has seen his analytical stats plummet, but for Skjei it is more of a three year thing with one good year rather than Gardiner's consistency followed by a one year drop-off. One of Skjei or Gardiner will partner with Brett Pesce, the consistent second pairing right-handed defenseman for the Hurricanes. Pesce had 18 points in 61 games, although he missed the playoffs with a shoulder injury that caused him to miss time in the regular season. Just like other Carolina defensemen, Pesce saw a little drop-off defensively. Even though he had 87 games of experience going into the season, Haydn Fleury scored his first four NHL goals last year. Fleury's CF% of 53.3 was a career high. Former first rounder Jake Bean only has two career NHL games under his belt, but he had 48 points in 59 AHL games. He won't be the actual seventh defenseman, but he'll probably be called up if someone gets injured long-term. The actual seventh defenseman will be Joakim Ryan, a 27 year old New Jersey native who appeared in 35 games for Los Angeles last year. He averaged over 19 minutes a night in those games.
Goaltending is where things get shaky here. I felt that the Hurricanes should have went after one of the cheaper goaltending options on the free agency market, with Cam Talbot being a good fit. While I felt that they should have shopped Petr Mrazek entering a contract year, he enters as the 1B. After a nice first season in Carolina, Mrazek regressed, with a .905 SV% and a negative GSAA. He only started five of their eight playoff games. The other three went to James Reimer, who was the better goalie in the regular season, but he played in 15 less games. Reimer had a .914 SV% with a 2.66 GAA and a 3.38 GSAA. Alex Nedeljkovic appeared in four games in the NHL last year, and had a 2.49 GAA in 29 AHL games.
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Martin Necas
Warren Foegele - Vincent Trocheck - Jesper Fast
Ryan Dzingel - Jordan Martinook - Brock McGinn
Extras: Morgan Geekie, Drew Shore
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Jake Gardiner - Brett Pesce
Brady Skjei - Haydn Fleury
Extras: Jake Bean, Joakim Ryan
Extras: Alex Nedeljkovic
The Hurricanes are a team that everyone fears when they play them. Maybe not on the level of Tampa Bay, Boston or even Vegas, but they have that respect around the league. They have a very deep forward and defensive core. If they didn't have a weakness at goaltending, they could compete with the Lightning. I think that the Hurricanes will finish ahead of the Western Conference champion Dallas Stars, and in second place in their division.