The 2021 Carolina Hurricanes won the one-time-only Central division, which can be seen as a successful campaign. But after closing out the Predators in 6 games in the playoffs, the Canes went out with a dud. Carolina fell in 5 to eventual cup champ Tampa Bay.
GM Don Waddell added depth to an already talented roster, in some cases with a dramatic flair (signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the first successful offer sheet since 2007). The existing talent combined with new depth added is going to be needed in the 2021-22 season, where the Hurricanes will be moving back to the ultra-competitive Metropolitan division.
According to dailyfaceoff.com, the forward lines project as:
Andrei Svechnikov- Sebastian Aho- Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter- Vincent Trochek- Martin Necas
Jesperi Kotkaniemi- Jordan Staal- Jesper Fast
Jordan Matinook- Steven Lorentz- Josh Leivo
Most teams can only dream about this kind of depth, with proven production and promise on every line. The top line of Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen continues to mature together and take the league by storm. Aho is continuing to evolve into an elite point-producing two-way center, throwing up 57 points while playing in all 56 games last year. Svechnikov is only getting better. He just turned 21 and is showing the dynamic play that made him the 2nd overall pick back in 2018.
The second line provides fantastic secondary scoring. Trochek found his offensive rhythm again in 2021, scoring at close to a point per game (43 points in 47 games). The question will be if he can keep it up over a full 82 game schedule and stay healthy too. He is recovering from an MCL sprain that limited him in the playoffs, but word is he should be 100% by the time training camp opens. Martin Necas is finally settling into the NHL, starting to show that he can consistently produce at a higher level.
The bottom six looks like a solid mix of size and skill that is so key to success in this league. Jesperi Kotkaniemi will have a chance to grow and make an impact while playing more sheltered minutes with veteran linemates Staal and Jesper Fast. Kotkaniemi also has the ability to play up in the lineup in case of injury. Daily Faceoff has young forward Steven Lorentz centering the fourth line, but newly acquired Derek Stepan makes more sense to fill that role. He is a proven veteran that is coming over on a league minimum contract. Lorentz’s big frame (6’4”, 206 lbs) will be a good piece to be able to sub in and out of the lineup.
According the dailyfaceoff.com, the defensive pairs project as:
Jacob Slavin- Brett Pesce
Brady Skjei- Tony Deangelo
Ian Cole- Ethan Bear
A defensive corp that is traditionally strong is staying that way, albeit with a different look than years past. Dougie Hamilton’s departure hurts, no two ways about that. His 42 points from the back end will be hard to replace, but the Canes made a couple moves to at least soften the blow. Ethan Bear coming over from Edmonton for depth piece Warren Foegele was one of many stellar moves by GM Waddell this summer. Bear is a young, mobile puck mover who is going to help transition pucks up to that stellar forward group. Ian Cole also comes over on a free agent deal, and he provides defensive stability and a strong veteran presence.
The Canes also added controversial defenseman Tony Deangelo via free agency. Deangelo was bought out by the Rangers after plenty of shenanigans that we don’t need to get into here. Character concerns aside, Deangelo was molding into a premiere offensive defenseman before being sent home and subsequently bought out. If he can find that level of production again while controlling the off-ice antics, this could be a risk that pays off for a lowly $1 million commitment for one year.
Carolina veterans Pesce and Slavin look to continue shutting down opposing teams top lines. They’ve been consistent at this for several seasons. Brady Skjei should continue to provide great offense from the back end in his first 82-game campaign with the club. Jake Gardiner will be missing the season with back/hip issues that have been plaguing him since he arrived in Carolina.
According to dailyfaceoff.com, the goaltending tandem projects as:
Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta
Waddell took heat this summer after letting surprising rookie Alex Nedeljkovic sign with Detroit. But he looked to improve the position in free agency, signing veterans Andersen and Raanta. On paper this looks like an upgrade. Andersen is coming over from a long stint in Toronto, where he was arguably a top-5 regular season goaltender year in and year out. Unfortunately he could not translate that into playoff success. He sustained an injury early in the 2021 season and eventually lost his starting job to Jack Campbell. A fresh start outside of the media circus that is the Toronto hockey market should do wonders for Andersen.
Raanta joins the team after a stint in Arizona that was largely dominated by injuries. When healthy, he is solid. Raanta has a career save percentage of .919 and a goals against average of 2.46 largely playing behind some questionable teams. Veteran journeyman Alex Lyons is hanging out in the minors and can certainly step into a back-up role in a pinch.
The Bottom Line
The Metropolitan division remains one of the strongest in the NHL, but the Carolina Hurricanes have talent and depth to carry them to regular season success. Coach Rod Brind’Amour is one of the best in the business at getting the most out of his lineup. The question marks will be if the goaltending can stay healthy down the stretch, and if they can limit off-ice distractions from some of their new additions. The biggest question mark of all, though, is if they can stay consistent and go on a deep playoff run.
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