Checking in on the Carolina Hurricanes
Last year: 36-35-11, seventh in the Metro Division. Missed the postseason by 10 points.
Key additions: Tim Gleason, Jay McClement, Brad Malone
Key subtractions: Andrei Loktionov, Justin Peters, Manny Malhotra, Drayson Bowman (likely), Radek Dvorak (likely), Mike Komisarek (likely), Joni Pitkanen (likely)
Franchise direction: Like the Penguins and Capitals, Carolina elected to oust its coach and general manager rather than overturn its roster. Bill Peters replaces Kirk Muller behind the bench and Hall of Famer Ron Francis will step in for Jim Rutherford as general manager. Those could be just the first of many sweeping changes in Carolina. The players on the current roster will obviously be given another shot this season before the Hurricanes make any dramatic moves, but don’t be surprised to see Francis unload key cogs if Carolina starts slow and decides to blow up its roster to begin a full rebuild.
Salary cap: The Hurricanes have about $5 million in space, not counting a 12th forward that will either be promoted from within or a free agent signing. Carolina doesn’t usually spend to the cap ceiling though, so cap space isn’t necessarily indicative of the team’s financial standing against its internal budget. The Hurricanes will likely look to work out a long-term deal with Andrej Sekera during the season, but right now they’re set to have $15 million free next summer. Sekera, Gleason, McClement, Jiri Tlusty, Patrick Dwyer and Brett Bellemore could all be unrestricted free agents next year, though the Hurricanes might end up dealing many of them as sellers at the trade deadline.
Prospect pipeline: Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy are figuring things out in the NHL right now, and there will likely be a little gap between them and the next wave of ‘Canes prospects. 2014 first-round pick Haydn Fleury is the crown jewel of the system and could make the team out of camp. D Trevor Carrick really emerged last year, and C Victor Rask and LW Brock McGinn are also in the top tier of Carolina’s system. If the Hurricanes do decide to rebuild, they have a lot of work to do.
Projection: It would be stunning if Carolina finished anywhere but dead last in the division. The Hurricanes’ talent level is far below their Metro rivals and it’s looking likely they’ll be in the hunt for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel next June.