Hurricanes Free Agency Preview

Note: This article was meant to be posted on June 30th, but I lost power on Friday night and just had it restored today. Therefore, some of the information might be outdated.

 

By this time, you have probably seen the many of the in-depth articles I have written on certain needs that the Hurricanes have heading into free agency. When you finish last in the Southeast Division, you generally have a lot of areas that need to be addressed, so this is a lot of work to go over. I’ve discussed team needs, players who should be re-signed, possible trade targets and what free agents that the Hurricanes could go after this summer. When you finish last in the Southeast Division, you probably have a lot of holes that need to be filled so this is quite a bit of work to go over. Which is why, to make things easier on you, I’m going to give a brief overview of what the Hurricanes outlook is heading into tomorrow.

We will start this after the jump.

Roster Size: 19 players
Payroll: $46,670,000
$ on forwards: $27,820,000
$ on defensemen: $12,600,000
$ on goalies: $7,250,000
Cap Space: $22,630,000

Current Roster:

LW

C

RW

Tuomo Ruutu

Eric Staal

Jeff Skinner

Jiri Tlusty

Jordan Staal

Chad LaRose

Andreas Nodl

Jussi Jokinen

Patrick Dwyer

Tim Brent

Anthony Stewart

Defense

Joni Pitkanen

Tim Gleason

Jamie McBain

Justin Faulk

Jay Harrison

Goaltending

Cam Ward

Brian Boucher (IR)

Restricted Free Agents

Zach Boychuk, left wing – Once the organization’s top prospect has turned into quite a disappointment. He’s had multiple chances to make the team in the last few years but can’t seem to stick around for some reason. Playing time has been a major factor but Boychuk hasn’t quite been as effective as he should be at the NHL level. The team chose to qualify him so he’ll likely be around next year but he could be stuck in the AHL unless he really impresses the coaching staff in training camp.

Evgenii Dadonov, right wing – Threats of him going to the KHL have disappeared but the Canes decided to qualify him so they will retain his rights no matter what happens. If he does stay in America, Dadonov could have an outside chance at a roster spot but he has quite a few others to beat out in order to earn it. We’ll see what happens.

Jeremy Welsh, center – Jim Rutherford seems to really like this kid and he has a very good chance to make the team out of camp. He had a very successful career at Union College and was fairly impressive in the one game he played for the Hurricanes last season. The Hurricanes could always use another big body to use down the middle but what makes Welsh a good prospect is the other tools he has in addition to his size. He’s a good faceoff guy, solid play-maker an possesses a decent amount of finishing ability, all of which should make him a favorite to earn the third-line center spot. The one major concern is that this will be his first year playing at the professional level.

Drayson Bowman, left wing – Another favorite to make the opening day roster. Bowman has spent a good amount of time at the NHL and I think he’s blossomed into a good checking winger that the Hurricanes should have a lot of use for. He’s been qualified and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the team come October.

Mike Murphy, goalie – Murphy signed a deal to play in the KHL about a month ago, so he won’t be on the team next year but the team retained his rights so he could be back another time.

Chris Terry, left wing – Terry has always been one of the Charlotte Checkers best players for a couple years now but his skills haven’t translated to the NHL well. His size could be a problem as he stands at only 5’9” and it’s hard to immediately fill a scoring role in the NHL at that height. He plays an important role on the Checkers, though and that’s certainly worth keeping around and I have to think that the coaches will be on the lookout for him in training camp. Terry making the team is a long-shot in my opinion, though.

Jerome Samson, right wing – Another player who has gotten it done at the AHL but hasn’t been able to turn into turn it into NHL success. Samson is in his mid-20’s so this is probably his last chance with the Hurricanes and it’s looking more and more like he’ll turn into a tweener since playing in the bottom-six at the NHL isn’t going to do much and he hasn’t shown the ability to score at the NHL level. His strong possession numbers do give me some hope about his future, though.

Unrestricted free agents

Bryan Allen, Defenseman – Allen could be one of the more underrated free agents out there this year. He’s been a key part of the Hurricanes’ shutdown defense pairing and he’s taken on an incredibly tough workload while playing this role. I don’t know if he has the endurance to play on the top-four for an entire season but a team looking for a shutdown defenseman should definitely be interesting in acquiring Allen. The Hurricanes have not ruled out the idea of re-signing him but it’s likely that he will walk. His skating isn’t the best and his performance fell off towards the end of the year but Allen has at least another year or two of good play left in him.

Jaroslav Spacek, Defenseman – He blossomed in a sheltered third-pairing role after being traded to the Hurricanes but that is all he is at this point. Spacek still has a decent shot from the point and is good enough defensively but he’s also brittle and has gotten very slow over the last few years. Spacek can be very good when given protected minutes but I’m not sure if there is a team out there willing to play him in that role. To add to that, he’s going to be 39 soon.

Justin Peters, Goalie – Did a phenomenal job in the seven games he played with the Hurricanes but was the exact opposite the year before. Peters’ true talent is probably somewhere between the two extremes so it’s possible that the Hurricanes might want him back for the AHL but they are going to be disappointed if they are expecting him to repeat what he did last season. He’s an above average AHL goalie with some NHL experience and that’s about all there is to it.

Cedric McNicoll, forward
Kyle Lawson, defenseman
Matthew Pistilli – forward
Mathieu Roy – defenseman
Brett Sutter – left wing
Chris Durno – forward
Justin Soryal – forward

Non-NHL Players

Zac Dalpe, center/right wing – He’s been good enough to make the team out of camp the last two seasons but injuries, restricted ice time and other things have kept him from making much of an impact. This will likely be his make or break season.

Ryan Murphy, defense – I don’t know if there will be enough roster spots to fit Murphy in but there’s a good chance that he might be one of the six best defensemen on the team once training camp is over. That will be the deciding factor for keeping him in Raleigh but he’s still very young and could spend another year in Kitchener if there isn’t any room for him next season.  It’ll be hard to send him back if he’s impressive enough, though.

Bobby Sanguinetti, defense – There’s a spot open for him to make the team and after the great season he had in Charlotte, it’s very possible that he could see some more playing time in the NHL. His all-around game has come a long way but he’s going to need to be very impressive if he wants to earn a full-time spot in the NHL.

Riley Nash, center – Rutherford seems to really like him and believes that he is above some of the other prospects in the organization. Despite that, Nash hasn’t been very impressive offensively in the AHL and may need to improve a little before being considered for a roster spot. There will be quite a number of forwards battling for only a couple roster spots so Nash is going to need to do something to stand out amongst the group.

Victor Rask, center – Rask had a good season for the Calgary Hitman and should be in the AHL to start next season. He’s been impressive but I think he’s at least another year away from being in the NHL.  He’s still got a few things to work on but the scoring potential is hard to look past. He might surprise some people.

Team Needs:

Top-six Winger: To make things more specific, they need a winger who is capable of playing tough minutes since he will likely have to play on Jordan Staal’s line. They might be able to fill this void by moving Jussi Jokinen over to the wing, but Rutherford may be looking for more of a long-term solution. Unfortunately for him, there isn’t a lot out there in terms of long-term solutions and he may need to take a gamble on a player instead. Getting Jordan Staal was a nice boost to the top-six but they are going to need someone better than Chad LaRose or Jiri Tlusty on the second line to be a contending team.

Possible Targets: PA Parenteau,  Ray Whitney, Shane Doan, Alexander Semin, Ryan Smyth, Dustin Penner, Mikael Samuelsson, Peter Mueller

Top-Four Defenseman: Assuming Bryan Allen leaves, the Hurricanes are going to need to replace him with another defenseman who can kill penalties and take on the difficult matchups. They were one of the worst teams in the league at preventing shots against at even strength last year and that obviously has to improve big time. I think they would be more comfortable bringing in a proven defenseman instead of relying on a younger player for next season.

Possible Targets: Matt Carle, Bryan Allen, Adrian Aucoin, Carlo Colaiacovo, Michal Rozsival, Jason Garrison, Scott Hannan, Greg Zanon, Sami Salo

Third-line Center: The Hurricanes need someone to replace Brandon Sutter on the third line. Whether or not they choose to do it via free agency or within the organization remains to be seen, but there are some players available if they want to pursue the latter option.

Possible Targets: Jay McClement, Paul Gaustad, Dominic Moore, Jason Arnott

Back-up/AHL Goaltender:  Brian Boucher is out for at least 4 months and was very unreliable next year. They also only have one AHL goalie under contract so you can bet that they will look to sign another just for insurance.

Possible Targets:  Justin Peters, Drew MacIntyre, Peter Mannino, Al Montoya

Depth Forwards: The fourth line was one of the Canes’ weaknesses last season and they might look for some newer personnel there. Tim Brent had a very good season but it a lot of it was based on luck. He was very poor at driving the play forward as was Anthony Stewart. I would look for the team to try to get some better NHL depth, whether it comes from within or from outside the organization.

Possible targets: Jeff Halpern, Philippe Dupuis, Chris Porter, Ryan Shannon, Taylor Pyatt, Trent Hunter

What have they done so far?

Re-signed Jiri Tlusty to a two-year deal worth $1.6 mil. per year.

Tlusty got himself a nice raise after scoring career highs in goals and points last year, but I have my doubts about how sustainable this production is. Most of Tlusty’s success was based on him playing with Eric Staal and I’m not sure if he can repeat this kind of year if he’s given different linemates. Not signing a top-line winger could be a blessing in disguise for him because that could be his chance of staying with Eric Staal. The contract is movable if Tlusty ends up flopping so I don’t think this is a bad deal for him at all.

Re-signed Jamie McBain to a two-year deal worth $1.8 mil. per year

This could end up being a steal in a couple years depending on how McBain develops. As of right now, he’s a great third pairing defenseman and an okay top-four option but he showed flashes of becoming a better all-around defenseman last year and I am hoping it continues into the next couple years. I would like to see him begin to face tougher competition on a regular basis and become more involved physically but the Canes have themselves a fine deal here even if McBain’s development stays as it is.

Traded Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin & the #8 overall pick to Pittsburgh for Jordan Staal

The Hurricanes’ prospect pool certainly took a hit by losing Dumoulin but the team also acquired one of the 10-15 best centers in the league right now in Jordan Staal. Rutherford knew that he had to acquire a top-six level talent this summer and that it would be tough to get one in free agency, so he had to make a deal like this. Staal not only gives the Hurricanes another center who can score at a high level, he also gives them a player who can take on tough matchups as well. This trade has the potential to completely change the make-up of the team’s forward corps and it is probably for the better considering how many times things were switched around last year. Sutter will be missed, but he can be replaced and the Canes are going to get more out of Staal than they would out of almost anyone who they acquired through free agency. The concern with this trade is will Staal’s production over the next few years equate what they would have gotten out of what they traded away? That remains to be seen but the Canes have bettered themselves for the future by strengthening the core of their team.

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