In the wake of the news about Joni Pitkanen, the Hurricanes announced they signed defenseman Ron Hainsey to a one-year deal worth $2 mil. This news shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone because the Hurricanes were going to make a move for a defenseman after the Pitkanen news was released and Hainsey was one of the best players left on the market. It's hard to call him a "replacement" for Pitkanen because he is a completely different player, but he is a guy who can play a lot of minutes and fills a need for this team both at even strength and on the penalty kill.
When I compared Hainsey to Gilbert last week, I mentioned that signing Hainsey would be the "safe" move for the Hurricanes because he is more of a stay-at-home player and his performance in recent years has been steady. "Safe" is a good way to sum up his game, too because Hainsey's style of play isn't going to dazzle anyone but he is effective in his role. He can log big minutes at even strength, block shots, kill penalties and give you a solid performance every night. This is pretty much the same thing I said about Andrej Sekera, only Hainsey plays more of a defensive game and is a better penalty killer. His contributions on the PK alone should make him a good addition, but how else can Hainsey help Carolina?
Going into the off-season, the Hurricanes were in need of a defenseman who can log big minutes and play against the opposition's best players without getting destroyed. They already added one player who can do that in Sekera and just added another with in Hainsey. A glance at his Behind the Net player card shows that Hainsey was trusted with playing the big assignments in Winnipeg and while his performance wasn't stellar, it was far from terrible.
|Year||5v5 TOI/60||5v4 TOI/60||4v5 TOI/60||Corsi Rel.||Corsi ON||QoC Rk||OZ%||P/60|
Hainsey's been a top-four defenseman in each of the last six seasons and has played the toughs in three of them, last year included. I don't know if he'll play the toughs in Carolina, but having another guy who can handle those minutes is never a bad thing. Adding both Hainsey and Sekera to the fold will prevent them from making Gleason & Faulk carrying the defense on their shoulders like they did last season. Gleason has also saw his minutes decline last season, so Hainsey gives them someone who can take over for him if needed. He should also see some pretty heavy assignments on the penalty kill, which will also go a long way to take pressure off Faulk & Gleason, who both played a lot of minutes there last season.
In a way, Hainsey "replaces" Pitkanen as someone who can log 20+ minutes a night but Pitkanen's offense will still be missing. Hainsey used to be an effective power play guy and point-producer but that has gone down a bit in recent seasons. Atlanta/Winnipeg stopped using him on the power play after they acquired Dustin Byfuglien and his scoring rate at even strength has gone down quite a bit since then, although he was much better last season. His 13 points in 47 games last year would put him on-pace for about 22-23 points in a full season and that isn't bad for someone who was used exclusively in a defensive role with no power play time. With the Canes not exactly having a power play quarterback right now, Hainsey could see some time on the power play in Carolina and that could lead to him posting some better scoring numbers.
Hainsey's offensive game is stronger than what he gets credit for, but he isn't exactly someone who I would expect a lot of points out of. He also isn't a defenseman who can push the play forward at even strength since neither his skating nor his passing are his strong suits. This means that he'll probably have to be paired with someone like Faulk or Sekera to be effective and this might vbe what the Canes end up doing if Hainsey gets the tough assignments. Some might want him and Gleason playing together on a shutdown pair, but that would require one of them to play off-hand, which would be a problem since neither are great skaters.
Overall, this is a nice signing by the Canes. The defense got a bit slower and I'm not sure if Hainsey will help the team's play at even strength, but he makes the team better defensively and gives the Canes more options on their blue-line. I would expect him to play somewhere in the top four for most of the season and play a big role on the Canes penalty kill on top of that. He should be decent value for the $2 mil. they will be paying him and a nice find late in the off-season.