On paper, this squad was far better than their 19-25-4 record in 2013 suggests. The injury plagues and terrible luck of this past campaign did, however, expose a few focal flaws.
This summer, the 'Canes will seek to fill those holes and solve those shortcomings to further establish their playoff contender status entering 2013-14.
With the NHL draft rapidly approaching—the first round will kick off Sunday, June 30, at 3 p.m.—and the July 5 opening of the free-agent market just after, GM Jim Rutherford's opportunity to make his summer moves is almost here.
A complete guide and preview to every part of the Hurricanes' 2013 offseason falls on the coming slides.
The Hurricanes currently hold five picks in this summer's NHL draft.
|No. 5|| 1
|No. 35|| 2
|No. 126|| 5
|No. 156|| 6
Naturally, the majority of the spotlight will rest on the No. 5 overall selection.
The 'Canes should be able to take one of the consensus top-five prospects—Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Aleksander Barkov and Valeri Nichushkin—if they wish. However, Sportsnet's Gare Joyce reports that the team may not be interested in Nichushkin.
If that is the case and all four others are chosen with the top four picks, then a trade could be in the works. Per Chip Alexander of the News & Observer via Twitter:
Hearing Canes could trade No. 5 pick and move down on draft day if their draft target is taken in top four picks. Unlikely Canes to move up.— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) June 21, 2013
Two highly likely trade partners are the Oilers (seventh pick) and Stars (10th pick). CBC's Elliotte Friedman confirmed that Edmonton had been in talks with Carolina as recently as last week, while Dallas GM Jim Nill told reporter Mark Stepneski that he had inquired about trading up prior to this past weekend.
In the seventh or 10th position, Rutherford would likely turn towards a defensive prospect such as Darnell Nurse or Nikita Zadorov.
For a full scouting report and 'Canes-specific discussion of potential selections Barkov, Nichushkin, Nurse and Zadorov, read last week's column.
2013-14 Cap Space: $7.3 million
While the 'Canes' summer cap space is the tightest it's been in years, Rutherford shouldn't be too hard-pressed to keep the team in the green.
Underwhelming 2013 performers Drayson Bowman, Jamie McBain and Justin Peters—all heavily mentioned in recent trade speculation—could be shipped out to free up some space. The threesome carry a combined cap hit of just under $3 million.
Moreover, CBC's Friedman also claims that "some [Carolina] players who were previously untouchable may no longer be untouchable." That startling report could pertain in particular to Jeff Skinner, who was a minus-19 in 2013 and struggled mightily after his second concussion in as many years, and Joni Pitkanen, who has missed more than half of the past two seasons with three different injuries.
Shipping out one of those two stars would clear a plethora of cash off the Hurricanes' payroll. Skinner's cap hit jumps to $5.725 million in 2013-14, while Pitkanen enters his third consecutive year at $4.5 million.
RFAs: F A.J. Jenks (our prediction: part ways), F Andreas Nodl (part ways), F Jared Staal (re-sign), D Joe Sova (part ways), G John Muse (re-sign), D Justin Krueger (signed overseas), F Luke Pither (re-sign), D Marc-Andre Gragnani (signed overseas), D Michal Jordan (re-sign), F Riley Nash (re-sign), F Zac Dalpe (re-sign), F Zach Boychuk (part ways)
AHL UFAs: D Brett Bellemore (re-sign), F Brett Sutter (re-sign), F Jerome Samson (re-sign), F Tim Wallace (part ways)
Tim Brent: The 29-year-old fourth-line center had only three points in 30 appearances after a career-high 24 points in 2011-12. As the 'Canes seek to completely overhaul their cast of bottom-six forwards, Brent doesn't seem valuable enough to keep around. Verdict: Part ways
Chad LaRose: The aging pest had a disastrous 2013 campaign, registering only four points and a minus-eight rating in 35 games while his shooting accuracy and hits-per-game rates dropped drastically. Given that he didn't even attend his end-of-year meeting with Rutherford, there's no doubt LaRose has played his last game in Raleigh. Verdict: Part ways
Marc-Andre Bergeron: The trade-deadline addition improved the power play slightly throughout the course of April, but Bergeron is too aggressive to fit with the 'Canes' plan moving forward. Verdict: Part ways
Joe Corvo: Like Bergeron, the now-36-year-old Corvo simply can't fill the defensive defenseman role now sought after by Rutherford. Verdict: Part ways
Bobby Sanguinetti: The 25-year-old rookie defenseman improved quite a bit over the course of the 2013 season, tallying six points and the team's highest Corsi rating over 37 appearances. Although it appears he may be allowed to at least test free agency, Sanguinetti could come back as the Hurricanes' sixth or seventh blueliner in 2013-14. Verdict: Re-sign
Dan Ellis: The veteran netminder outperformed the younger Justin Peters in 2013 and could force Peters out of town this summer. Per Alexander, Ellis and Rutherford have already begun re-signing negotiations. Verdict: Re-sign
Which out-of-town UFAs could be brought in by the Hurricanes this summer? Here are few possibilities.
D Rob Scuderi (Kings): Two-time Stanley Cup champion Rob Scuderi (pictured), 34, boasts 585 regular and 99 postseason games of experience and a solid reputation as a locker-room leader.
He's also evolved into a shot-blocking and penalty-killing aficionado over the past four years in Los Angeles and hasn't missed a game due to injury since February 2010.
D Ron Hainsey (Jets): Hainsey ranked third in the NHL this past season with 123 blocked shots. Additionally, the 32-year-old led the Jets in shorthanded ice time and took only five penalties in 47 games.
His price—a $4.5 million cap hit in 2013—could be a problematic factor in negotiations.
F Ruslan Fedotenko (Flyers): Another two-time Stanley Cup champion, Fedotenko is a reliable and experienced third-line forward.
The 34-year-old is a good bet for 20 to 25 points per year but makes his biggest impact in the defensive zone, as he led all Philadelphia forwards in blocked shots and shorthanded ice time in 2013.
F Matt Hendricks (Capitals): Hendricks is as versatile as free agents come—the 31-year-old center ranked among the Caps' top three forwards in faceoff percentage (56.8 percent), hits (93), blocked shots (31) and shorthanded ice-time (1:44 per game) this past campaign. He's also 9-for-16 in shootouts over his career.
Although no specific players have been mentioned in reputable recent 'Canes' trade rumors, the following stars are all thought to be available on the market and could catch the Hurricanes' interests.
D Alex Goligoski (Stars): As discussed on slide No. 2, Dallas GM Jim Nill is reportedly interested in trading up from 10th in the first round. If he hooks up with Rutherford to accomplish that, Carolina could try to get defenseman Alex Goligoski headed to Raleigh in exchange.
Goligoski, only 27, led all Stars rearguards with 24 assists and 27 points in 2013. His off-the-box-score stats were also impressive, though—a plus-four rating, 66 blocked shots and a 2.94 Corsi rating.
D Kevin Shattenkirk (Blues): St. Louis faces a difficult decision this summer as top defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk each hit RFA status and demand big contracts. Dustin Leed of The Hockey Guys reports that, while Pietrangelo is almost untouchable, the Blues may be willing to entertain offers for Shattenkirk.
Shattenkirk, just 24, tallied 23 points, 55 hits, 59 blocked shots and a plus-two rating in 48 games in 2013. He's a former first-round pick who would qualify as a cornerstone player on just about any team.
D Keith Yandle (Coyotes): Throughout all of the financial turbulence in Phoenix over the past few years, top-class defenseman Keith Yandle has been mentioned in hundreds of rumors but never actually traded.
A Yandle deal with Carolina, while highly unlikely, would drastically improve the 'Canes' entire defensive outlook. The 26-year-old is arguably one of the 15 best blueliners in the NHL today.
Ryan Murphy, the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft, will enter September's training camp with a great many eyes on his back.
The highly touted 20-year-old defenseman had an extremely busy 2012-13 hockey season.
In between starring on the OHL's Kitchener Rangers with 39 assists and 49 points in 54 regular-season games and seven points in 10 playoff appearances, Murphy also played in eight games for AHL Charlotte (registering four assists), six games for the Canadian U20 team (scoring three points) and four games on emergency call-up duty for the 'Canes (going pointless).
Many hope and expect the blueliner's 2013-14 campaign will be much less varied, though. After returning 'D'-men Justin Faulk, Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen, Murphy could fall fourth on the Hurricanes' defensive order and first on the power-play quarterback hierarchy in his rookie season.
Rask, the Hurricanes' second-round pick (42nd overall) in 2011, is a long shot to make the 'Canes' opening-day roster this year, but his performance during training camp will be scrutinized heavily nonetheless.
This past season, Rask spent time with both the Swedish U20 team (scoring eight points in 13 appearances) and AHL Charlotte (scoring five points in 10 games), but also managed 41 points in 37 regular-season games for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen and then an impressive 16 points in 17 playoff appearances.
"Rask has speed and good size, and he uses both to protect the puck and buy time for his linemates to find space," raves Brian Fogarty of Hockey's Future. "He has the ability to battle in the corners and maintain puck possession, even when harried by several opponents."
He'll likely attempt to challenge Riley Nash for the 'Canes third-line center role in the fall, but the 20-year-old will probably see most of his Raleigh action via injury recalls. However, expect Rask to thrive all season long in first-line minutes at the AHL level.
A responsible, comprehensive offseason of activity in Raleigh should put the Hurricanes in good position come October's opening day.
If Rutherford can successfully quench the Hurricanes' desperate thirst for a solid top-four defensive defenseman and effectively overhaul their weak cast of third- and fourth-line forwards, the 'Canes are undoubtedly a playoff-contending club on paper.
If Rutherford can add a high-profile cornerstone player like Keith Yandle or Aleksander Barkov to the fold, the 'Canes could be even more than a mere contender.
Expect a cautious yet significant summer of decisions for the Hurricanes over the coming weeks.
Events to Watch For
2013 NHL Entry Draft: June 30, 3 p.m.
Opening of 2013 NHL Free Agency: July 5, 12 p.m.
2013-14 NHL Schedule Release: July 17