How Will Carolina Hurricanes Replace Andrej Sekera Moving Forward?

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IFebruary 27, 2015

Sekera (left), who was traded to L.A. on Wednesday, alongside Eric Staal and Alexander Semin.
Sekera (left), who was traded to L.A. on Wednesday, alongside Eric Staal and Alexander Semin.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Wednesday trade that sent Andrej Sekera to the Los Angeles Kings opens up both a short-term hole and long-term opportunity for the Carolina Hurricanes defense.

The first-pairing partnership of Sekera and Justin Faulk—which had produced 55 percent of the team's total points by defensemen over the past two seasons—is no more.

The veteran leadership and, at times, incredible playmaking ability that the 28-year-old Slovak provided is also gone.

Justin Faulk looks on during a recent game.
Justin Faulk looks on during a recent game.USA TODAY Sports

Left populating the 'Canes defensive unit stands Faulk, who remains on pace to set the franchise record for points by a D-man in a season, and a mismatched collection of depth blueliners possessing no familiarity whatsoever with playing big minutes.

The team's defensive pairs looked as such at Thursday's practice:

It's far from a stable, well-established group of six players. Two (Ron Hainsey and Brett Bellemore) hit unrestricted free agency last July before eventually re-signing with Carolina; two (Bellemore and Tim Gleason) are currently on track to do so this coming July; another (Michal Jordan) has just 26 games of NHL experience under his belt.

But, most likely, that was indeed the intent.

Brett Bellemore battles for the puck.
Brett Bellemore battles for the puck.Andy Marlin/Getty Images

The 'Canes have nothing left to play for in 2014-15, save for the inverted goal of higher draft lottery odds.

Additional playing time for Bellemore, a more regular spot in the lineup for Jordan and Ryan Murphy (who should return from injury in one to two weeks) and maybe even an NHL glimpse for AHL prospect Trevor Carrick could all help piece together a vision for the Hurricanes defense in coming years.

Moving the 6'4", 225-pound Bellemore onto the second pairing should give Ron Francis a good opportunity to evaluate the 26-year-old bruiser. Bellemore is a unrestricted free agent this summer—for the second consecutive summer—and doesn't drive play much, but he provides a much-needed physical presence and deceptive defensive savviness.

After all, the standards required to remain a part of the Carolina back end could be higher than they currently seem.

Hurricanes prospect defenseman Haydn Fleury.
Hurricanes prospect defenseman Haydn Fleury.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

2014 seventh overall pick Haydn Fleury isn't too far away from being NHL-ready.

2014 second-rounder Roland McKeown, acquired from the Kings in the Sekera exchange, sports a promising future.

Even Carrick has had a decent professional debut campaign and has raised his prospect stock considerably since being drafted 115th in 2012.

Francis also now owns a trio of first-round picks in the next two drafts, making the chances that at least one will be used on additional teenage blueliner relatively high. 

Although Sekera's departure leaves the unit considerably shorthanded for the remainder of the ongoing season (of little concern for the club's front office), the opportunity for big minutes he vacates should help the team's increasingly diverse cast of young defensemen blossom down the road.

Mark Jones has been the Carolina Hurricanes Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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