As 2022 comes to a close, and we all look forward to what 2023 will bring us, the Carolina Hurricanes are entering the new year with what may potentially be the highest expectations the franchise has ever seen. They have all of the key pieces they need to succeed, and in 2023 the goal is simple; win the Stanley Cup. On top of winning it all, the Hurricanes will also want to keep their team together and fill in any holes they find in the roster along the way.
As of Jan. 1, the Hurricanes are second in the NHL, only behind the Boston Bruins. MoneyPuck gives the Hurricanes the highest odds of winning the Stanley Cup this season, with a 9.9% chance. While this season is far from a Stanley Cup-or-bust campaign, their window is certainly open, and they are clearly trying to make the most of it.
Let’s dive into some of the expectations the ‘Canes are facing headed into this calendar year.
The Stanley Cup
As I mentioned, the goal for this year is clear. With an elite forward group, which we are still waiting to see Max Pacioretty join, a defense corps that has been impressive from all angles, and a trio of goalies, led by rookie Pyotr Kochetkov as of late, all of the pieces are there to do some magical things come playoff time.
The playoffs didn’t go as planned last season. The team, while they are a better group this season, still had high aspirations for the 2022 Stanley Cup. After beating the Bruins in the first round, the New York Rangers took them out in Game 7 of the second round. The Hurricanes had to call upon Kochetkov, which was not on the agenda at the time, though he wasn’t the reason the team lost. Despite a disappointing end to their run, the Hurricanes bolstered their lineup in the offseason and got ready for the next one.
Brent Burns and Pacioretty were the biggest additions, and though Pacioretty hasn’t played yet, I expect he will have a huge impact, especially come playoff time. The most valuable part of the team, however, has been the Jordan Martinook-Jordan Staal-Jesper Fast line. Each of these three players are having an excellent year, and their on-ice impact ranks them as the eighth-best line in terms of xGoals% (expected goals percentage), per MoneyPuck. This kind of depth impact is exactly what the team needs to have to claim the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2006.
A Successful Offseason
The Hurricanes don’t have the most difficult offseason to deal with, but it could have a big impact on the team if things don’t go the way they plan. Headlining the unrestricted free agent (UFA) list is a pair of goaltenders, Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. With Kochetkov breaking into the NHL as one of the top young goalies in the league, and recently signing a four-year extension, it is clear he will be a major part of the Hurricanes’ tandem next year. Who will they opt to keep with the young Russian netminder? That is one of the toughest questions the management team has to answer.
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Also on the UFA list are Staal, Fast, and Pacioretty. These will be the most notable names to keep an eye on outside of the goalies. As mentioned, Staal and Fast have been two key parts of the Hurricanes’ dominant third line. Letting either one of them walk would be a mistake. Pacioretty will be an interesting case, but it is impossible to dive into that yet as we await his debut with the team. There are a few other depth pieces that they will need to re-sign or replace, but those won’t be difficult positions.
With an estimated $28 million in cap space, the Hurricanes won’t have any trouble bringing back their important assets, and even bringing in some new faces. Closer to the offseason we can do a breakdown of what to expect from these pending UFA contracts and what projections look like, but for now, they seem to be in pretty good shape to come back as good, or better for the 2023-24 season.
Continuing Regular Season Success
Every team dreams of winning the Stanley Cup. That dream starts with the regular season, and to say the Hurricanes ended 2022 on a high note would be an understatement. The ‘Canes lost to the Bruins in overtime on Nov. 25, and since that game, they have gone on a run of 14-0-1 to close out the year. In that span, the team registered 55 goals for, and only 31 goals against, including four shutouts.
Now, this exact level of success is unsustainable, but the winning ways are no coincidence. The team has been playing some incredible hockey. Over the course of 2022, the Hurricanes had a record of 56-19-13, which is quite an impressive year, but honestly, with what I have been seeing as of late, I could see them improving on that in 2023.
While regular season success doesn’t translate to playoff success all of the time, it is the best place to start. If the Hurricanes can continue dominating the way they have, they will be an intimidating team to face heading into the playoffs, especially if Pacioretty can have a big impact on the ice when he is healthy.
Cheers To A Great 2022
Despite the second round knockout in the playoffs, you can’t look at 2022 as anything but a success. The record mentioned above, 56-19-13 is a great start to a successful calendar year, and then you throw in the excellent storylines and moves the team has made, and it gets even better.
Whether it be the big additions of Burns and Pacioretty, smaller moves like Dylan Coghlan and Paul Stastny, or the contracts handed out to Kochetkov and Martin Necas, there was no shortage of positives to take away from 2022. The bar is set high for 2023, but if any team can match that energy, it is Carolina.