The Carolina Hurricanes began their 2021 offseason trying to move past a disappointing second-round exit in the 2021 Playoffs. While the scorching hot Tampa Bay Lightning that defeated the Hurricanes would go on to win the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive year, elimination in round two was still far short of what this talented team envisioned. As the league has re-opened to signings and other transactions, general manager Don Waddell has re-tooled the bottom half of Carolina’s forward ranks in an effort to bring more scoring depth to the lineup, something that the Hurricanes had trouble consistently finding towards the tail end of the 2020-21 Season.
Despite a large shift in its makeup, the new look for the Hurricanes’ forward depth has gone largely unnoticed thanks to a turbulent shuffling of the defense and a complete overhauling of the goaltending. Players like Brock McGinn and Warren Foegele have departed after many great seasons with the Hurricanes, and the short time of Cedric Paquette playing in Raleigh has concluded. Morgan Geekie, a promising, full-throttle center, has also left Carolina, joining the Seattle Kraken via the expansion draft.
To replace the production of those departed, Carolina cashed in on opportunities to revamp the lineup with a few new faces while also opening the door for some of the explosive youth who debuted in 2021. Steven Lorentz will likely see extended playing time after solid showings last year, and talented prospects like Seth Jarvis and Ryan Suzuki are waiting for their turn to make an impact.
Free Agency Additions
Managing the flat salary cap has proven challenging for most of the NHL, but the Hurricanes have worked their way to a position where they have just over $12 million to play with and few large holes to fill on the roster. It’s unsurprising to see a lack of big moves thus far from Carolina; long-term commitments to free agents could make Martin Necas’ future very complicated.
Of the Canes’ additions, Derek Stepan stands out at $1.35 million for value. Stepan brings a wealth of experience and, while on the wrong side of 30 years old, is still a viable option in the bottom-six and tallied 27 points in 43 playoff games between 2014 and 2015. Should he find the scoring acumen he had in New York in Raleigh, the Hurricanes would see an increase in their bottom lines’ reliability that would have been a very welcome sight during last year’s playoffs.
Another depth signing to keep an eye on is Stefan Noesen (two-way for $750,000), who has spent many years on NHL teams. And in his longest season (72 games with New Jersey in 2017-18), he tallied a respectable 27 points and is a solid “next man up” option for Carolina in the upcoming season.
Josh Leivo also joins the Hurricanes on a $750,000 deal, who, before a down year in Calgary, played an excellent (albeit short) 2019-20 Season in Vancouver, tallying 19 points in 36 games. Leivo, like many of the Hurricanes’ new additions, has expressed a desire to play for a contending team and excitement at the opportunity to play in coach Rod Brind’Amour’s system.
Any of the new signings could be a strong presence within the Hurricanes organization. After a franchise-record 13 picks in the 2021 Draft, the prospect pool remains loaded, and plenty of talented players, both returning and new, could earn an NHL spot in October.
Consequences and Expectations for a New-Look Forward Depth
The 2021 offseason will be remembered for the departure of many beloved members of the Hurricanes. Foegele played his heart out every shift, and McGinn, hero of Game 7 against Washington, was one of the longest-tenured players on the Hurricanes. The players brought on to fill their spots on the roster are primed to excel in Raleigh, however, and it would be surprising if either McGinn or Foegele did not receive an incredibly warm welcome back to PNC Arena when they return. Their contributions will be appreciated forever in Carolina.
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Expectations for the Hurricanes and their new additions will remain high when re-entering the Metropolitan Division, and many questions are yet to be answered. The NHL landscape will have a heavily altered look with the inclusion of a 32nd team, and the Hurricanes will have all eyes on them to see if they are a legitimate Cup contender after years of brutal rebuilding.
For a team that lacked depth scoring last season, Carolina fans will expect an improvement in that regard to ensure a chance at competing for a deep playoff run. New additions to the forward lines and a plethora of depth signings signify a commitment to accomplishing this from the front office. While an extension to Andrei Svechnikov has been taking what seems like forever, through these savvy moves on the back end of the roster the Hurricanes have stockpiled plenty of money to get it done and bring on more potential impact players to a roster hungry to play hockey in June next year.
(All video sourced from NBC Sports and NHL.com)
Although I live in Norman, Oklahoma now, I brought with me a love for both ice hockey and the Carolina Hurricanes from my hometown of Raleigh, NC. Along the way, I’ve joined with the OCCC Pioneer newspaper, the OU Hockey broadcasting team and now The Hockey Writers to expand my experience while I complete my degree in Broadcast Journalism.
I’m an alumni of the 2016 Carolina Gold Drum and Bugle Corps and the 2018 Pride of Oklahoma.