Welcome back folks! It’s been a while since we took some questions in a mailbag segment, but with the trade deadline behind us and the playoff picture becoming clear (save mostly for some interesting wild card races), it seemed like a perfect time for my colleague Jacob Billington and I to put some together!
The Carolina Hurricanes are grinding through an incredibly tough month of hockey, with March possibly presenting their most difficult scheduling stretch of the season. Still, despite this, they have been playing some of their best hockey all year. A tough weekend back-to-back lies ahead against the Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils, where the Metropolitan Division leaders will put their current four-game winning streak on the line. Between that streak and the 6-0 beatdown of the Tampa Bay Lightning that accentuated it, they ought to be riding some high confidence heading into the upcoming big tests. Past this weekend, they will also see the New York Rangers (twice), Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs (also twice), and a likely-very-angry-at-them Lightning team again before the calendar flips to April.
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The Hurricanes’ trade deadline was relatively quiet, at least compared to some expectations and rumors circling around the team, but management showed its belief in the roster as currently constructed. It is now on those players to prove their front office right, as they will use this tough upcoming stretch as a precursor to playoff hockey, preparing to run the Eastern Conference gauntlet with a familiar group (save for two new faces, anyway). It’s going to be a big postseason for this franchise in general, as the current core will try to prove it can finally get over the hump at the most important time of the year.
Those two areas – the deadline and the upcoming playoffs – will be a big part of what we’ll talk about in today’s ‘Canes mailbag, so let’s jump in.
Question 1: Grading the Deadline
From Erich (@Erich_K8): What grade would you give the Hurricanes front office at the deadline? And who would you have liked to have been added?
Jacob: I may be in the minority on this one, but I think the Hurricanes did very well at the deadline. I know the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division seemed to acquire just about all of the big names available, but I quite like the team they have. The additions of Jesse Puljujarvi and Shayne Gostisbehere were both extremely underrated moves. We have immediately seen how effective Gostisbehere can be, with his tremendous impact to the power play especially. While we haven’t seen Puljujarvi on the ice yet, his defensive metrics and transition game should slot nicely into Rod Brind’Amour’s system. B+ on the deadline moves.
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If there was one more player I would’ve liked to see added, it would have been Ryan O’Reilly. I didn’t love the price Toronto paid, but he is exactly the kind of player the Hurricanes could have went big on. Jesperi Kotkaniemi has been doing a great job of convincing me that they don’t need another center as of late, though.
Brandon: The Hurricanes stuck to what they do, filling holes and upgrading depth in smart, non-flashy ways. They didn’t overreact to the arms race that unfolded around them. The sentence “we like our group” will likely trigger a lot of PTSD among this fanbase. Still, in this case, I think it was not only true, but warranted. Getting a high-octane offensive defenseman for a third round pick in 2026 – so, a 14 or 15 year old – is pretty good business. Meanwhile, adding Puljujarvi is likely a move that pays off more down the road than in the short term, but he brings a physical edge their forward group has long needed. His speed and ability to work the interior also fills a need, and will be welcome in a bottom-six which has gotten slower than you’d expect for a team that plays with Carolina’s pace and aggressiveness.
He should find a nice role next to the skilled, but responsible (and, again, kind of slow) Stefan Noesen and Paul Stastny. Meanwhile, we’ve already seen what Gostisbehere can bring with his excellent start to his tenure in Carolina; improving the power play was paramount, and it’s been red-hot since his arrival. That has clearly not been coincidence, as he had two goals and four points, all on the power play, in his first two games with the team. Overall, I’d give the Hurricanes a solid B – they didn’t move the needle a crazy amount with a headline-grabber, but they managed to improve the team without sacrificing anything significant down the road.
As far as what I’d have added, what more could the Hurricanes realistically have added without giving up a roster player? Sure, a sniper like the rumored Tyler Toffoli, or, better yet, his teammate Elias Lindholm, would have been home runs. But based on how Don Waddell has operated, he wasn’t going to give up a ton for the 30-year-old Toffoli even with a year left on his contract, and the cost (and the re-shuffling it surely would have caused, because I doubt you get a piece like him without including a roster player) of a player like Lindholm is the type of move he really only makes in the offseason. With that said, feel free to ask me again in a couple months, when we know how his relatively conservative deadline plays out when it matters most.
Question 2: A Hefty Price for Meier
From The Storm Cellar (@stormcellar97): Had the offer been Jarvis for Meier (plus picks, prospects, etc), would you have done it?
Jacob: It all depends on what the other assets would be in the draft. Before the deal, it seemed like New Jersey, Winnipeg and Carolina were in the race, and I expected that it would have cost Seth Jarvis, Dawson Mercer or Cole Perfetti. All three teams were in a position to add that young asset to their trade. The easiest way to put it is that if you are lucky, one of those three prospects will eventually end up as good as Timo Meier.
Brandon: This is an interesting one, and something that was discussed a good bit amongst ‘Canes fans when the Meier rumors were first swirling. If the deal was one-for-one, I would have considered it, yes. Similar to what Jacob alluded to, the Hurricanes hope Jarvis can be a high-compete, top six sniper moving forward. So, basically, what Meier is now… sans the power forward build and playing style that would have complemented the Hurricanes’ top-six really well. At the same time I can also understand why Waddell would have been against it, partially because of the difficulty presented by learning a very unique Hurricanes’ system on the fly, and also because of how well-liked Jarvis is in the locker room.
When a team is 43-12-8, it’s tough to justify throwing a wrench into your chemistry. Considering how strongly Jarvis is coming on recently, not to mention being one of their best players in the 2022 playoffs, a player with team control for the next half-decade (at least) has a ton of value for a cap team like the Hurricanes. They need his compete level and energetic play, although I do think Meier in his place would have upgraded the team in the short-term – and potentially long-term, too, had they been able to extend him in this hypothetical scenario.
Question 3: What Does Playoff Success Look Like?
From Sterlo (@CanesStats): What does the recipe for Canes playoff success look like?
Jacob: The Hurricanes need to bring their style on the road as well as they do at home. They were clearly favouring their ability to pick the matchups in the playoffs last season, which led to their huge differences in results based on home or away. They have done a great job building out the bottom of their roster, which gives more options for any matchup on the road this year. Jordan Staal’s line can go up against anybody in the league, allowing the top-six to focus on creating offense, and their defensive depth is among the leagues best. While the 2021-22 Hurricanes had a great team, this year’s is definitely more complete. The recipe for success, summed up into one sentence, is to take it on the road and build off the momentum the power play has created since the trade deadline.
Brandon: Jacob said it, but I’ll say it again anyway: the power play must be more effective than last postseason. The Hurricanes often carried the play at five-on-five in their second-round series, but the Rangers’ lethal power play gave them an insurmountable advantage. It’s easy to point to this one area and say it ultimately played the biggest role in the Hurricanes’ elimination. It seemed like they were -1 or -2 in the special teams department every game, and that’s just not something you can expect to overcome against the other top teams you see in the postseason. They also need young players like Jarvis, Kotkaniemi, Martin Necas, and Andrei Svechnikov to be at their best, proving they can carry their high-end play from this regular season over into the tighter, high-stakes environment of a playoff series.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, Frederik Andersen not only has to be available, but he must be on top of his game. Pyotr Kochetkov and Antti Raanta have both been huge supporting cast members for the Hurricanes the last two seasons, but neither can likely be relied upon to carry them deep into the spring and early summer at this point in time. Carolina’s true ceiling, the one that gives them their best shot at a Cup, includes the Vezina-level Andersen seen much of the 2021-22 season. If he can play like that, and bail the Hurricanes out on penalty kills or nights they don’t bring their best, you have to think the talent in that roster will give them a real shot at a Stanley Cup run.
We appreciate all of you who submitted questions, although we kept it a little shorter this time around. Be sure to give us a follow on Twitter @bwstanley26 and @jacobbillingt10, so that in the future you won’t miss out on the chance to submit your own questions! If you have any objections or want to leave your own feedback, be sure to do so in the comments below.
Enjoy the final stretch of the season, because the next time we get together for a mailbag we’ll be gearing up for the most wonderful time of the year: NHL playoffs, baby. See you then!