The offseason has commenced for the Carolina Hurricanes and they’re now well into the phase where it’s time to move pieces around to build their roster for next season.
General manager Don Waddell has already shored up Jack Adams Award-winning head coach Rod Brind’Amour on a fresh three-year contract – which was one of their top priorities approaching the summer. Now, they shift their focus to the on-ice product and how they can improve after a disappointing second-round exit to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Management’s philosophy one year ago was to keep the roster pretty much the same as it was the year prior. Waddell and Brind’Amour have been vocal in saying they have the utmost confidence in it. If nothing has changed, and Waddell’s vision remains the same, we will probably see a familiar group of guys back in the black and red next season. But if that’s the case, can they really expect to get a different result?
It’s been three straight seasons where the Hurricanes were trounced by a better team in the playoffs – twice by the Boston Bruins, and most recently against the Lightning. In those elimination rounds, the Hurricanes only won two games out of a combined 14.
It’s a crucial point in this era of resurgence for the Hurricanes, and minor tweaks might not be enough if they really want to push themselves over the wall instead of continuously running into it.
Do the Hurricanes Need to Make Major Changes?
Next year will technically be Year 4 of the Hurricanes’ cup window. To say they’re in win-now mode would be an overassessment, as their core of players are mostly 27 or under, and many of those guys – Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei – are all signed for at least the next three seasons.
Luckily for the ‘Canes, all five of those guys are locked into pretty affordable contracts. That allows a decent amount of cap maneuverability in the coming years, and may even make it possible to bring a big-name player or free agent on board at some point. But do they need to do that, or can this core get it done?
This Hurricanes squad has excellent leadership – from the top with Brind’Amour and Justin Williams, to stoic veterans like captain Jordan Staal, who is coming off one of the best seasons of his career at 32 years old.
Their defense can only be rivaled by the elite of the elite in the NHL, and with Alex Nedeljkovic exploding onto the scene this year, they now have premium goaltending as well. Their problem in the playoffs was they couldn’t penetrate the stingy defense of the Lightning.
It was well known that the ‘Canes were searching for help on offense for the past year or so. They brought in Vincent Trocheck at the 2020 trade deadline, and he’s meshed beautifully in Carolina as a No. 2 center. But they’re still a little thin on the wings, and especially into the bottom six, where apart from Staal, they struggled to get any kind of offensive support.
We could debate all day about why the Hurricanes should go after this player, or make a push for that free agent, but that may not line up with the strategy Waddell has committed to. There’s one thing most important to Hurricanes brass that they believe already exists in that locker room – chemistry. Not just on-ice chemistry, but true camaraderie all around.
In searching for ways to improve the roster, it can be easy to forget the ‘Canes have one of the deepest prospect pools in the entire NHL. In their push to stay competitive, they’ve also held all their upcoming draft picks with the exception of a 2021 fifth-rounder. They have the picks, and they have great young talent. So, they can do a little gambling with their assets, or stick to the game plan and promote from within.
If history tells us anything, the ideal solution should be option B. Similar to the paths guys like Aho and Andrei Svechnikov took in their young careers, next season may see the emergence of another big name who could be the unlikely solution to many of their struggles.
Is Seth Jarvis the Missing Piece?
The Hurricanes drafted offensive dynamo Seth Jarvis with the 13th overall pick in the 2020 draft. That was after he scored 42 goals and 98 points in 58 games with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.
As hockey leagues around the world were struggling to organize for the 2020-21 season, the major leagues like the NHL and AHL were able to get up and running the quickest. With Jarvis’ Winterhawks still in limbo, he and many other junior players in Canada were granted brief access to the AHL – a league that is typically inaccessible for CHL players under 20.
This gave Jarvis a special audition to prove himself against grown professionals for the first time in his career, and he wasted no time proving he belonged. In just nine games, Jarvis exploded with seven goals and four assists for 11 points with the Chicago Wolves.
Unfortunately, his hot streak was interrupted when the WHL was granted access to resume play, and he was sent back to Portland to play an abbreviated season of 24 games. So as we look to next season, this begs the question – should Jarvis return for a fifth and final WHL season, or can he make the Hurricanes roster and find the same success?
The Hurricanes are a team that likes to take their time properly developing their players. Maybe sending Jarvis back for one more junior season – a full, uninterrupted year where he can get into a comfortable rhythm – may be best for him as a player.
It’s not do-or-die for the Hurricanes next season. The Dougie Hamilton and Svechnikov contracts need to be sorted out soon, but apart from that, their core is already in place. They can afford to let Jarvis grow for one more year in junior, try to compete for a Stanley Cup in 2021-22, and bring him on board the following season where he can still play with – presumably – the same Hurricanes nucleus.
But why not have some fun? Instead, for now, let’s see where Jarvis could fit if he does make the Hurricanes squad next season, and how he can best be utilized to allow him to prosper.
Hurricanes Projected 2021-22 Lineup With Jarvis
Jarvis has played center through most of his junior career, but is comfortable on the wing as well. Similar to Martin Necas, who was drafted as a center but later moved to the wing with the Hurricanes, Jarvis is likely to start on right wing to allow him an easier transition.
Brind’Amour usually likes to sprinkle skill throughout his lineup so all four lines can be threatening. That doesn’t always work however, and he’s quick to switch things up if the team needs a spark.
With a healthy roster and Jarvis in the equation, the Hurricanes wouldn’t have to pick apart their lines so carefully. Instead, they’ll finally be able to stack a top unit without worrying about their bottom lines being starved for scoring. Here are some possible forward combinations for the 2021-22 Hurricanes:
Option A: Load Up the Top Lines
Option A would be to simply load up the top-six with skill. With Jarvis inputted into the lineup, the Hurricanes have another offensive weapon with great puck-handling skills and a wicked release. He’s a shifty type of player who should theoretically gel with guys like Aho, Svechnikov, and Teravainen. He won’t wow you with his size (5-foot-10), but he has a great work ethic and brings the energy every shift, which is essential if you want to play for the Hurricanes.
These lines also reunite Aho and Necas, who were dynamite together last season, while Trocheck, who finished third on the team in goals with 17, gets flanked by two great playmakers. With right-handed wingers Jarvis and Necas in the top-six, Teravainen would be shifted back to the left side. That may not be the most desirable change for Teravainen, who has spent the majority of his time in Carolina on Aho’s right wing.
Option B: Familiarity
It’s unlikely to me that Jarvis will break into the NHL on one of Brind’Amour’s top two lines. As fun as it would be to see him weave magic with Carolina’s top-end guys, the best role for him to start is probably on the third line where he can take some of the pressure off himself and play with a reliable, calming center in Staal.
A third line of Warren Foegele, Staal and Jarvis has a little bit of everything on it. You have speed and tenacity with Foegele, a huge presence in all three zones with Staal, and a lick of offense and spunk with Jarvis. It could be a fun trio to watch together while the Hurricanes’ top two lines stay relatively the same as what they ran with last year.
Cedric Paquette, Jordan Martinook and Brock McGinn are all set to be unrestricted free agents, while Foegele is a restricted free agent. Some of these players may not be back next year, and if that’s the case, there will be some room that opens up for Jarvis to dig in his heels and earn a spot on that roster.
It’s still so early in Jarvis’ career. He’s only 19 and has barely dipped his toes into the top echelon of professional hockey. He’ll have a lot to prove coming into training camp, and it’s going to be very difficult to squeeze himself onto a roster as deep and established as the Hurricanes’. But if there’s space, and he can earn the trust and respect of the coaching staff in training camp, he could be destined to make an impact sooner than we all think.
Matt Cosman is a Sheridan College print journalism graduate from Oakville, Ontario. I’ve been with THW since 2019 covering the Carolina Hurricanes, one of my favorite childhood teams. When I’m not in my hockey bubble you can probably catch me jamming out on the piano or losing money at the poker tables.