The NHL offseason is a busy, yet exciting, time for teams and fans alike. This is when fans get to see their teams building for the future. However, not every team makes the moves necessary to become a legitimate contender. With the 2012 NHL draft complete and free agency currently going on I will be looking at every NHL team; taking into account the moves they’ve already made, what players are free agents, who looks to be coming back, what prospects are already under contract, etc; and then deciding whether that team will, in the next two years, be more of a “contender” or “pretender”. This week we’ll be taking a look at the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes return a slew of talented forwards, including perennial 70 point scorer Eric Staal, Jussi Jokinen and 2011 Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) winner Jeff Skinner to name a few. Jokinen’s proven himself to be a very good two-way player, putting up 46 points in 79 games played last season. Skinner, on the other hand, struggled with concussion issues last season but still managed to put up 44 points. Other notable offensive returnees for the Canes include Tuomo Ruutu (18 goals, 34 points), Chad LaRose (19 goals, 32 points) and Jiri Tlusty (17 goals, 36 points, plus-1 rating).
The Canes have made a big splash thus far during the 2012 free agency period, acquiring two of the top notch forwards available in Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. Jordan, the brother of Canes captain Eric, was acquired in a draft day deal that sent forward Brandon Sutter, defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin and the Canes’ 2012 first round draft pick (eighth overall) to the Penguins. Staal, in 62 games with the Penguins last season, accumulated 25 goals, 50 points and a plus-11 rating. Semin, a free agent this summer, agreed to a one-year, $7 million contract with the Canes on July 26th. He put up 21 goals, 54 points and a plus-8 rating while playing in 77 games for the Capitals last season. The Canes also acquired Tim Wallace, a free agent who split time between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning last season.
Prospect-wise, the Canes re-signed forwards Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Jerome Samson, Chris Terry and Brett Sutter. Bowman actually played 37 games with the Hurricanes last season, scoring 13 points and adding a plus-2 rating.
Defensively, the Canes return Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason and Justin Faulk to name a few. Pitkanen spent much of last season battling a concussion and lower body injury which cost him 52 games. However, in the 30 games he played in Pitkanen scored five goals and 17 points. Faulk showed promise as a 20 year old last season, putting up 22 points in 66 games played. Gleason, the Canes’ most reliable defenseman, didn’t disappoint as he put up 18 points and a plus-12 rating in all 82 games.
The Canes lost Bryan Allen to the Anaheim Ducks and Derek Joslin to the Vancouver Canucks but were able to acquire free agent defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani from the Vancouver Canucks and Joe Corvo from the Boston Bruins. Gragnani, who spent half of last season with the Buffalo Sabres before coming to the Canucks, managed three points and a minus-4 rating in 14 games with Vancouver. In Buffalo, however, Gragnani put up 12 points and a plus-10 rating in 44 games. Meanwhile, Corvo was solid while appearing in 75 games with the Bruins last season, putting up 25 points and a plus-10 rating.
Goaltending-wise, the Canes return both Cam Ward and Brian Boucher. Ward, in 68 games played, was 30-23-13 with a 2.74 goals against average (GAA) and .915 save percentage. Boucher, signed last offseason to provide solid backup to Ward, struggled mightily last season with an 1-6-1 record, 3.40 GAA and .881 save percentage in 10 games played. However, the Canes did re-sign free agent goaltender Justin Peters who put up good numbers (2.48 GAA and .931 save percentage) in the seven games he played in.