Scouting a Divisional Opponent - the Carolina Hurricanes had an eventful offseason

The first successful offer sheet in a decade, turning over their entire goaltending tandem, letting the best defenseman walk for nothing, signing a terrible person to play defense - it was an eventful offseason in Raleigh

The Carolina Hurricanes, like the Columbus Blue Jackets, moved to the Central Division last year. Unlike the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Carolina Hurricanes did not struggle - the Hurricanes went out and won the division, besting the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning in a tight divisional race. The Hurricanes won their first round series against the Nashville Predators before falling in five games to the eventual-champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Then the offseason began, and the Carolina Hurricanes made headlines time and again. The Hurricanes overhauled their goaltending position, remade the defense, and revamped their forward group.

Here, we review their offseason in preparation for the 2021-22 season.

Not Extending Dougie Hamilton

For strictly salary cap reasons - the Hurricanes were unwilling to meet his salary demands and set a price far below what Hamilton was sure to fetch on the open market - the Hurricanes let their best defensemen leave in free agency. From a strictly on-ice perspective, the move makes little sense - Hamilton put up 10-32-42 in more than 22 minutes per game, not easily replaceable production.

Successful Offer Sheet Signing of Jesperi Kotkaniemi

In perhaps the biggest news of the offseason, the Hurricanes executed the first successful since 2007 when they signed Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Kotkaniemi signed a one year offer sheet worth $6.1 million dollars. Speculation ensued that this was in retaliation for the Montreal Canadiens signing Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet several offseason prior, not least because of several incentives thrown into the contract referencing Aho. The Hurricanes, however, insist that it was strictly to acquire a player they like.

Kotkaniemi joins a forward group where, unlike in Montreal, he can be sheltered from having to play huge minutes against top competition. The Hurricanes are banking on an ability to rejuvenate the former third overall pick. If they cannot, the contract allows for the Canes to cut bait after one season.

Trading Jake Bean to Columbus

Jake Bean, another Carolina defenseman, was shipped out of town. Bean, drafted 13th overall in the first round in 2016, was sent to Columbus for a second round pick that the team had acquired as part of the package for Seth Jones. Playing on the third pairing last year, Bean posted 1-11-12 in 42 games. As part of remaking their roster, the Carolina Hurricanes sent yet another defenseman out of town.

Signing Tony DeAngelo

In response, the Hurricanes signed unrestricted free agent Tony DeAngelo to fill a hole on their back end. DeAngelo is a talented defenseman, but that only tells half the story. He has long had a track record of altercations with teammates, dating back to junior hockey where he was suspended for using racial slurs against teammates. He was banished and eventually bought out from the New York Rangers after a postgame altercation with a teammate, and has also been suspended in the NHL for abuse of officials. Signing DeAngelo brings a player in who has a history of being an awful person off the ice with little remorse or willingness to change, and brings his own sideshow with him.

Trading Alex Nedeljkovic to the Detroit Red Wings for Jonathan Bernier

A shock headline came down on July 22, 2021 as the Hurricanes announced they traded their starting goaltender from last season to the Detroit Red Wings. The Hurricanes turned to Nedeljkovic last year due to injuries and he was able to post a 15-5-3 record with a 1.90 goals against average and a .932 save percentage en route to a third place finish in the Calder Trophy race. Suddenly, after the season, in a surprising announcement, the Hurricanes announced they were trading Nedeljkovic to Detroit after they were unable to come to terms with the restricted free agent. Upon arriving in Detroit, Nedeljkovic signed a two year, $6 million contract, leading many to wonder why they could not come to terms.

Signing Frederick Anderson and Antti Rantaa

The answer came shortly after, as the Hurricanes signed free agent netminders Frederick Anderson and Antti Rantaa. Anderson, most recently not performing well enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Rantaa, who spent several years as part of a tandem in Arizona but was often plagued with injury, never playing more than 47 games in a season with the club. The Hurricanes completely remade their goaltending, long considered their weak point - the team has brought in Anderson and Rantaa, hoping that playing behind their defensively sound system can rejuvenate the two netminders and provide solid enough goaltending to take them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Trading Warren Foegele for Ethan Bear

The final piece of remaking their defense came in the form of Edmonton Oilers draft pick Ethan Bear. Bear, a former fifth round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, put up 8-25-33 in 132 games for the Oilers while playing a sound defensive defenseman role. Trading Foegele for him sacrifices some depth in the forward group, but also allows for the Canes to maintain the strength of their team, their defensive shape and structure. Bear may prove to be the most significant acquisition the team made in the offseason.

Eight year extension for Andrei Svechnikov

Finally, the Hurricanes rounded out their offseason by signing star Andrei Svechnikov to an eight year, $62 million contract that will keep him in Raleigh until 2029. The richest contract in team history goes to the player who has put the scoring load on his back - 59 goals and 140 points in 205 regular season games as well as nine goals and 20 points in 26 playoff games. Svechnikov is the engine that drives the Hurricanes offense, a bona fide star that the Hurricanes will be thrilled to have.

What do you think of the Hurricanes offseason? Did the team improve?

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