The Hurricanes’ 2021 offseason will likely be judged more by how the players who left perform with their new teams over how Carolina’s new additions contribute.
The losses of Dougie Hamilton and Jake Bean on defense, Brock McGinn and Warren Foegele up front, and drafted-and-developed Alex Nedeljkovic and veteran Petr Mrazek in net highlight an overhaul of the roster that is sure to be debated for years to come.
But the Hurricanes didn’t come away from a crazy week empty-handed either.
Who’s in: Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta, Alex Lyon
Who’s out: Petr Mrazek, Alex Nedeljkovic, James Reimer
What it means: The combined NHL cap hits for the team’s three new goalies is nearly identical to last year’s trio ($7.265 million last year compared to $7.25 million this year), so the narrative that Carolina was “too cheap” to sign Nedeljkovic doesn’t really fly.
The fact is, the Hurricanes are convinced that Nedeljkovic’s stellar 2020-21 campaign was an anomaly and that his performance going forward will more closely resemble the .904 save percentage he had in four AHL seasons.
The team also knew what it had in both Mrazek and Reimer — the first a streaky goalie who has struggled with injuries in recent seasons and the other a veteran backup who fell to No. 3 on Carolina’s depth chart.
That said, the Hurricanes can’t be positive what they’re going to get out of their new group.
Andersen — who was drafted by Carolina in seventh round in 2010 but never signed — has the highest ceiling of all six goalies. Since coming into the league in 2013-14, Andersen has won more games than all but four other goalies, and he’s has twice received votes for the Vezina Trophy. The flip side is Andersen lost his starting job to Jack Campbell in Toronto and had seemingly never regained the trust of Maple Leafs fans after the team’s 2018 first-round collapse in Game 7 against the Bruins.
As for Raanta, he has battled injuries in recent years but proven he can carry a team when healthy. When he’s on, Raanta is undeniably one of the top goaltending talents in hockey. If injuries strike again, Lyon is not as good of an option as Reimer but comes cheap and has served in a similar role with Philadelphia for the past four seasons.
Who’s in: Ethan Bear, Ian Cole, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Smith
Who’s out: Jake Bean, Jani Hakanpaa, Dougie Hamilton
What it means: Hamilton’s play throughout his seven-year, $63 million contract with New Jersey will determine whether or not Carolina made the right move in letting one of the game’s top right-handed defensemen leave. Like Nedeljkovic in net, the Hurricanes dealt away a player they had invested in with Bean, sending him to Columbus. Hakanpaa brought physicality to the team’s bottom pairing as a trade deadline acquisition.
Bear, acquired from Edmonton in exchange for Warren Foegele, gives Carolina another right-handed defenseman who plays a more rounded game than the offensive-minded Bean. Cole is a fantastic locker room addition and reliable third-pairing guy with two Stanley Cup rings, and Smith — another righty — brings more snarl than Hakanpaa on a cheaper deal.
But let’s be honest: The addition of the mercurial DeAngelo — who was bought out by the Rangers after an altercation last season with a teammate proved to be the final straw — to replace Hamilton will determine whether or not the defensive rebuild will prove successful.
Who’s in: Josh Leivo, Stefan Noesen, Derek Stepan
Who’s out: Warren Foegele, Morgan Geekie, Brock McGinn, Cedric Paquette
What it means: The Hurricanes made wholesale changes with their depth forwards. The word all along was only one of Foegele, McGinn and Jordan Martinook would return next season, and that proved true when Martinook received a three-year extension, while McGinn signed in Pittsburgh and Foegele was dealt to Edmonton. Geekie was lost in the expansion draft to Seattle.
Leivo is a serviceable depth forward who should be able to fill one of those vacancies, while Stepan is a reliable veteran center whose days as a solid complementary point producer are probably behind him. That said, Stepan should be an upgrade over Paquette, who never seemed to fit with the Hurricanes and signed with Montreal. Noesen is on a two-way deal and can fill in when needed. Smith, a defenseman by trade, has played some winger in his career.
The Hurricanes still have plenty of cap space to make another addition up front, even with a new deal for restricted free agent Andrei Svechnikov not yet done. Carolina could dip its toe into the second wave of free agency or make a trade to add another top-nine forward. Don’t rule out one of the team’s prospects — Jack Drury, Seth Jarvis, Ryan Suzuki or someone else — winning a spot in camp.