With one of the most impressive defense corps in the NHL, the future is incredibly bright for the Hurricanes. But should they deal some of that ‘D’ depth for a first line center?
Welcome to 2020 Vision, our new feature taking a look at how the roster of each NHL team may look three seasons from now when the 2019-2020 season begins.
Over the next month we’ll profile one team, in alphabetical order, each day and project what their roster (12 forwards, six defensemen, two goalies) will look like.
There were some ground rules for this exercise. We didn’t allow any blockbuster trades or free agent signings, but we did make assumptions about teams re-signing their own UFAs and RFAs.
Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a fantasy-like look at the league in 2019-20. Instead, since this is part of the THN Future Watch family, it’s meant to be a realistic, best-case-scenario projection for each team based on players already under contract, and prospects in their system.
The Carolina Hurricanes are going to boast one of the most impressive bluelines in the NHL soon, if not the most impressive. The top-four is already set and those players will all be in their primes once 2019-20 comes around.
GM Ron Francis and his staff have done a great job of drafting and developing lately, with the blueline only part of the equation. The forwards will also be in a good spot soon, assuming players such as Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm continue to progress. Meanwhile, power forward Warren Foegele is coming off an OHL title with Erie and once he works his way up in the pro ranks, he’ll be a great depth threat (he also plays center). A future third scoring line with the similarly beastly Julien Gauthier and versatile Janne Kuokkanen would be dangerous.
In net, Carolina nabbed their man in Scott Darling from Chicago, while there will be a nice battle for the backup job between youngsters Callum Booth, Jeremy Helvig and Alex Nedeljkovic. Darling still must prove himself in Carolina, but his track record to date has been good and there’s no obvious reason to doubt him.
GOT IT: Mobile defensemen. Carolina is so stacked on the back end that we didn’t even have room for Haydn Fleury, the seventh overall pick in 2014. There’s also two-way threat Roland McKeown, who has been on the cusp of NHL action recently. While Jake Bean represents the most likely candidate to join the top-six, thanks to his mobility and power play prowess, there will certainly be battles for roster spots in the next couple years. That’s a great problem for coach Bill Peters to have on his hands.
NEED IT: A top-line center. This is the one position to either have to draft high on, or make a blockbuster trade to acquire. Victor Rask would ideally be on the second line, but Carolina doesn’t have another option right now. Perhaps the answer comes in a big trade, where the Hurricanes part with a young defense prospect or two in order to get that final piece of the puzzle that would make them true contenders.
CAP WATCH: The Canes have a decent amount of core players locked up long-term, but there are some situations to keep an eye on. Jeff Skinner will be the biggest, as the sniper and Carolina lifer is up for unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2019. Jaccob Slavin recently signed a long-term extension, but fellow D-men Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Trevor van Riemsdyk all need new RFA deals next season, which will include significant raises. Now, the Canes are a budget team, but may be sold to a new owner soon – does that change the financial equation at all?
BOTTOM LINE: The future is incredibly bright in Raleigh, but the team does need a No. 1 center if they want to shoot for the franchise’s second Stanley Cup championship. GM Francis certainly has the assets to shift around and make something happen; it’s just a matter of opportunity and fit.
Up next: Chicago Blackhawks