The off-season has given Hurricanes faithful plenty to cheer about. The summer kicked off with the addition of netminder Scott Darling, was followed by acquisitions of Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and the July 1 signing of Justin Williams brought the team a veteran presence, and familiar face, that declared this is a team that wants to compete now.
And the news just keeps getting better for those in Carolina.
On Thursday, Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick reported the Hurricanes’ ownership could be changing hands as Chuck Greenberg, former part-owner and CEO of the Texas Rangers, is involved in a bid worth $500 million to purchase the team from current owner Peter Karmanos, Jr. The team confirmed Thursday that an offer has been received, but, in a statement, said Karmanos will “continue to evaluate his other options, including retaining his ownership of the team.”
The potential sale of the franchise isn’t the good news, however. Rather, it’s that it sounds as though any sale would keep the team in Raleigh, which would allow Hurricanes fans in Carolina to breathe a giant sigh of relief.
Over the past few seasons, speculation has run rampant that the Hurricanes could be a target for relocation, with some citing the attendance woes as a major issue facing the franchise. And things have been rough in terms of attendance in Carolina over the past three seasons. Since 2014-15, the Hurricanes have been at or near the bottom in average attendance, according to ESPN.
The difficulties packing the PNC Arena led some to suggest that the team would be well suited for a move elsewhere, with Quebec City often on the tip of the tongue. The Quebec capital would undoubtedly welcome the franchise, too, as the city boasts both a building and interest in an NHL franchise, which was made all the more clear by a failed expansion bid by Quebecor. Others have pointed to a potential relocation to Seattle, a market which the league seems interested in pursuing if ever the city sorts out its arena situation. However, the News and Observer’s Chip Alexander reported Thursday that an accepted offer would result in the team staying put. After the consistent distractions that have come from the talk of a sale and relocation, putting that talk to bed — possibly once and for all — would be about the best news possible for the franchise this summer.
That’s not to mention the timing would be perfect for Hurricanes’ faithful and allow Carolina to prove they have the fanbase to support the team.
While the on-ice product has seen only a modicum of success over the past several seasons, finishing with the fifth-lowest point total since the lockout-shortened campaign, things are starting to look up in Carolina. Under GM Ron Francis, the team has used its considerable wealth in the prospect department to build a promising young roster that looks as though it could contend for a playoff berth this season. It would be the first trip to the playoffs in eight years.
Offensively, the Hurricanes have done incredibly well to build the foundation of an exciting, drafted-and-developed team. Jeff Skinner, who is only 25, is one of the veteran leaders for the team up front, and adding Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen to the attack, not to mention the aforementioned signing of Williams, gives Carolina an offense that should be able to hang in a tough Metropolitan Division. More impressive, though, is that the Hurricanes seem to be building one of the strongest bluelines in the league.
Justin Faulk is the mainstay on the back end, about to enter his seventh season with the Hurricanes, but the emergence of Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Noah Hanifin, as well as trade for van Riemsdyk, gives Carolina five defenders who are capable of handling themselves against the league’s top competition, and the top pairings could grow into two of the most formidable in the league this coming season. Add in Darling, who looks to finally fill the Hurricanes’ desperate need for some help in goal, and the Hurricanes are building a bright, young team with the chance not only to contend, but do so over a considerable period of time. Once this team clicks, the from-the-ground-up strategy stands to make this team competitive for a number of years.
And if the club is sold and remains in Carolina, there’s reason to believe the Hurricanes can translate on-ice success to a boom in fanfare, with the talk of failing attendance turning to whispers before being silenced altogether, much in the same way the growth in Nashville turned heads this past season. While some may still question Carolina’s ability or willingness to support the club, it’s worth noting from 2005-06 to 2013-14, the Hurricanes’ average attendance was 16,300-plus. The team won the Stanley Cup at the start of that run, but made the playoffs only one other time during that nine-year stretch, yet fans continued to show up. So if that was the case then, there’s no reason why a consistently successful Hurricanes club wouldn’t start to pack the house.
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(Ed. Note: Quebecor owns the subsidiary which owns The Hockey News.)