Adam Gold

Busy week ahead for Hurricanes

Posted June 18
Updated June 19

Buckle up, Hurricanes fans.

Over the next week the Las Vegas Golden Knights will draw a player from each of the other 30 league’s teams in the expansion draft, Carolina will participate in the annual amateur draft and the 2017-18 Canes will begin to take shape. Oh, and expect General Manager Ron Francis to try to use some of their 10 picks in trades to acquire an established scorer to bolster the team’s top two offensive lines.

With that said, here’s a self-induced Q & A as we move through the week.

Q: Who will the Hurricanes lose in the expansion draft?

A: Without the ability to get inside the heads of the Las Vegas braintrust, I’d expect Carolina to lose one of their forwards. The best bet is that either Joakim Nordstrom or Lee Stempniak will be snapped up by the {{a href="story-4}}Golden Knights,{{/a}} but I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if Brock McGinn had his name called. In a perfect world, the Canes would lose goaltender Eddie Lack and his $3 million contract. But, it’s unlikely the Knights will take him given his recent injury history not to mention his play over the last two seasons.

Q: If Las Vegas doesn’t select Lack should the team buy him out of the final year of his contract?

A: It’s not worth buying out a $3 million contract, in my opinion. But, I’d also argue that Carolina isn’t financially equipped to carry more than $10 million in goaltending salary either. I think Cam Ward is better suited to be Scott Darling’s back up this year which means that Francis either finds a trade partner or Lack plays 55-60 games in Charlotte while providing the team with an NHL-ready emergency net minder should Darling or Ward fall victim to injury.

Q: Should the Hurricanes trade one of their young defensemen for a top-line offensive player?

A: If you subscribe to the theory that great teams are built from the goal mouth out, then the answer is “no”. While, it’s never wise to live and die by an adage, unless the return is a bonafide number one center or a dynamic 25-30 goal winger, I wouldn’t deal any of the top four blue liners. However, I will admit that watching Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog combine with Hurricanes Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm to form one of Sweden’s top scoring lines en route to the gold medal at the world championships certainly did pique my interest. With that said, the best bet for Carolina adding a top six forward is to look at those teams pushing up against the salary cap.

It certainly looks as though Chicago is going to have to shed someone of significance. Would Artem Anisimov be available for a draft pick and a prospect? Would Anisimov be a good fit here in Carolina? Is Anaheim going to have to part ways with a forward. And, if so, could Francis pry Jakob Silfverberg away from the Ducks? The Islanders, Blues, Red Wings and Blue Jackets are also among several teams under some financial stress.

Q: Are there any players in the system who can make an impact in 2017-18?

A: Depends on what you mean by impact. Valentin Zykov is a physical forward who scored in his NHL debut but then was injured in his next game and didn’t return for the rest of the year. Alexsi Saarela piled up 10 points in nine regular season games in Charlotte, but then battled injuries and went scoreless in the postseason with the Checkers. Lucas Wallmark looked like a good player late in the season, and though he registered just two points in eight games, he produced three goals and three assists in Charlotte’s five post season games. All three could end up on Carolina’s roster this year, but the chances of them, even collectively, making a significant impact on this season aren’t great.

Then there’s the defensemen, Haydn Fleury — the former first rounder who really had a strong second half for the Checkers — or Roland McKeown. One or both could figure into the mix for Carolina this year, more than likely in a third defensive pairing. But, it’s just as likely that Carolina uses Fleury or fellow D-man Jake Bean, last year’s first rounder, in a trade than we see them in a Canes sweater.

As for those who spent last season in juniors or college hockey, it would be a bit of a surprise if we saw anything beyond a cameo at PNC Arena, though the future does look bright for Nicholas Roy, Janne Kuokkanen and others.

Roy was a strong contributor for the Canadian world junior squad and had a monster season in the QMJHL. The 20 year old 6’4” center racked up 80 points and was a plus-30 in just 53 games last year. Kuokkanen averaged slightly more than a point per game for London in juniors during the regular season before scoring 10 goals in the Knights’ 14 post season games. The best thing for their development, along with young power forward Julien Gauthier, would be a full year in the American Hockey League, learning how to be a professional.

Q: Will Carolina be a player in the free agent market in July?

A: All of the LOL emojis.

Okay, I’ll answer my question. I’m sure they’ll sign a couple of free agents at some point this summer, much like they did last year with Stempniak and Viktor Stalberg, but I’d be stunned if it was an impact player. Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonino is an interesting name on that free agent list, and while he would be a welcome addition to the Hurricanes, he’s certainly not a top line center. Carolina has about $24 million of cap space to play with and will have to add at least $6 million to get to the salary floor. However, that isn’t going to be an issue since they only have eight forwards under contract right now and one is likely to be headed to Las Vegas at the end of the week.

As it stands, the Hurricanes have holes to plug and assets to use to fill them. Draft picks and prospects for a top six forward, free agency for depth up front and on the third defensive pairing and maybe even for another goaltender for the minor leagues if Carolina loses Lack, or even Cam Ward to a trade. Either way, the next seven to 10 days should be fascinating to watch for Caniacs.

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  • Frank Curcio Jun 19, 1:28 p.m.
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    Can't wait for yet another 85-90-point season, only to miss the playoffs by THAT much once more.

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