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Making the Carolina Hurricanes Good in One Offseason: Part Three

The final part of a three-part column wherein I try to make the Canes good next season.

Jamie Kellner

In part one (contract extensions) and part two (draft, trades and free agency), I navigated my way through many decisions that the Carolina Hurricanes will have to make this offseason.

Originally, I was going to just wrap things up and present the roster I have put together, but instead, I’m going to have some more fun here.

Since part one came out, a lot of things have been happening. Namely, a lot of trade rumors. So, before I wrap things up, I’m going to put on my tinfoil hat and look at some crazy trade ideas that I would be interested in, because it looks like the Canes might just go ahead and do something crazy.

Somehow, Edmonton’s Oscar Klefbom has been in the rumor mill as of late. His season was torn apart due to a shoulder injury that he, for whatever reason, was playing through.

The defenseman is, along with Jaccob Slavin, one of the most underrated defensemen in hockey and he’s under a fantastic contract. In 2016-17, the Swedish blueliner broke out to the tune of 12 goals and 30 points while gaining the respect of analytic-lovers in the process.

This is where I’m going to do something controversial. Jeff Skinner might as well be packed and ready to go, according to Bob McKenzie, so I wonder if Skinner and Klefbom could be involved in a deal here. Other small pieces may have to be thrown into a deal like that, but I’m proposing Skinner and Klefbom as the centerpieces of a deal. Another team is Los Angeles, who is reportedly willing to deal Jake Muzzin for a scoring forward.

Edmonton, in particular, is clamoring for speed and skill on the wing, and Skinner could be a 40-goal guy with Connor McDavid as his center. In return, Carolina gets a Slavin-like defenseman and their d-core gets even more crowded, which is a good thing. Here’s my next idea.

Justin Faulk has already been pushed out of Carolina’s top-three on the blue line, and my addition of Klefbom would push him out of the top-four.

So, for my next trick, how about Faulk to Toronto for one of their forwards. Faulk isn’t even close to getting Nylander, but could he get Kasperi Kapanen?

As bad as Faulk was last season, his track record is extremely impressive. Some debated whether he was a top-pairing guy entering last season and he was, at worst, a number three d-man ahead of the 2017-18 campaign. And, even in his bad year, he reached 30 points.

Toronto would get their top-four right-shot defenseman and, in return, the Canes get their “replacement” for Skinner. Kapanen is, by no means at all, Skinner, but he is young and he is a very underrated penalty killer. The idea of Jordan Staal, Kapanen, Slavin, and Brett Pesce on the top penalty kill unit is extremely attractive to me, and Kapanen is on the rise as a young player with top-six upside. Plus, I’m sure the Canes would love to bring in another Finn and, in this case, one with Carolina roots thanks to his father.

In this universe I have maniacally created, the Canes lose Skinner and Faulk and gain Klefbom and Kapanen which, in my eyes, is pretty much breaking even. They lose some firepower upfront and gain some stability on the back end. In addition, they get a pair of guys who will help on special teams.

Those are the two speculative trade offers that I wanted to throw out there, but I’m going to stick to my plan of going young and not blowing things up for the sake of doing so. Here’s the roster that I think the Hurricanes should go into the season with:

Forwards

Left-Handed Wingers Centers Right-Handed Wingers
Left-Handed Wingers Centers Right-Handed Wingers
Sebastian Aho Jordan Staal Justin Williams
Teuvo Teravainen Martin Necas Valentin Zykov
Jeff Skinner Elias Lindholm
Brock McGinn Derek Ryan
Andrei Svechnikov Lucas Wallmark
Warren Foegele
Jordan Martinook

Defensemen

Left-Handed Right-Handed
Left-Handed Right-Handed
Jaccob Slavin Brett Pesce
Noah Hanifin Justin Faulk
Haydn Fleury Trevor van Riemsdyk
Trevor Carrick

Goalies

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Carter Hutton Scott Darling

Above, I have 14 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies. Of course, one forward would need to be cut from this list - likely one of Lucas Wallmark, Warren Foegele, or Derek Ryan.

I proposed bringing back Ryan because I think that he’d be a more value bottom-six center or 13th forward than some of the other in-house options as the other candidates are young and would be better off playing in Charlotte or dealt else where for help at another position. That said, if there is too much depth or a guy like Janne Kuokkanen works his way into the top-nine, Ryan could be expendable and it wouldn’t break my heart, by any means.

Victor Rask is absent above. Could he work his way into the fold? Yeah, because he has the talent to do so, but last season might have burned a bridge between him and the team based on his play and apparent lack of drive at times. If he doesn’t get things back together, I would like to see him either be moved or get some time in Charlotte and see if things improve. He’s a tricky situation and his play is nowhere near where it needs to be given his contract situation.

The hole remains open for a number one center so, for the time being, I’d like to see the team go back to Teravainen-Staal-Aho on the first line as that trio was terrific a season ago. Adding Andrei Svechnikov to the fold should make a life a lot easier for new head coach Rod Brind’Amour as he tries to figure out his offensive attack both at even strength and on the man advantage. That said, if the team opts to use Aho as a full-time center, things change a bit. It could also lend to a far more dangerous first line - if it pans out.

I have Jeff Skinner still on this team. While it appears more and more unlikely by the day that he will stick around, I don’t think he should be moved just for the sake of moving him as he is still an elite goal scorer in the NHL.

I think you can make a very strong middle-six forward group with the likes of Skinner, Martin Necas, Elias Lindholm, Justin Williams, Valentin Zykov, Andrei Svechnikov, and others. A fourth-line comprised of physical players who can contribute offensively like Brock McGinn and Jordan Martinook could pretty dangerous, especially with an offensively capable player like Ryan or Lucas Wallmark down the middle.

On the blue line, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce should be the top pairing yet again. Hopefully, they can take a step forward with their offense like they did at the end of the season in 2017-18. Noah Hanifin would likely line up with one of van Riemsdyk or Faulk on the second pairing. I’m expecting a big year from Hanifin, and Faulk can’t get much worse defensively than he was a season ago.

Haydn Fleury will look to build on a rough rookie year, as well. Again, there’s only room to go up for him and his play. It’s worth taking into note just how young he is.

In net, Carter Hutton and Scott Darling will hold things down. Again, Darling has nowhere to go but up after being the worst statistical goalie in his first season in Raleigh. Hutton has had some great years and, in my eyes, is a great replacement/upgrade for Cam Ward as the veteran backstop on the club. A season ago, he had a league-high .931 save percentage on a Blues team that just narrowly missed the postseason.

Is this how the Hurricanes will look next season? No, but I think it gives the Canes a chance to win. They have plenty of firepower up front, one of the best young blue lines in hockey, and a new goalie tandem that should be a marginal improvement over what they had last season.

I don’t think there needs to be a huge shakeup via trade and free agent acquisitions. Most of the answers for this team should come from the number two overall pick in June’s draft, a fresher voice in the locker room, and new/capable blood in the goalie competition.

This offseason is going to be exciting for the Canes. For better or worse, a lot of things will be happening. The Hurricanes just have to hope that the changes they make will do more good than harm.

Only time will tell on that front.